For Squint Metrics, 2018 was a year of reinvestment in its proprietary technology. The goal: expand the tech agency’s market research and analytics capabilities significantly.

Squint started as a full-service digital power play: When it was known as Iomedia, the company created “virtual venue” seating charts used by hundreds of sports teams and leagues. Since selling that arm a few years ago and changing its name, the bulk of its business has shifted toward data generation.

“We saw that we could look at and create market research opportunities for clients and ourselves, then provide context for that research,” explains managing director Marc Porter. “We could also, from an analytics perspective, take a look at trends within hypersegments of patient populations. Downstream, that should enable predictive modeling.”

The investment required to engineer that business shift weighed slightly on the year’s results. Squint saw a revenue increase of 2.8% in 2018, compared to a rise of 20% in 2017. MM&M estimates that the agency generated $18.5 million in revenue last year. Staff size rose from 80 to 86.

Owing to a number of new clients, Porter is optimistic revenue will grow before the books are closed on 2019. Recent client additions include biotech startup Apellis (on its pipeline products), Alnylam (on a porphyria drug) and InterPro Bioscience (on a data platform for overactive bladder outcomes). Relationships with ZS Pharma (on pipeline products) and Janssen Biotech (in IBS) ended.

“While I won’t say we’re rolling in profits at the moment, it’s early in the year and our growth has been significant, with a number of new clients and programs added,” Porter says. “That should pay off later in the year.”

Squint has also refined its client wish list. “Our sweet spot is working with startups and smaller biotech pharma companies who are a little more aggressive,” Porter continues. “Right now, they’re a little less focused on their commercial needs and more focused on helping the understanding of poorly understood diseases.”

Porter points to Squint’s work with InterPro as both a recent highlight and as a showcase for the agency’s capabilities. The project uses mobile phones and a test associated with determining color blindness (staring at circles of two different-colored circles) to diagnosis the manifestation and progression of multiple sclerosis and/or the need for treatment alteration. Porter envisions applications for the technology with other neurodegenerative disorders.

Similarly, Porter points to a keen need for improved data science, which will allow a better understanding of disease and treatment impact. Not surprisingly, Squint has invested heavily in adding programmers and data experts to its rolls.

“Most ad agencies claim to be digital. They can build websites and fancy slides, but don’t have the insight or the ability to link various databases. They don’t measure their tools and are still too heavily invested in campaign advertising,” Porter says. “In our opinion, campaign advertising is dead. Doctors, patients, pharma and payers want personalized, on-demand information.”