Synthetic data trailblazer and CHEO Research Institute spin-off, Replica Analytics, acquired by Aetion signalling CHEO as a place for incubating start-ups

Synthetic data generation startup Replica Analytics was recently acquired by real world evidence technology company Aetion. Replica was first founded by members of the CHEO Research Institute and the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine. This acquisition demonstrates how academic research can be put into practice faster with the help of commercialization.

Replica was co-founded in 2019 by Dr. Khaled El Emam, head of the CHEO Research Institute’s Electronic Health Information Laboratory. His position involves conducting research and developing technology, like generating synthetic data. The goal of this research and technology is to encourage sharing health information electronically while ensuring privacy.

Replica has been pushing the development of SDG, a privacy enhancing technology used especially in healthcare. This technology uses machine learning to create new, synthetic data that captures patterns and properties in actual datasets. This makes the data highly shareable, as there are no correlations linking any specific patient to their medical data.

Dr. El Emam discussed the relationship between academic research and commercialization, stating that “the CHEO Research Institute has been very supportive, recognizing the societal and economic impacts that can come from enabling the commercialization of academic research, which is also important for the research funding agencies themselves. Meanwhile, the company’s close ties with both EHIL and the University give us a unique opportunity to develop and attract new talent to work on these game-changing technologies.” The company’s success is, at least in some form, thanks to its connection with the CHEO Research Institute.

The story of Replica’s success is one example of the Research Institute’s work in this area, and their wider goal to improve the growth of health technology intended to benefit the lives of Canadians. The Research Institute recently created a new Innovation and Commercialization research group, alongside efforts to make a new regional program to create product-focused companies out of early ideas for innovation in Eastern Ontario’s health professional community.

Research Institute CEO and Scientific Director Jason Berman discussed the acquisition, saying “There is a strong culture of research and innovation at CHEO that motivates and challenges the best and brightest minds. Our mission is to connect exceptional talent and technology in pursuit of life-changing research for every child, youth, and family in our community and beyond. Through successful commercialization efforts, such as Replica, we are demonstrating the benefits of bridging the academic research world with industry partners.”

This acquisition is expected to add an additional analytical benefit to Aetion’s goal of addressing problems in RWE, like creating access to fit-for-purpose data to solve pressing healthcare issues. Aetion Co-Founder and President Dr. Jeremy Rassen commented on the acquisition, noting that “Replica enhances Aetion’s technology portfolio to open access to previously inaccessible real-world data. Our shared belief in rooting technology innovation in scientific rigor assures that together Replica and Aetion can accelerate the impact of RWE on improving access to higher quality, more affordable healthcare, globally.”

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