This 10-slide presentation convinced top VC firm NEA to invest $20 million in its first clinical operations startup

Slope cofounder and CEO Rust Felix
  • Slope makes software and lab kits for clinical trials. It raised $20 million in Series A funding.
  • It is the Silicon Valley VC firm NEA’s first investment in the booming clinical operations industry.
  • Slope hopes to automate processes that are inefficient for researchers running clinical trials.

One of Silicon Valley’s leading investment firms just made a $20 million bet on the red-hot clinical operations industry.

NEA invested in Slope, a startup that offers ready-made lab kits and tracking software to researchers running clinical trials across the US. It’s NEA’s first foray into the clinical-trials space, which started to boom once the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the restrictions and costs associated with traditional in-person trials for new drugs and therapies.

During the initial phase of US lockdowns, many in-person research labs closed their doors, stalling years’ worth of research and trials for the billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry. To salvage many trials’ data, some research clinics started conducting the studies virtually, which is now known as decentralized clinical trials.

Now that clinics have reopened, many have opted to stick with virtual or decentralized models, Blake Wu, an NEA partner, told Insider. For one, it substantially cuts down on travel time for patients, many of whom drive hours to an academic or research hospital to participate. It also helps labs cut costs associated with running and operating a lab while seeing patients in person.

Wu also invests in biotechnology companies, many of which run clinical trials of their own and experienced the disruptions of lockdowns firsthand. Other software he saw focused too much on the virtual element of decentralized trials, he said, and he was looking for a company that could tackle the logistical challenges of running trials virtually and in person across several labs in the US. He ended up meeting with Slope as a prospective customer, not an investor.

“You can’t put Pandora back in the box,” Wu said of the seismic shifts in the trials industry. “You just can’t go back to a fully in-person, on-site environment. That will be something we all have to live with.”

Slope provided Insider with the presentation it used to raise $20 million from NEA. The presentation has been lightly edited by Slope to remove confidential financial, customer, and go-to-market information.

See the 10-page pitch deck that convinced NEA to make its first investment in the booming clinical operations industry.

Rust Felix started Slope, a company that automates manual aspects of clinical trials, in 2016 with his brother Michael.


Slope sells two products: software that helps academic labs and research clinics manage their supplies during trials and a lab kit that lets trial sponsors track the study’s progress in real time.


Felix has a background in mathematics, while his brother previously worked as a software engineer. Both had experience managing supply-chain logistics for e-commerce companies before starting Slope.


Slope works primarily with early-stage biotech companies conducting trials for oncology patients, Felix said. In those cases, many patients travel hours to visit specialty sites to participate in the trial, but the clinics have a hard time knowing whether they have the correct supplies for specific patients.


Felix said Slope’s goal was to make clinical trials boring. The boring trials run smoothly and on time, which helps them stay on budget and better manage patients’ time. Trials, especially in oncology, are increasingly complex and difficult to manage efficiently, he said.


Slope sells its software to sponsors, the companies paying for the trial. Those companies rely on research coordinators to manually enter data throughout the length of the trial, but there are sometimes errors that can void the data. Slope’s lab kits automate the data-collection process to remove human error, Felix said.


Slope’s software connects the sponsor to the lab so that the company has a real-time look at how the trial is progressing. It also has access to sample data collected from its lab kits, as well as real-time information on the supplies at a specific clinic so it can send additional inventory automatically.


Slope is used in 660 research sites across the US, Felix said. With the additional funding, he hopes to take on bigger trials with bigger biotech and pharmaceutical companies.


Companies that want to use Slope’s software pay a monthly fee per user and per site to run the trials. The cost of the lab kits and access to Slope support are additional fees.


Felix said that Slope had saved companies, on average, 13 hours per patient throughout the course of a clinical trial. That helps speed the trial along, saving the company money and helping get treatments through the lengthy process quicker.

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