Introducing Sonrai Analytics. Empowering precision medicine through AI innovation.
Meet Sonrai. Their expert team of software engineers and data scientists use cutting-edge technology to enable discovery within precision healthcare. Their ability to cleanse, manage and analyse integrated data makes them uniquely positioned to support biotech and pharma in the search for new drug development and better medical research. In May this year, Sonrai raised £2.175m in funding to accelerate the global adoption of its technology for the healthcare industry, led by Forward Partners and including existing institutional investors Techstart Ventures, Co-Fund NI (managed by Clarendon Fund Managers), QUBIS (the commercialisation arm of Queen’s University) and angel investors.
Sonrai founder and CEO, Darragh McArt has taken Sonrai from a prototype to a product now being used by multiple international clients. He has a PhD in Bioinformatics and has worked in brain tumour research at Queen's University Belfast. He is collaborating on several ongoing clinical trials and has built and published extensively on platforms and AI methods in healthcare data analytics.
We caught up with Darragh to learn more about Sonrai's journey to date, his team and future ambitions for the business.
How did the idea for Sonrai come about?
In 2018, my fellow Co-Founder Deva and I believed that our data analytics platform could better meet the needs of modern pharma and biotech businesses looking to uncover their data's hidden value.
These global organisations with teams often spread across the world, are working collaboratively to analyse enormous datasets composed of multiple data types. More recently, they are beginning to look at the potential of using AI to accelerate their processes and maximise the value of their data. This data is generated by researchers in drug trials and other healthcare research contexts, leading to faster and more effective treatments for cancer and other diseases.
When presenting this idea at a Queen's University Belfast event, a leader from a Boston-based biotech became very engaged, asking a lot of questions and really grasping the opportunity. That biotech became our first customer and helped to kick-start us on our commercial journey.
Sonrai’s platform delivers cutting-edge data visualisation and predictive analytics to workflows that accelerate organisational processes, improve performance, and lower data science barriers. We help our clients to generate meaningful insights and hypotheses, leading to the discovery of novel therapies and biomarkers and improved patient responses.
What's the growth story so far?
It's incredible to think about how far Sonrai has come in such a short space of time. In 2018 there was just Deva and me; four years later, we are a team of 26 highly skilled employees. One of our core strengths is how we have been able to adapt and learn from every meeting, marketing campaign and customer interaction. How we describe what we do and the impact we have on teams and organisations has changed dramatically because of our ability to listen to and understand our customers.
Recent successes include:
- Revenue - Secured a major deal with a US biotech (IVBH)
- Programme - Landed a £2m NHS-funded AI Award to develop a transformational tool in cancer diagnostics (‘Image Dx’)
- Awards - Won the 2021 OBN 'One to Watch' Award
- Personal accolades - Sonrai’s Co-Founder, Deva Senevarathne, was recognised as one of the top three European female entrepreneurs in AI by the Women in AI Awards
Tell us a little about your recent raise?
Forward Partners led our recent seed plus raise. From our first conversation at Inbound Investors, Luke Smith has been part of the journey and made the process transparent and straightforward. The conversations started with a common interest and a goal to enable better tech in healthcare. It then built from week to week on understanding our process, inroads made and the likelihood of a successful and scalable business. Many of the stepping stones Forward have in place made the process really easy to engage with and meeting the wider team within Forward at each step along the way helped to develop the partnership.
Having a VC like Forward involved in Sonrai has been such a great vetting process for the hard work the team have been doing to date and sets us up well for the challenges ahead. The raise will bolster the sales and marketing drive within Sonrai, enhance partnerships and grow key networks, much of which is now underway. Additionally, we were delighted to see that our existing institutional investors Techstart Ventures, Co-Fund NI (managed by Clarendon Fund Managers), QUBIS, and Angel Investors, also wanted to participate in the round which brought the raise to £2.175m.
Who's on the Sonrai team?
We have expert teams encompassing Data Science, Engineering, Innovation, Operations and Sales and Marketing. A particular strength is that we have a core of highly experienced senior individuals who have previously worked in similar roles with leading companies blended with a very talented and enthusiastic team. Our team includes experienced biologists, data scientists, bioinformaticians, software engineers, and imaging and diagnostic experts. To date, each of our customers has presented us with unique challenges, and it's because we have such a depth of experience in specialised areas that we ensure we get it right for them, first time.
One of the biggest challenges we face from having won key awards and entering exciting programmes within a niche area is the risk of our fantastic team being put on the radar of those that follow behind. Our challenge is to stimulate and reward those individuals and for them to know they are part of the Sonrai family and that we are on an exciting journey in an area where we can truly make a difference in patient wellbeing.
What's next for Sonrai with the new round of funding?
This investment enables us to expand our expert team to accommodate the increasing global demand for technologies that can drive precision medicine and improve patient outcomes. We are delighted to welcome Forward Partners to the board and feel their commercial insights will help drive the business to increased success. The new round solidifies the development of our core assets, enhances our brand and awareness of the technology developed towards growing revenue. The development of IP’able assets from our AI work will continue and we will widen our portfolio. The future is bright within this sphere as data continues to be generated at scale within this market and its importance to biotech and pharma companies in discovery and validation is more important than ever before.
Looking to write your own funding story? We’d love to hear from you. You can apply for funding here or get involved with our new Office Hours here.
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