Nonte, a new health tech startup spun off from Fredericton’s Populus Global Solutions, has a single early adopter for its medical research platform, and it’s the largest medical complex in the world.
Nonte has been beta-testing its platform, which allows researchers to collaborate across several disciplines, at the Texas Medical Centre in Houston, a complex of 60 medical institutions that employ 106,000 people. The parties were preparing to sign a full commercial relationship, but that process was delayed when the COVID-19 crisis broke out.
Populus CEO Tristan Rutter said in an interview that within 60 days Nonte should sign the deal and soon begin to work as well with other institutions it is meeting through its relationship with the Texas Medical Centre.
“What we provide is a better mousetrap,” said Rutter in a Zoom interview. “It’s not that people weren’t doing this before...but the bottom line is there was a bottleneck [in] merging human, clinical and benchtop science.” He added that the Nonte platform clears that bottleneck “in a way that is scalable, safe and secure for data-based science.”
For the past decade, Rutter has been heading Populus Global, whose health information system has sold well in the Caribbean, Latin America and New Brunswick. Populus works in population health, which is a segment of the healthcare industry that aims to benefit the health of an entire population.
Two years ago, the global research consultancy Gartner published a paper on the benefits of population health, which prominently featured Populus Global Solutions. That increased the Fredericton company’s profile in the U.S. and ultimately led to discussions with Prof. Kevin Garey, Chair at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy, a Tier 1 research university.
Out of this relationship, Populus developed a purpose-built digital platform that researchers could use to organize and share all the disparate data involved in medical research.
Rutter and his team have been working with Barrington Edge, the Halifax-based tech consultancy, to develop its market. In the interview, Barrington Edge Managing Director Dennis Young emphasized that the platform is “purpose-built” for the research community.
Collaboration in medical research is endlessly complicated because there are so many factors to consider. Patient confidentiality and intellectual property have to be protected. Misplaced or misdirected data could cost lives. The volume of data is huge, given that there are 300,000 researchers in the U.S. alone.
Rutter has now incorporated Nonte in the U.S., as that will be its prime market, and plans to develop its own sales staff, starting in Houston. Populus Global is still operating with a staff of about 20 people, and the management team will have to decide which executives move over to Nonte.
The team is eyeing a funding round of about $2 million to $3 million for Nonte. (Populus Global Solutions has already raised capital from such investors as New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.) Rutter and Young had discussions with potential investors before pausing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Young said that it plans to return to the funding campaign as the economy begins to recover, and he’s optimistic about the outcome.
“You’ve got a startup that is accelerating because it is purpose-built and we’re already in one of the largest research facilities in the world,” he said. “It’s revenue positive, and it’s going to be accelerating very quickly.”