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Anthony Costello, left, one of the founders of Mytrus, talks with Rob French, the company's vice president of product development and engineering, at a gathering in September to celebrate the opening of their office in downtown Davis. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

Business

Davis’ healthy startup environment appealed to Mytrus

By From page A14 | December 22, 2013

If the difference between a patient being able to participate in a clinical trial and not being able to rests on your company’s technology, that’s significant.

“A big problem with clinical trials is that if you want to be in one, you have to qualify by living near enough to a specific hospital center to regularly visit it,” explained Anthony Costello, whose Davis-based company, Mytrus, aims to fix that.

Mytrus, which was founded in 2009 in San Francisco, moved its office to 105 E St. in downtown Davis in mid-August. The solution this firm provides comes in the form of a website or a mobile device app, and allows some of the once-necessary pieces of participating in a clinical trial to be performed remotely.

Patients also can use Mytrus’ tool to search for trials and to give the mandatory consent to be considered for participation. Costello mentioned some of the technology’s other benefits for the patients who have utilized it:

“There’s strong evidence that we have now that says patients learn the details of the study better using our system than they do without. If patients can understand better what it is they’re signing up to do, that’s a big plus.

“And there’s also the huge convenience factor for patients who can stay at home and provide their data remotely instead of having to make constant traveling visits to the hospital. It saves both the hospital and the patient time.”

The company was established in 2009 in San Francisco by Costello, a longtime Davis resident. Part of the impetus for the company’s move was to cut down on commuting.

“Most the employees didn’t live in San Francisco either,” he said. “Since most everyone had to commute anyway, we started to question being there — especially with all the extra costs associated with it.”

But also at play in the decision was the fact that Costello is a relentless advocate for a strong Davis business community. He is a former chairman of the city of Davis Business and Economic Development Commission.

Costello also co-founded Davis Roots, a business incubator, in spring 2012 with UC Davis professor Andy Hargadon. The program provides support and mentorship to entrepreneurs in the early stages of their businesses.

Given that, Costello is vigilant about inviting more startups to relocate from Bay Area to Davis, which stands contrary to the long history of movement of technology businesses the other direction.

Even though Mytrus is in its fifth year, the local CEO said its size makes it like a startup. And Costello said there are multiple aspects working in harmony to make for a good startup atmosphere in Davis right now.

“It’s a perfect time to be located here,” he said, “given the confluence of available space, a large pool of talented people to hire, a great downtown area and the synergy of the university with the city and with programs like Davis Roots.”

Mytrus employs 15 people now, but that number is expected to grow to 25 or 30 in 2014. Doubling the workforce will accommodate the increased business the firm will be receiving from some of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

Costello hopes, also, that the future has Mytrus at the forefront of ushering in a patient-first focus in clinical trials. The tendency in the past has been to treat patients as simply numbers, he said, but things are changing:

“There’s sort of a new era of pharmaceutical research now. These companies are a lot more interested in having patients as partners, giving them better access and tools, so they can feel like they’re participating in the research effort.”

Costello admits that the caveat is the technology is not made for every trial. Complicated cancer research, for example, isn’t appropriate for the service that Mytrus can provide to patients.

“We estimate that about 30 percent of clinical trials in the United States every year can be done using the technology that Mytrus builds,” Costello said. “But for those trials it does work for, allowing access to everyone is a better method for patients and also for pharmaceutical companies.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett

Brett Johnson

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