Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly becoming active in the digital health technology startup scene, looking at innovative startups who may have the next best thing in digital health innovation.
Among drugmakers, Merck is a pioneer in this regard, setting up its $250 million accelerator back in 2010. It is a major backer of Rock Health, and had invested in at least 15 start-ups by 2013.
Another pharmaceutical giant, Bayer, has also supported some of digital health’s newest ideas as a partner for Healthbox London last year. But now, it’s finally launched its own digital health accelerator to find
“novel software, hardware, technologies, or processes that can be applied on particular areas contributing to improve health outcomes or pharmaceutical processes.”
Bayer HealthCare recently launched its Grants4Apps Accelerator in Berlin and selected five startups to join its pioneer edition.
Grants4Apps began as a crowdsourcing project last year, but eventually evolved into a full-fledged digital health accelerator program.
The five companies — vetted from a pool of 70 participants — have been given €50,000 or roughly $65,000 in funding. They will receive three and a half months of mentoring in Bayer’s offices in Berlin to refine their business projects.
The five teams will then pitch their ideas to investors on demo day on December 1 to hopefully secure more financing. These are the five startups picked by Bayer HealthCare:
- Cortrium is developing biometric sensors for its C3 device and its future iterations. The sensors can monitor heart rhythm (ECG), respiration, temperature, body posture/physical activity, blood pressure, and blood oxygen level (pulse oximetry/SpO2). The Bluetooth-enabled device can transmit data to tablets for viewing by care providers.
- PharmAssistant is developing a smart pill bottle (a la AdhereTech) that reminds patients with chronic conditions to take their medications by triggering a visual and audible alarm, and by sending push notifications to their mobile phones. A remote monitoring service component is stored in the cloud.
- FabUlyzer has a wearable device that uses proprietary nanosensors that can measure how much fat you burn during exercise just by blowing or breathing into the sensors. A mobile health and wellness app displays your “Fab” fitness score.
- Parica is working on a contactless detection system for home use that records vital signs and makes health recommendations. The system automatically warns specialists if abnormal data is detected.
- Qompium is developing its Cardimoni smartphone app that can detect irregular heart rhythms. The “doctor in your pocket” app uses the phone camera to make a one-minute recording and sends the data to the specialist.
The picks include sensors, wearables, health and wellness apps, and handheld devices used for tracking health and fitness data, both at home and potentially in the clinical setting.
Bayer and Merck are just two names in the pharmaceutical industry that have taken a keen interest in digital health innovation.
Others include GSK, Novartis, and Janssen—all strategic partners of the digital health accelerator HealthXL, which aims to achieve “moonshot” goals in healthcare. Another is Baxter—an investor in the New York Digital Health Accelerator program.
With this kind of momentum, it’s no wonder Rock Health recently reported that digital health funding has reached a record-setting $2.3 billion in 2014—and we’re only halfway through the year.