SaaS puts small medical foundations on fast forward

SaaS lets more small charities like Fast Forward get into the game of searching for cures, by eliminating the costs of moving paperwork back-and-forth while dealing with sensitive information.

Running a medical foundation that funds cures can be very expensive. You need the security and audit trails over information of a big outfit, but you may in fact be a very small one. The cure for Fast Forward, which funds research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, has been software as a service, or SaaS. It contracted with Intralinks for a SaaS service that lets it move all its work online, at modest cost, while maintaining full security. Fast Forward President Tim Coetzee explained.

"We're going to ask companies to give us a lot of sensitive information. We're looking for a strategy where we can provide assurance that data will be handled securely. We needed something that was also easily used and accessed by the people evaluating. We use volunteers who are expert at science or business, and we need them to access data remotely.

"Instead of requesting papers we scan it's straightforward. We give people a diligence package and questions, give them access to the data flow and they put it. It streamlines the workflow. It saves time and money. It streamlines our review process. It enables our volunteer evaluators to do their work anywhere."

In addition to its own $3 million in "venture philanthropy" funding, Coetzee also has influence on $19 million from Merck Serono which is also focused on MS therapies. "It's high risk high reward," just like regular venture funding, Coetzee says. Only with a different bottom line.

Allison SherrillAlison Shurell, a vice president for product manager with IntraLinks, explained how it works from their end.

"When you invite participants you can vary the permission level. You can vary what they do within the exchange, which is what we call the workspace.

"Perhaps they can post documents, or add other users, or perhaps you just want them to review information. You can change this on the fly. You designate a manager and they're given ultimate control of what happens on the exchange."

SaaS lets more small charities like Fast Forward get into the game of searching for cures, by eliminating the costs of moving paperwork back-and-forth while dealing with sensitive information. If one of Coetzee's investments does pay off, this kind of technology deserves a bit of the credit.