Silicon Cities
Meet One of The Innovative New Startups Behind Boston’s Health Tech Boom
Kim Lachance Shandrow | December 8, 2016

Martin Naley says there’s no better place than Boston to launch a health tech startup from today. But then again, he admits that he might be a bit biased.

Naley, a biotech industry veteran and first-time entrepreneur, two years ago founded Cure Forward, a Beantown-based company with an online platform that uses patients’ unique genomic fingerprints to match them with clinical trials that could provide more targeted therapies and treatments for their diseases.

“Cure Forward’s language is biotechnology: genes, drugs, and clinical trials,” Naley told Free Enterprise. “Our technology is a website combined with complex data algorithms…As a company serving patients, we needed people with healthcare backgrounds who knew how to guide patients through precision medicine. There is no better location than Boston to bring together biotechnology, Internet technology, healthcare, and consumer brand marketing. It was a conscious decision to locate the company here, and I’m glad we did.”

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Naley’s small company, which has secured approximately $19 million in venture capital to date, is one in a growing wave of cutting-edge healthtech startups to blossom out of America’s Cradle of Liberty in recent years.

In the latest Innovation That Matters report, Boston ranked number one out of 25 American cities for fostering entrepreneurial growth and innovation. There are just shy of 100 hospitals in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, including Harvard Medical School-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, making the seaport city one of the nation’s top destinations for advanced healthcare – and a lure for tech-minded entrepreneurs looking to shake up that particular industry.

Given this depth of market saturation, it’s no surprise that healthcare is one of the urban center’s largest employment sectors, further positioning the metropolis—and the innovative entrepreneurs within it—to capitalize on the imminent shift to a digital economy.

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For Naley, this proximity to a wealth of world-class research and teaching healthcare institutions was a strong, definitive draw for setting up shop in Boston, but it wasn’t the only factor that attracted him. Access to top talent and cohesive, well-connected professional networks throughout the industry also had a lot to do with his decision to start up in the city.

Cure Forward founder Martin Naley.

Cure Forward founder Martin Naley.

“The people here are surprisingly loyal and dedicated,” he said. “We were lucky to find some amazing core talent, and then have those people reach out to their own networks to build strong teams at Cure Forward, especially in technology development, marketing, and patient support.”

Additionally, Cure Forward, originally incubated out of Apple Tree Partners in New York City, further leveraged its employees’ network connections across Boston’s burgeoning biotech ecosystem. The goal: to build mission-critical relationships with larger companies in the area that operate precision medicine clinical trials its users can benefit from.

The startup’s pioneering platform allows cancer patients to share their DNA data to clinical trial recruiters throughout the U.S. and is designed to broaden their treatment options, expedite research, and enable new treatments to go to market faster.

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With an eye on expanding its own market reach, Cure Forward—which has an office just across Boston’s Charles River in nearby Cambridge, Mass.—recently partnered with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, also located in Cambridge, to identify patients for all of its ongoing oncology trials.

When asked about the challenges of running a health tech startup out of the Boston area, Naley took an optimistic view. He cited the struggle to fully take advantage of “all that Boston has to offer” in terms of network cohesiveness—and to take advantage of it quickly and adeptly enough to make the necessary inroads to scale even bigger.

“Now that we’re up and running, we’re just beginning to engage the amazing health care industry in town to help more people find treatments and help trial sites fill with patients,” he said.