Success Story: Virginia –
By any measure, Harsha Rajasimha, PhD, was a successful man. He had published journal articles and chapters in professional textbooks; he had received patents, honors, and awards for his work. But none of these accomplishments equipped him to help his baby, who died from Edwards Syndrome, a rare congenital disease.
Determined to honor his daughter’s memory, Harsha started Jeeva Informatics Solutions, where he could devote his years of post-doctoral training in genomics and precision medicine at NIH to accelerating the process of making novel diagnostics and therapeutics for rare diseases.
Jeeva’s initial focus was on projects such as next-generation sequencing and data-analytics interpretation, and discovering novel approaches (turning raw data into actionable insights). In 2018, the company pivoted to address the problem of recruiting and retaining participants in clinical trials, a mandatory step in getting products to market. Patient recruitment takes time and, if anyone drops out, it takes more time recruit more patients. These issues cause delays and cost the biopharmaceutical industry a loss of billions of dollars, rendering it unsustainable.
Jeeva solved this critical “bottleneck” by developing eVisits. The premise is simple: get more people into clinical trials by reducing the burden of travel. “It’s a decentralized clinical-trials platform that addresses the travel burden for participants in clinical trials. Our approach replaces 20% to 80% of in-person visits to brick-and-mortar sites with eVisits. In other words, we are a telemedicine solution for clinical trials with long-term follow-ups,” Harsha explains.
Harsha teamed up with the Mason SBDC and the SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP). ICAP director Bob Smith helped Harsha take his concept to the next level. After successfully interviewing 146 customers in seven weeks, Jeeva rose to the top of the ICAP leaderboard and was accepted into the Spring 2019 cohort of the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps program.
In December, 2019, upon completion of the I-Corps program and following the guidance from the Mason SBDC, Jeeva sought and received a round of financing from the Center for Innovation Technology (CIT), the Commonwealth of Virginia’s venture-capital investment group.
The SBDC was crucial to filling in the gaps for Harsha and team Jeeva. “While I had solid technical, scientific, and business development experience in the life science industry, I did not have a solid grasp of the startup process,” Harsha says. “My mentor gave tremendous support and guidance on the proven process of making go/no-go decisions faster and on building a startup company from the ground up.”