Data / Federal government / Health tech

This under-the-radar startup landed a $1.4M contract with DARPA

Say hello to Blackfynn. Its engineering team is full of familiar faces.

The Blackfynn platform looks at neurological data as a whole. (GIF via

Other than “we’re hiring,” Center City-based health IT company Blackfynn — founded in early 2015 — hadn’t been saying much.
But then last week, it spilled the beans: in a press release sent out last Tuesday, the company announced it landed a $1.4 million deal with the highly regarded innovation arm of the Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as well as a slate of partnerships with organizations like the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the Mayo Clinic and the University of Pennsylvania. The company will develop software to help a DARPA research initiative focused on treating disease.
Blackfynn, currently at 11 full-time staffers working out of the North American Building on South Broad Street, closed a $2.3 million Series A round back in January. The company’s main product is its data platform, which integrates complex neurological data in one analytics dashboard. In other words, researchers use the platform to get a full picture of neurological data.
President and cofounder Amanda Christini, the former director of strategic initiatives for Penn Medicine’s Center for Healthcare Innovation, said the deals signal an interesting moment for the intersection of data and neuroscience.
“More than in any other area of medicine, there’s an explosion of very complex data being generated at a very rapid rate,” Christini told over the phone. “Blackfynn was built specifically to look across all data domains to get an integrated picture of what’s happening.”
Along with news of the deal, the company disclosed the lineup of its Scientific Advisory Board, a list of ten researchers hailing from institutions like New York University, Penn and the University of Utah.
Also, on a more Philly tech note, Chris Baglieri (formerly of SnipSnap and Artisan Mobile before that) joined Blackfynn in June as VP of Engineering. Baglieri took over for Tom Janofsky, who came to Blackfynn from Monetate. He just hired Kevin Jackson, another Artisan Mobile alum who was leading design at RJMetrics spinout Stitch, to lead Blackfynn’s design team.
Just recently, we were reminded of the great interest from startups on how to get that first check. In Blackfynn’s case, the deal with a big government agency like DARPA came by way of a previous relationship.
“I worked with DARPA many times,” said Christini, who previously worked in technology transfer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “[DARPA] is a great partner: they are passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. Just like any other organization: it’s slow, it takes time and you need to find a champion.”
But then again, it’s a bit easier for Blackfynn to get institutions to use its platform because it isn’t clinically facing. What that means is that the platform does not enable clinical treatment, therefore regulations aren’t quite so brutal. But some things about business never change.
“It’s all about relationships, managing expectations and delivering on what you say you do,” Christini said.

Companies: Blackfynn / Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia / Mayo Clinic / University of Pennsylvania

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