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Rare Disease Tech Startup Gets $3M in Silicon Valley Star-Backed VC


RDMD hopes to do for rare diseases what Flatiron Health did for oncology.

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When Onno Faber, 36, was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 2, the news changed his life in several ways. Just one in 30,000 people develops the condition, which causes benign tumors of the nervous system, typically resulting in tinnitus, hearing loss and other undesirable symptoms. But the diagnosis didn’t only cause Faber to deal with the effects of this rare disease — it inspired him to leverage data and analytics to help other patients.

That mission has manifested in RDMD, Faber’s health-tech startup, which is focused on fighting rare diseases and empowering patients. Other visionaries seem to like Faber’s idea and the work he has performed thus far. He signed on Nancy Yu, 23andMe’s former head of corporate development, as co-founder and CEO. And RDMD announced this week $3 million in seed funding from venture capital groups that are backed by Silicon Valley magnates Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Reid Hoffman.

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“I’ve been developing technology products my entire life, and I wondered if we could marry a powerful data and analytics platform with patient data to gain insights into rare diseases,” Faber, RDMD’s founder, chairman and head of product, said when announcing the funding. “We have since pioneered the development of a powerful platform that leverages deep data insights to empower rare disease research and drug development, as well as an application that allows patients to take the management of their disease into their own hands.”

RDMD’s technology takes unstructured data from electronic health records and grooms the information for analysis, mining insights from physician notes and other tough-to-handle documents. Relevant data measures, biomarkers and the like then fuel the development of new drugs.

Right now, the San Francisco company is working with the National Cancer Institute to monitor pain in patients with a type of neurofibromatosis. RDMD is also gathering real-world data from patients with all kinds of neurofibromatosis. In the future, Faber and his team intend to set their sights on other neurological and inherited metabolic diseases.

RDMD’s patient-facing app arms users with their medical records, a feat that has eluded much of the industry. (Although Apple is making great strides in this very area.) The tech helps patients share their data with providers and researchers, fueling better care and greater clinical development, according to the company. More than 150 patients with neurofibromatosis use the app.

And these efforts have impressed big-league investors. Lux Capital led the seed round, with support from Village Global, First Round Capital’s healthcare arm, Garuda, Shasta Ventures and “various angel investors” who work in biotech and health tech, according to RDMD.

“Unlike the more well-resourced conditions like cancer and diabetes, rare diseases suffer from a lack of data infrastructure,” said Adam Goulburn, Ph.D., general partner of Lux Capital. “As a result, many programs fail to even get off the ground.”

He added that RDMD may change that unfortunate situation.

The organization plans to use the money to improve upon its technology platform, grow its leadership team, gather more data, expand its focus to additional rare diseases and work with research partners.

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