These medtech companies raised the most VC in 2018

money-vc-raised-2018

[Image from unsplash.com]

Venture capital firms invested more than $2.9 billion in medical device companies in 2018 — a slight increase from the $2.8 billion raised in 2017, according to the MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and CB Insights.

Both the first and second quarters of 2018 saw an increase in investments, totaling nearly $778 million and $786 million respectively. The third and fourth quarters were slightly lower, with medtech companies raising $738 million in Q3 and nearly $641 million in Q4.

There were 218 deals in 2018, a slight decrease from the 229 deals involving medical device companies in 2017. There was 55 deals in Q1, 68 in Q2, 48 in Q3 and 47 in Q4.

The companies that are raising VC cash are doing everything from cardiac arrhythmia detection to proton therapy for cancer patients.

Read on to discover the top medtech venture capital raises of 2018.

Next >>

The post These medtech companies raised the most VC in 2018 appeared first on MassDevice.

These medtech companies raised the most VC last year

Share
VCmoneyraised

[Image from unsplash.com]

Perhaps there’s a ray of hope that venture capital funding is recovering a bit for the medical device industry.

VC firms invested more than $2.8 billion in 2017, an increase of more than $647 million from 2016, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and CB Insights. There were a total 229 deals involving medical device companies last year.

The companies raking in the VC cash are doing everything from creating robotic microsurgery for the eyes to building better dialysis machines to bringing neuromodulation to bear on epilepsy.

Read on to discover which medtech companies raised the most venture capital in 2017.

Next >>

With $25M fundraise, Amino launches price transparency services for employers, providers

About 16 months ago, Amino became the first for-profit company to gain access to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services‘ vast database of Medicare claims. Now it’s not only expanding its price transparency services to self-insured employers and healthcare providers but also giving these groups access to this data.

The company raised a $25 million Series C round to support the launch of Amino Plus for EmployersAmino for Providers, and make its data platform available, according to a blog post about the fundraise. The physician search and appointment booking service allows consumers to search for physicians and gain information on prices based on individual conditions, service needs, health insurance coverage and personal preferences. One goal is to help hospitals improve their consumer/patient experience, particularly to find physicians in their network and make more informed decisions about their care. Another is to help self-insured employers reduce their healthcare costs.

Highland Capital Management led the round. Other investors that took included Accel, Aspect Ventures, Charles River Ventures, Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, and Pilot Wall Group, among others.

“This phase of financing is about building the full ecosystem around Amino,” said David Vivero, Amino CEO, in a phone interview. “Through these services. we can make sure users get access to realtime deductibles, view their plan designs and [contact details].”

Vivero and his team have taken a number of steps to try to set Amino’s approach apart from other companies. Aside from the Medicare database access, it doesn’t allow physicians to pay for exclusion. Users can see whether a doctor’s rate for a given procedure is higher than, lower than, or similar to other doctors nearby. The search engine uses statistical adjustments to account for differences in the types of people doctors treat, so a doctor with healthy patients isn’t unfairly compared to a doctor who treats sicker patients. Last year, it became a Medicare consensus-based entity, a status that means Amino gets support from CMS to create healthcare quality measures that become available to other groups with the same status.

“This is a very big next step for us,” Vivero said. “In the history of American healthcare, everyone has had their own facts and that’s left consumers with conflicting data.”

Photo: Hong Li, Getty Images

Report: Digital health startups raise $2.5B in Q1 even as deal volume declines to six-year low

This post has been updated with data from Rock Health’s Q1 report

Digital health startups raised $2.5 billion across 124 deals in the first quarter of the year — a record high amount for the first quarter but lowest deal volume since 2011, according to a report from StartUp Health. Big data analytics business Grail’s supersized $914 million Series B fundraise accounted for a big chunk of the funding raised for the first quarter.

“Even though [venture capital firms] are betting less, they’re betting bigger,” the report noted.

Like Ping An Good Doctor’s $500 million round last year, Grail was also a spinout — in this case from Illumina. Although Grail is considered a cancer diagnostics company, it also has biotech software component, with high-intensity sequencing tools to detect signs of cancer in the blood, including ctDNA.

Interestingly, Grail is somewhat similar to Freenome, a company that raised $65 million in March. Freenome uses machine learning and big data analytics to spot signatures from immunological and metabolic changes towards early cancer detection.

For the first time, population health startups attracted more investment than other digital health subsectors, raising $392 million in 25 deals. Alignment Healthcare alone raised $115 million from private equity investor Warburg Pincus. Livongo, which focuses on diabetes management and prevention, raised $52 million from General Catalyst Partners is also listed in the population health category.

Venrock topped other investors with four investments in the quarter. Among them were Virta Health — a health IT startup that claims it can help people reverse Type 2 diabetes.

At this time last year, StartUp Health noted that startups in digital health had raised $1 billion in 100 deals, dominated by health insurance startup Oscar with a $400 million fundraise. Although big data analytics companies raised the most — $286 million — the patient/consumer experience category accounted for the highest volume of deals at 20.

Source: StartUp Health Insights Report Q1 2017

Source: StartUp Health Insights Report Q1 2017

Photo: Goir, Getty Images

Tuesday Recap: 2017 BIO Asia International Conference

Missed the event this year? Sign up to receive updates about BIO Asia 2018.

The 14th annual BIO Asia International Conference kicked off Tuesday at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo, Japan. President and CEO of BIO Jim Greenwood welcomed attendees, and mentioned that BIO Asia is BIO’s longest-running international conferences.  He thanked attendees for their continued support of the industry, and of the event.

Greenwood noted that the US and Japan share a similar set of healthcare challenges, and that innovators, investors, and institutions must come together to solve the problems of the modern world. He called for a long-term strategy for industry and government to work together and incentivize innovation to save lives, save money, and ensure a prosperous future across the world.

BIO then welcomed Dr. Tatsumi Yamazaki, Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Japan Bioindustry Association (JBA). Dr. Yamazaki greeted attendees and gave an overview of the event and JBA’s role in growing the industry. He noted that there remain gaps between industry and academia that hinder innovation, but that meetings such as this one are important to overcoming such gaps.

Opening Plenary: Seishi Baba, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare

BIO and JBA were pleased to welcome the conference’s opening plenary speaker, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Health, Labour, and Welfare Seishi Baba. Vice-Minister Baba displayed a slide showing the demographic changes in Japan since the baby boom and the projected population demographic changes through 2060. Japan is going to be a nation with an extremely high elderly population, which will present new healthcare challenges. Japan has a universal healthcare policy, and thus healthcare will continue to be a growing budgetary challenge as healthcare needs rise. To be sustainable, Baba explained, it is important that Japan promote disease prevention policies and encourage medical innovation in the area of healthcare.

Baba went on to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of Japan’s current healthcare landscape. Japan has many world class biomedical advances in universities and research institutions, and clinical research is widely practiced in hospitals in Japan. Additionally, Japan has many promising companies with advanced manufacturing technologies, and the approval process of drugs and medical devices has been accelerated. One weakness is that there are relatively few entrepreneurs, and so it can be difficult to assemble sufficient human resources for biotech ventures. Also, venture capital investment is scarce and finding seed capital is a particular challenge. Venture companies are not considered in the medical devices, and there are very few successful cases of medical device ventures in Japan.

Baba affirmed Japan’s commitment to overcoming these challenges and acknowledged the importance of smart regulation that will encourage innovation and reduce barriers to collaboration between government, industry, and academia.

Tuesday Keynote: David Meeker, MD, Executive Vice President, Sanofi and Head, Genzyme Sanofi

David Meeker

Tuesday’s keynote session welcomed David Meeker, MD, Executive Vice President, Sanofi and Head, Genzyme Sanofi. Meeker gave a candid discussion about orphan disease pricing policy and Genzyme’s role in developing drugs for orphan diseases. Meeker said Genzyme has held a presence in Japan since 1989 because they recognized the importance of the Japanese market, and that Genzyme was the first U.S. company to submit a drug through the Japanese regulatory process without the assistance of a Japanese partner.

Meeker said that regarding the content of proposed reforms under the Trump administration, Meeker’s hope is that the FDA will continue to receive funding and government support, because for biopharma companies, the stamp of approval from the FDA is a new medicine’s most valuable asset. He emphasized that he has zero interest in lowering the bar for demonstrating safety and efficacy. Meeker noted that it is important that high-risk investments for developing drugs for orphan diseases continue to be rewarded, at least in the initial phase before generics hit the market. He said there needs to be an elimination of the backlog of lifesaving drugs in development, and hopes that changes will be made towards this goal.

“People can choose to buy a car or not buy a car, but when it comes to buying lifesaving drugs, healthcare is different,” Meeker explained. “We need to be able to trust the system; I want to have the confidence that the medicine will do what it says it does, and that doctors will not be unduly influenced by any force within the system.” Meeker concluded that he is confident that companies with innovative therapies that meet unmet needs will be able to find reimbursement.

Addressing Shifts in Japanese Reimbursement Policy

Suzuki

There is a worldwide discussion underway regarding the sustainability of traditional approaches to paying for healthcare, and Japan has recently announced plans to reconfigure reimbursement policies for medicines. The first panel session explored policy shifts underway in Japan in the context of policy shifts globally. Speakers provided advice on steps innovative drug companies should take to communicate the value they offer to patients and stay competitive despite changes in regulation.

The speakers were:

  • Yasuhiro Suzuki, MD, PhD, Director General of the Health Insurance Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), Japan
  • Amy Jackson, Japan Representative, PhRMA
  • Joseph Damond, Senior Vice President, International Affairs, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO)

Damond began by introducing Dr. Suzuki, who described the case of an innovative cancer drug, Opivo, for melanoma, and its effect on Japanese health care costs. Later, the drug’s indication was expanded to cover non-small cell lung cancer, drastically increasing the number of patients served under the drug, as well as the market size, from 3.1 billion yen to over 150 billion yen in about one year. Suzuki then outlines the future direction of drug pricing and the regulatory process for drugs in Japan, with potential adjustments in the frequency of price reviews. He expects to have a finalized plan by the end of the summer of 2017.

Damond then introduced Jackson, who discussed the policy changes Japan has taken in the past few years to foster innovation and increase access to new medicines. She said that there has been a sharp increase in drugs in the clinical development pipeline, as well as higher growth in R&D, since pro-innovation policy changes went into effect. However, she mentions that since December 2015, adjustments to government repricing rules that went into effect quickly and without significant, advanced discussion with stakeholders created concern among PhRMA’s member companies. This policy shift was followed by the emergency re-pricing of Opivo just a few months later, which was also done quickly. There is concern that without better communication between policy makers and medicine developers that significant therapies that could help patients and lower total healthcare costs might be prevented from reaching the market.  She concluded by expressing hope that Japanese policy makers will think very carefully about the implementation process of their proposed drug reform plan and that they roll it out in a way that doesn’t hinder serving patients.

The speakers then convened on the stage to discuss the reforms further. Dr. Suzuki stated that Japan has no intention to move away from pro-innovation policies, and reassured the audience that Japan will balance innovation with sustainable fiscal responsibility.

Luncheon Plenary – Fireside Chat: Philippe Fauchet, OBE, President & Representative Director, GlaxoSmithKline K.K. and Subesh Williams, Senior Vice President, Global Business Development, GlaxoSmithKline plc

Lunch at BIO Asia 2017

Lunch was served to attendees at noon, where they listened to two senior representatives from GlaxoSmithKline, Firstly, Subesh Williams, Senior Vice President, Global Business Development, GlaxoSmithKline plc, delivered a brief presentation, then Philippe Fauchet, OBE, President & Representative Director, GlaxoSmithKline K.K. participated in a one-on-one interview with Devang Bhuva, Director, Healthcare Investment Banking, Lazard

Williams described the successful joint venture, Viiv Healthcare, that GSK, Pfizer, and Shionogi support to deliver and improve HIV therapies.  Viiv produced 12 antiretroviral medicines for patients, with other therapies in development.  Williams also detailed GSK’s past asset swaps with Novartis and multiple partners in Asia, where GSK has about 1/3 of its global workforce and operations.

Fauchet and Bhuva then conversed about Fauchet’s two decades in Japan biopharma and lessons about GSK’s successful focus and growth during his tenure.  Bhuva congratulated Fauchet on his announced elevation to Chairman of GSK K.K. to take effect in April.  Fauchet thanked him and voiced the importance of public policies that support innovation in the development of new medicines as the best way to help the most patients, long-term, in a sustainable way.

Fighting Neurodegeneration: New Models for Alzheimer’s Disease and Beyond

Neurodegeneration Panel

The session featured several companies exploring innovative therapeutic angles on treating Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, and was moderated by Ellen Lubman, Vice President, External Science & Innovation, Allergan PLC. The panelists were:

  • Tim Earle, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Business Officer, TauRx Pharmaceuticals Ltd
  • Kevin J. Lynch, PhD, Vice President, Search and Evaluation, AbbVie
  • Christopher U. Missling, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Anavex Life Sciences Corp.

With more than 5 million people already suffering from neurodegenerative diseases in Japan, a number expected to rise nearly 50% in the next decade as the population ages, the challenge of finding treatments grows even more critical. Years of clinical trial disappointments have inspired a diversification in the selection of biological mechanisms to attack with new treatment approaches.

While the panelists represented different approaches to the treatment of Alzheimer’s, they were all in agreement that any new developments in the field serve to benefit all companies. A promising beta amyloid drug for treating the disease failed last year in phase III, and although this meant less competition for tau-focusedcompanies, it was a blow to the entire field. Panelists expressed disappointment as it meant that patients would have to wait longer for a new treatment, and the companies searching for a cure are all united in this shared goal.  This is especially true as the panel described that there is still much unknown about the proper timing when treatments might have greatest impact, and about what combination of mechanisms and genetic factors are most influential on disease progressions.  One hopeful part of the discussion pointed out advantages from cross-application of Alzheimer’s therapies to treat other neurological ailments and improvements in imaging that might support better neurodegenation diagnostics.

Market Outlook— The Rise of Cross-Asia Partnerships

Market Outlook Panel

As biotech grows in Asia, innovators are increasingly looking for cross-Asia partnerships to access capital, talent and clinical trial sites to speed product development. In South Korea, several innovators have out-licensed local rights to emerging China players. At the same time, innovators elsewhere in Asia have partnered with South Korean firms to accelerate development of their own pipelines.

The panel examined several significant cross-Asia deals to identify lessons learned for Asia dealmakers, and was moderated by David Flores, President and Chief Executive Officer, BioCentury Inc. The panelists were:

  • Carl Firth, PhD, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aslan Pharmaceuticals Pte. Ltd.
  • Benjamin Li, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Lee’s Pharmaceutical Holdings Ltd.
  • Paul Youm, Legal Counsel, SillaJen, Inc.
  • Jin-San Yoo, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, PharmAbcine Inc.
  • Zhenping Zhu, MD, PhD, President of R&D and Chief Scientific Officer, 3SBio Inc.

Flores began by stating that he has been attending the conference for many years, and that the topic of cross-Asia dealmaking has been a popularly suggested topic but there was a lack of critical mass to profile and discuss until now. Data was shared on 17 significant deals totaling more than $11 billion of value among cross-Asia partners in the past 15 months.  Flores introduced the five panelists and provided some background into each company and their recent deal-making activities.

The panelists discussed what they are currently looking for when making deals, the differences in portfolio structures in Western and Asian countries, and the variances in the regulatory processes among different countries.  They generally agreed that they expect this trend now has gathered enough momentum to continue and spark robust cross-border dealmaking within Asia as the investor base continues to mature and find financial success from these pioneering deals.

Click here for additional coverage of Wednesday’s programming at the BIO Asia International Conference! Missed the event this year? Sign up to receive updates about BIO Asia 2018.

Filed under: Events, Jim’s Corner, , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday Recap: 2017 BIO Asia International Conference

Missed the event this year? Sign up to receive updates about BIO Asia 2018.

The 14th annual BIO Asia International Conference kicked off Tuesday at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo, Japan. President and CEO of BIO Jim Greenwood welcomed attendees, and mentioned that BIO Asia is BIO’s longest-running international conferences.  He thanked attendees for their continued support of the industry, and of the event.

Greenwood noted that the US and Japan share a similar set of healthcare challenges, and that innovators, investors, and institutions must come together to solve the problems of the modern world. He called for a long-term strategy for industry and government to work together and incentivize innovation to save lives, save money, and ensure a prosperous future across the world.

BIO then welcomed Dr. Tatsumi Yamazaki, Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Japan Bioindustry Association (JBA). Dr. Yamazaki greeted attendees and gave an overview of the event and JBA’s role in growing the industry. He noted that there remain gaps between industry and academia that hinder innovation, but that meetings such as this one are important to overcoming such gaps.

Opening Plenary: Seishi Baba, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare

BIO and JBA were pleased to welcome the conference’s opening plenary speaker, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Health, Labour, and Welfare Seishi Baba. Vice-Minister Baba displayed a slide showing the demographic changes in Japan since the baby boom and the projected population demographic changes through 2060. Japan is going to be a nation with an extremely high elderly population, which will present new healthcare challenges. Japan has a universal healthcare policy, and thus healthcare will continue to be a growing budgetary challenge as healthcare needs rise. To be sustainable, Baba explained, it is important that Japan promote disease prevention policies and encourage medical innovation in the area of healthcare.

Baba went on to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of Japan’s current healthcare landscape. Japan has many world class biomedical advances in universities and research institutions, and clinical research is widely practiced in hospitals in Japan. Additionally, Japan has many promising companies with advanced manufacturing technologies, and the approval process of drugs and medical devices has been accelerated. One weakness is that there are relatively few entrepreneurs, and so it can be difficult to assemble sufficient human resources for biotech ventures. Also, venture capital investment is scarce and finding seed capital is a particular challenge. Venture companies are not considered in the medical devices, and there are very few successful cases of medical device ventures in Japan.

Baba affirmed Japan’s commitment to overcoming these challenges and acknowledged the importance of smart regulation that will encourage innovation and reduce barriers to collaboration between government, industry, and academia.

Tuesday Keynote: David Meeker, MD, Executive Vice President, Sanofi and Head, Genzyme Sanofi

David Meeker

Tuesday’s keynote session welcomed David Meeker, MD, Executive Vice President, Sanofi and Head, Genzyme Sanofi. Meeker gave a candid discussion about orphan disease pricing policy and Genzyme’s role in developing drugs for orphan diseases. Meeker said Genzyme has held a presence in Japan since 1989 because they recognized the importance of the Japanese market, and that Genzyme was the first U.S. company to submit a drug through the Japanese regulatory process without the assistance of a Japanese partner.

Meeker said that regarding the content of proposed reforms under the Trump administration, Meeker’s hope is that the FDA will continue to receive funding and government support, because for biopharma companies, the stamp of approval from the FDA is a new medicine’s most valuable asset. He emphasized that he has zero interest in lowering the bar for demonstrating safety and efficacy. Meeker noted that it is important that high-risk investments for developing drugs for orphan diseases continue to be rewarded, at least in the initial phase before generics hit the market. He said there needs to be an elimination of the backlog of lifesaving drugs in development, and hopes that changes will be made towards this goal.

“People can choose to buy a car or not buy a car, but when it comes to buying lifesaving drugs, healthcare is different,” Meeker explained. “We need to be able to trust the system; I want to have the confidence that the medicine will do what it says it does, and that doctors will not be unduly influenced by any force within the system.” Meeker concluded that he is confident that companies with innovative therapies that meet unmet needs will be able to find reimbursement.

Addressing Shifts in Japanese Reimbursement Policy

Suzuki

There is a worldwide discussion underway regarding the sustainability of traditional approaches to paying for healthcare, and Japan has recently announced plans to reconfigure reimbursement policies for medicines. The first panel session explored policy shifts underway in Japan in the context of policy shifts globally. Speakers provided advice on steps innovative drug companies should take to communicate the value they offer to patients and stay competitive despite changes in regulation.

The speakers were:

  • Yasuhiro Suzuki, MD, PhD, Director General of the Health Insurance Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), Japan
  • Amy Jackson, Japan Representative, PhRMA
  • Joseph Damond, Senior Vice President, International Affairs, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO)

Damond began by introducing Dr. Suzuki, who described the case of an innovative cancer drug, Opivo, for melanoma, and its effect on Japanese health care costs. Later, the drug’s indication was expanded to cover non-small cell lung cancer, drastically increasing the number of patients served under the drug, as well as the market size, from 3.1 billion yen to over 150 billion yen in about one year. Suzuki then outlines the future direction of drug pricing and the regulatory process for drugs in Japan, with potential adjustments in the frequency of price reviews. He expects to have a finalized plan by the end of the summer of 2017.

Damond then introduced Jackson, who discussed the policy changes Japan has taken in the past few years to foster innovation and increase access to new medicines. She said that there has been a sharp increase in drugs in the clinical development pipeline, as well as higher growth in R&D, since pro-innovation policy changes went into effect. However, she mentions that since December 2015, adjustments to government repricing rules that went into effect quickly and without significant, advanced discussion with stakeholders created concern among PhRMA’s member companies. This policy shift was followed by the emergency re-pricing of Opivo just a few months later, which was also done quickly. There is concern that without better communication between policy makers and medicine developers that significant therapies that could help patients and lower total healthcare costs might be prevented from reaching the market.  She concluded by expressing hope that Japanese policy makers will think very carefully about the implementation process of their proposed drug reform plan and that they roll it out in a way that doesn’t hinder serving patients.

The speakers then convened on the stage to discuss the reforms further. Dr. Suzuki stated that Japan has no intention to move away from pro-innovation policies, and reassured the audience that Japan will balance innovation with sustainable fiscal responsibility.

Luncheon Plenary – Fireside Chat: Philippe Fauchet, OBE, President & Representative Director, GlaxoSmithKline K.K. and Subesh Williams, Senior Vice President, Global Business Development, GlaxoSmithKline plc

Lunch at BIO Asia 2017

Lunch was served to attendees at noon, where they listened to two senior representatives from GlaxoSmithKline, Firstly, Subesh Williams, Senior Vice President, Global Business Development, GlaxoSmithKline plc, delivered a brief presentation, then Philippe Fauchet, OBE, President & Representative Director, GlaxoSmithKline K.K. participated in a one-on-one interview with Devang Bhuva, Director, Healthcare Investment Banking, Lazard

Williams described the successful joint venture, Viiv Healthcare, that GSK, Pfizer, and Shionogi support to deliver and improve HIV therapies.  Viiv produced 12 antiretroviral medicines for patients, with other therapies in development.  Williams also detailed GSK’s past asset swaps with Novartis and multiple partners in Asia, where GSK has about 1/3 of its global workforce and operations.

Fauchet and Bhuva then conversed about Fauchet’s two decades in Japan biopharma and lessons about GSK’s successful focus and growth during his tenure.  Bhuva congratulated Fauchet on his announced elevation to Chairman of GSK K.K. to take effect in April.  Fauchet thanked him and voiced the importance of public policies that support innovation in the development of new medicines as the best way to help the most patients, long-term, in a sustainable way.

Fighting Neurodegeneration: New Models for Alzheimer’s Disease and Beyond

Neurodegeneration Panel

The session featured several companies exploring innovative therapeutic angles on treating Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, and was moderated by Ellen Lubman, Vice President, External Science & Innovation, Allergan PLC. The panelists were:

  • Tim Earle, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Business Officer, TauRx Pharmaceuticals Ltd
  • Kevin J. Lynch, PhD, Vice President, Search and Evaluation, AbbVie
  • Christopher U. Missling, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Anavex Life Sciences Corp.

With more than 5 million people already suffering from neurodegenerative diseases in Japan, a number expected to rise nearly 50% in the next decade as the population ages, the challenge of finding treatments grows even more critical. Years of clinical trial disappointments have inspired a diversification in the selection of biological mechanisms to attack with new treatment approaches.

While the panelists represented different approaches to the treatment of Alzheimer’s, they were all in agreement that any new developments in the field serve to benefit all companies. A promising beta amyloid drug for treating the disease failed last year in phase III, and although this meant less competition for tau-focusedcompanies, it was a blow to the entire field. Panelists expressed disappointment as it meant that patients would have to wait longer for a new treatment, and the companies searching for a cure are all united in this shared goal.  This is especially true as the panel described that there is still much unknown about the proper timing when treatments might have greatest impact, and about what combination of mechanisms and genetic factors are most influential on disease progressions.  One hopeful part of the discussion pointed out advantages from cross-application of Alzheimer’s therapies to treat other neurological ailments and improvements in imaging that might support better neurodegenation diagnostics.

Market Outlook— The Rise of Cross-Asia Partnerships

Market Outlook Panel

As biotech grows in Asia, innovators are increasingly looking for cross-Asia partnerships to access capital, talent and clinical trial sites to speed product development. In South Korea, several innovators have out-licensed local rights to emerging China players. At the same time, innovators elsewhere in Asia have partnered with South Korean firms to accelerate development of their own pipelines.

The panel examined several significant cross-Asia deals to identify lessons learned for Asia dealmakers, and was moderated by David Flores, President and Chief Executive Officer, BioCentury Inc. The panelists were:

  • Carl Firth, PhD, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aslan Pharmaceuticals Pte. Ltd.
  • Benjamin Li, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Lee’s Pharmaceutical Holdings Ltd.
  • Paul Youm, Legal Counsel, SillaJen, Inc.
  • Jin-San Yoo, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, PharmAbcine Inc.
  • Zhenping Zhu, MD, PhD, President of R&D and Chief Scientific Officer, 3SBio Inc.

Flores began by stating that he has been attending the conference for many years, and that the topic of cross-Asia dealmaking has been a popularly suggested topic but there was a lack of critical mass to profile and discuss until now. Data was shared on 17 significant deals totaling more than $11 billion of value among cross-Asia partners in the past 15 months.  Flores introduced the five panelists and provided some background into each company and their recent deal-making activities.

The panelists discussed what they are currently looking for when making deals, the differences in portfolio structures in Western and Asian countries, and the variances in the regulatory processes among different countries.  They generally agreed that they expect this trend now has gathered enough momentum to continue and spark robust cross-border dealmaking within Asia as the investor base continues to mature and find financial success from these pioneering deals.

Click here for additional coverage of Wednesday’s programming at the BIO Asia International Conference! Missed the event this year? Sign up to receive updates about BIO Asia 2018.

 

Bivarus raises $4M Series B round to enhance data visualization and analytics for products

Bivarus, a health IT vendor that uses a cloud analytics platform to deliver insights on the patient experience for healthcare organizations to improve clinical performance, has raised $4 million in a Series B round, according to a news release. The funding will be used for product development in the area of natural language processing and to boost staff numbers.

Current investors in the Durham, North Carolina-based company supported the Series B. Hatteras Venture Partners led the round and other participants included Excelerate Health Ventures, NueCura Partners and Boston Millennia Partners. The fundraise follows a $2 million Series A round last year.

The company plans to use this most recent round of capital to continue expanding its customer base and enhancing its data visualizations and advanced analytics to help customers more easily identify insights and improve services. Additionally, Bivarus expects to hire approximately 10-15 new employees locally over the next year, according to the release.

In an email, Bivarus CEO David Levin specified some of the growth highlights of the past year. It added 40 new customers for a total of 150 hospitals, physician practices and surgery centers, such as Mission Regional, Butler Health, CEP America, and Tennessee Oncology.

“From a product standpoint, we’ve spent much of the past 12 months enhancing for scale,” Levin said. “We’ve grown the number of monthly survey encounters five-fold, and are now capturing patient-generated insights from over a million patients, and counting.”

The company also acquired Jackson Group, which participates in the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) program — a mandatory survey program for healthcare organizations. Bivarus has been keen to enter the CAHPS program so the acquisition delivered that.

Bivarus’s cloud-based analytics platform identifies service issues at their root cause, evaluates provider performance and tracks quality improvement efforts instantly, rather than in hindsight, Levin noted.

Levin added in the email that Bivarus has several product partnerships focused on natural language processing of patient comments, social media and review sites, and the merit-based incentive payment system, (MIPS) reporting that it plans to announce later this year.

Photo: Hong Li, Getty Images

Two new venture funds, two new women at the top

The stats aren’t great.

recent report by the executive recruitment firm Liftstream found in an analysis of 177 publicly-listed biotechs, just 10.9 percent of board seats were occupied by women.

Finance is also notoriously skewed towards the male gender (as the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference demonstrates every year).

Yet somehow at the nexus of science and finance, more and more high-profile female venture capitalists are joining the senior ranks. Two of the freshest examples, Julie Sunderland of Biomatics Capital and Tracy Saxton of Pivotal bioVenture Partners, closed their first funds this week.

Lisa Suennen, managing director at GE Ventures and founder of C-Sweetener, a mentorship program for up-and-coming female leaders, noted via email that women are increasingly making their own rules.

“While it’s still very hard for women to break into traditional male dominated funds as partners, sisters are doing it for themselves and starting their own,” Suennen said via email. “Women know how to solve their own challenges and through that the industry will reach higher ground.”

Investors also seem willing to back the new female-led firms.

On Wednesday, Sunderland and cofounder Boris Nikolic announced a $200 million fund, raised in the firm’s first year.

The following day, Pivotal announced $300 million in funding, backed by the Nan Fung Group. Saxton and fellow managing partner Vincent Cheung plan to invest in 15-18 new companies in the U.S. and Europe.

Via email, Saxton shared her thoughts on the new firm, her take on the industry and the talents she honed in previous positions as an investor at the Roche Venture Fund and SV Life Sciences Advisers.

The responses below have been slightly edited for brevity.

How does your new firm plan to differentiate itself in the market?

The opportunity to identify differentiated science that can be mined to develop therapeutics to improve human health is more powerful than ever. Pivotal will make an impact and create value for patients by being an active investor in the early stage therapeutics arena. Currently, there is more funding available for de-risked clinical assets than for early stage therapeutics and we believe this is where Pivotal can make a difference. We look forward to partnering with leading-edge, science-based companies to make an impact. The fundamental biology matters– without understanding molecular mechanisms we cannot design the appropriate therapeutics to intervene.

Some experts are saying the capital markets in biotech/pharma are currently overfunded. What is your take on the landscape for investment?

Biotechnology has done very well over the past few years so there is a growth in capital into this area, as funds get larger they need to put more capital to work on each investment and therefore tend to shift to later-stage clinical assets. We believe that Pivotal is the right size fund to be able to back emerging companies with early stage programs – large enough that we can fund the companies well but not so big that we encourage them to take capital that they may not need to create value.

What personal qualities and skills do you hope to bring to this role?

Prior to becoming an investor, I began my career as a drug discovery scientist and moved to leadership roles in regulatory affairs, clinical development, business development and project management – this breadth of operational and investing experience will be drawn upon to determine which companies Pivotal will back. Being on the bench for so many years gave me the appreciation of both how exciting and challenging drug discovery is, also the acumen to recognize interesting and translatable science. I will use this passion for biology and knowledge of drug discovery and development to seek out strong ideas and teams for investment.

Photo: Sean Lau / EyeEm, Getty Images

Miss the SXSW festival? Here were the healthcare highlights from Biden to health innovation hubs

Disruption has been the theme for healthcare at South by Southwest with everyone looking to disrupt the status quo. Other than the cold and rain, the Health track may have been the real disruptor of SXSW 2017, which was exciting for those passionate about the healthcare disruption movement.  The health track sessions moved from the JW Marriott to the Austin Convention Center, and saw significant wait times at sessions.

It was great to be reunited with the supportive and collaborative SXSW community not viewing innovation as a transactional, zero-sum game, but inspired by a group of people working on the same problems and supporting the success of each other.  Shawna Butler of Singularity University, an Austinite,  referenced the city in a way I loved saying, “Austin is full of pathologically helpful people”.  I could not agree more about Austin or the SXSW community.

The SXSW health track attendees covered the ecosystem of patient care, provider support, policymakers, entrepreneurs and investors seeking to improve healthcare globally.

Advertisement

Rise of the health innovation hubs

TMCx, athenahealth, StartUp Health and J&J Innovation had a nice presence at SXSW.  These accelerators attract and reward top startups with capital and nurturing to rapidly commercialize concepts within healthcare ecosystems.  Look for the next wave of successful digital health companies from these channels that nurture leading concepts and top talent they select when they believe they can accelerate them.

GE Vice Chair Beth Comstock and Steve Case, chairman and CEO of investment firm Revolution LLC, discussed his “Rise of the Rest” concept on a panel.  They discussed how tech innovation first evolved regionally from within corporations. Innovation then consolidated to venture capital markets in New York City, San Francisco and Boston. Case’s boomerang theory represents today’s third wave from venture arms in corporations that fund and partner with external startups to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit and harvest innovation. Case used the healthcare hubs as an example. He also referenced GM for leading Lyft’s recent round.

Baylor Scott & White Hospitals put together a talk on Embrace Digital Disruption to Reinvent Healthcare with a panel of exciting digital health startup CEOs they’re partnering with.  Baylor realizes, like many hospital systems, they are ill-equipped to innovate and develop digital tools and seeks outside partnerships to assist their desired change towards consumerism, greater access, and improved population health outcomes. PediaQ CEO, Jon O’Sullivan, discussed their partnership and how their Q.care mobile app provides triage video access to answer questions and navigate a patient to the best point of care or old fashioned house calls on demand.

The Impact Pediatric Health competition was hosted by eight top hospitals to showcase pediatric healthcare innovations they can accelerate and commercialize.  Keriton was the digital health winner for improving breast milk for NICU babies and Luminopia won in Medtech using VR for visual and neurological care.

Runner-up CareDox created a technology hub connecting schools, families and providers to coordinate care. CareDox CEO and founder, Hesky Kutscher, framed the opportunity and importance to improve pediatric care in a new way for me, “with 50 million children enrolled in U.S. public schools, it is a patient population larger than Medicare. School nurses, teachers and coaches need to be tremendous partners with hospitals in improving children’s health outcomes and prevention.” Connecting the overall community to improve our care system, rather than talking about HIPAA, is the exciting disruption we need.

Connecting the overall community to improve our care system, rather than talking about HIPAA, is the exciting disruption we need.

The latest on health tech investing

Whether listening to investment panels, or meeting investors at the Capitol Factory Founders party, there is clearly a lot of money seeking the next disruptive startup. We have seen fewer total deals recently with more late-stage deals completed, however, there is still a lot of interest and money looking at early stage deals.  With the lower costs for bringing minimally viable products (MVP) to market today, we are seeing VCs willing to make smaller bets on earlier stage companies than their primary investment thesis, when they like the team, concept and see follow-on investment opportunities.

Troy Bannister, director of scouting and onboarding from the StartUp Health army of Health Transformers, led a panel on Real Success Stories of Hackathons.  This panel adapted the MIT Hacking Medicine concept teaching healthcare entrepreneurship to solve global healthcare problems. The group discussed what entrepreneurs need to do next to build an MVP and then a successful company. Bannister discussed the entrepreneurial mindset required to create and communicate a vision that can attract both ‘A players’ and capital as used in StartUp Health to assist their companies achieve this.

Disrupting healthcare requires strong leadership, a strong team and a vision but also the ability to remain nimble in a rapidly evolving system.  Positioning the company for where the puck might be in a few years is a foundation VCs seek more than a great product or business model.

Telemedicine Magazine publisher, Logan Plaster, and I walked the convention floor together discussing innovative presenters.  Two that stood out to us were PokitDok and Tellus as the infrastructure players that will be at the heart of the new digital systems.  PokitDok calls itself the infrastructure for digital health with an API allowing two-way interoperability between devices, apps, hospitals and payers.  Tellus has patented the technology allowing hospitals to add apps to their system.

One other consistent point I heard was that the health systems are seeking partners, products and services that lower cost or increase access.  Hospitals and systems expect to serve more underinsured patients and take on more bad debt.  These leaders seek to improve care, but all have a top-down mandate to seek solutions that lower costs.  Follow the money as investors look for cost saving platforms.

Joe Biden discusses his Cure Cancer Moonshot

The passionate former Vice President Joe Biden headlined the Connect to End Cancer sessions. Technology is playing a greater role in research to accelerate finding cancer cures but also to improve care in innovative ways. Biden spoke intimately about losing his son to the disease and the need for scientists to share data and research rather than everyone working in silos.

After Biden’s talk, an attendee spoke to him and shared how his wife was battling Leukemia.  Biden asked how she was and looked relieved to learn she was in remission. Then he demanded to get her on the phone.  Joe left her a long message telling her how much her husband cared for her and how much he admired her courage for fighting her battle. Everyone attending this session was inspired and strengthened that Biden is making Cure Cancer his personal moonshot.

Social fabric of Austin

Guerilla marketing was as popular as ever, even with the weather. Supa was one group I enjoyed running into.  Many panels discussed sports, AI, biometrics, and cognitive tracking, and the Supa Heroes infiltrated events and parties in their onesies and sweaters to promote their sports, fashion and biometrics products.

It’s shameful to not take advantage of the social fabric of Austin, as that’s part of the SXSW experience — seeking out the best parties and staying out later than planned. The rain altered the SXSW ethos around party hopping and relaxing with a drink and live music in the sun. Still, we were able to work in some of the local culinary favorites — a margarita and some tacos al pastor at Guero’s Taco Bar,  breakfast tacos at Tacodeli, and Texas brisket at Stubb’s.

One thing will never change about SXSW.  It was a great week to see old friends, make new connections, and get inspired by new technology and entrepreneurs.  Thank you, Austin, and your community of pathologically helpful people.