Smaller Trials, Bigger Impact: Transforming Clinical Trials with Unlearn’s AI-powered Digital Twins

Wittington Ventures
4 min readMar 27, 2023


In one of the first industry pieces we published as a healthcare team, we discussed the unique go-to-market paradigm healthcare companies face: which customer “pocket to pick”. There are several types of entities — patients, providers, payors, or life sciences — that could be customers for growing healthcare businesses. Unsurprisingly, the generous budgets, easy-to-calculate ROIs, and commercially minded nature of life sciences companies (and specifically pharmaceutical ones) made them rise to the top of our list.

This began an extensive research initiative for us around the clinical trial ecosystem and companies that enable pharma to bring life-changing drugs to market faster. We explored companies focused on patient recruitment, real-world evidence, supply chain, data analytics and more. Our thesis work was summarized here in which the emerging theme was that there are multiple areas across the clinical trial value chain where venture-backed companies can create meaningful businesses.

While most of the areas within clinical trials had a range of players competing for contracts from pharmaceutical and contract research organizations, we did learn about one company that was quite unique in its offering: Unlearn. The company has a mission to leverage artificial intelligence to eliminate trial and error in medicine through creating patient digital twins, unlocking the potential for more efficient, ethical and reliable clinical studies. As Charles Fisher, Unlearn’s CEO, has put it: Unlearn is a tech company at the bio party.

Today, we are very excited to announce our investment in Unlearn’s Series B-1 round.

What is a Patient Digital Twin and How Does it Work?

A patient digital twin is a comprehensive, longitudinal patient record that is computer generated. This record essentially showcases what would have happened to the biomarkers of a patient with a specific disease had they been included in the control arm of a clinical trial (i.e. received a placebo therapeutic or the current standard of care).

To create a digital twin, Unlearn builds a highly curated dataset around a particular disease area (e.g. ALS disease) from previous clinical trials and proprietary sources. The company then uses machine learning to master and mimic the disease progression of a patient in the form of a clinical record. If this sounds like generative AI, you’re right — Unlearn has been at this well before it became a popular buzzword.

Because of the high accuracy of Unlearn’s digital twin generator, life sciences companies are able to add these computer generated clinical records into their research data, thus reducing the number of patients needed in the control arm of their studies (see diagram below). For a more comprehensive understanding, we encourage you to read CEO, Charles Fisher’s post here.

Once a patient is enrolled into a randomized controlled trial, Unlearn’s AI generates a patient digital twin that will be included in the control arm, reducing the required number of patients that need to be recruited.

How Impactful Are Patient Digital Twins?

Patient digital twins help life science companies conduct trials with the same statistical accuracy but with fewer patients in their control arm. The impact of this cannot be understated. In a world where recruiting patients has a significant cost and time delay, this dramatically alleviates the burden for studies, allowing treatments to come to market both faster and cheaper. A day’s delay in a clinical trial can cost a life sciences company $2-$3 million daily, so the financial savings that come with reduced patient recruitment and expedient trial timelines are extremely meaningful.

What Gets Us Excited About Unlearn?

Aside from the obvious fascination with the technology itself, there are several reasons that we are excited to be a small part of Unlearn’s journey:

  1. Brilliant, first-principles-driven team: Dr. Charles Fisher (CEO), Dr. Aaron Smith (Head of Machine Learning) and Dr. Jonathan Walsh’s (Head of Data Science) passion for expanding the AI use cases in healthcare is infectious and has enabled them to attract a highly impressive team around them (including the addition of the OpenAI CTO to Unlearn’s Board).
  2. Unlearn is building a cutting-edge solution in a large and rapidly growing market: Patient recruitment and real-world evidence represent a $3B+ market opportunity today that is set to expand as new use cases for data and machine learning applications continue to emerge.
  3. Unlearn’s technology is in a class of its own: Unlearn is the only company in its space to have received regulatory approval for the inclusion of digital patient twins in clinical trials.
  4. Unlearn is gaining exciting commercial momentum: While the company is young and still building out disease areas of focus, deals like their ​​multi-year contract with Merck KGaA in immunology get us excited about what’s to come.

Congratulations to Charles and the team at Unlearn! While there’s still important work ahead, we are excited at the impact this technology will have on improving patient outcomes by bringing new therapeutics to market faster.



Wittington Ventures

Venture capital firm in search of disruptive innovations in food, commerce, and healthcare