Israeli healthcare venture capital fund aMoon and pharmaceutical giant Roche have launched a joint program for investment in early stage digital health companies. The project is called the Starfinder Digital Innovation Lab. The companies will mark out each year, for the next three years, three subsectors in the field of digital health and will then seek out startups leading in the area. Ultimately they will select nine companies for the venture.
In the coming year, aMoon and Roche will seek companies in the fields of lung cancer, resistance to antibiotics, and digital pathology. Each startup will receive funding, support and strategic mentoring as well as access to medical data banks with the assistance of Roche as well as access to potential customers.
aMoon cofounder Dr. Yair Schindel said, "Roche is a huge company with major digital activities. They are very innovative in this field and acquire a diverse range of technology from outside. They are deeply acquainted with the needs of companies like them and like their customers as well as doctors and hospitals. They are leading in the world in the field of medical research using computers and recently hired Prof. Aviv Regev, who was previously one of the leading researchers in the field at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Access like that gives Roche an advantage in preparing itself for the future.
Schindel sees in Starfinder, an opportunity to bring Roche closer to Israel's innovative medical ecosystem. He said, "When you look at what caused places like Boston and California to grow into the leading biotech areas in the world, then we see that you need the biggest players to be involved and invest in companies. This needs to happen in Israel."
When asked why Roche is interested in Israel's ecosystem, Babette Güldenpfennig, Global Head of Licensing, Diagnostic Business Development at Roche said, "Our ambition is to provide all patients with the right treatment at the right time. Roche Diagnostics has come a long way towards materializing this ambition by offering the industries` most comprehensive portfolio of test assays and instruments as the necessary basis for clinical decision making and personalized healthcare. However to further improve and help materialize our ambition to the fullest we need to continually improve our abilities to digitally collect, aggregate and interpret the vast quantity of test results and patient data to provide actionable information and decision support tools to doctors and patients across the continuum of care. We realized that we need to complement our internal efforts by creating synergies with strong innovative partners in the data and AI field to further contribute to precision diagnostics and, in the future, enable integrated diagnostics. The Israeli healthcare community is known for their strong role, knowledge and expertise when it comes to data generation, collection, interpretation, and the development of sophisticated analytics and AI solutions."
What types of access does a partnership with aMoon provide?
"aMoon is strongly connected in the Israeli entrepreneurial community, and has strong links to government entities and academic institutions. Further they are one of the leading venture fund when it comes to investment in healthtech companies globally with a broad and deep knowledge on science, tech and digital solutions. aMoon is also known for early investments in companies which we as Roche cannot do in all the cases we would like to. Thus, aMoon brings aspects to companies which are complementary to Roche’s approach."
Why is the StarFinder program unique?
"The Starfinder program will combine the expertise of very strong players: exceptional entrepreneurs with a disruptive approach to data aggregation, data interpretation and sophisticated software solutions with high access to longitudinal data access provided by israeli HMOs and hospitals, aMoon with its strong foothold in the healthtech industry and Roche Diagnostics as the world's leading clinical diagnostic company. These players will rally around actual unmet needs of the healthcare industry as one of the world leading diagnostic and pharma companies have identified and ultimately for the benefit of the patients."
What are Roche’s main goals from the StarFinder?
"As one of the leading clinical diagnostic companies we see many technologies and solutions presented by start-up companies and academic institutions in our scouting and conference activities. Often the approach and quality of science is exceptional but the product development considerations did not take into account questions of market access, change of current medical guidelines, regulatory questions, hospital workflows and integration in routine analytics, just to name a few. Thus they address only one aspect of a complex product development and commercialization cycle. Sometimes a different set up from the start could have made the solutions so much more impactful and applicable. It is not a criticism to the companies or academic centers because many of those aspects are only known by fully integrated companies like Roche. This is what we like to guarantee here with the Starfinder program , consideration of all aspects early on to generate the best product in class."
What led you to choose the specific challenges for this program?
The challenges of the first cohort of Starfinder are identified by Roche as realworld needs for doctors and patients for complex and often life threatening diseases. Disruptive digital solutions in the identified areas will facilitate medical decisions along the care pathway. Ultimately the solutions will increase the quality of life of patients and / or save people's life. Decision support for doctors to quickly choose the right treatment in cases in which patients show antimicrobial resistance to drugs are crucial for the survival of a patient. Supporting oncologists and patients to choose the right most tolerable treatment regime in cases of lung cancer will have a substantial effect on the quality of patients' lives and creating virtual datasets in digital pathology to reduce the necessity for invasive biopsies can help identify diseases. aMoon and Roche are looking for solutions which can be flawlessly integrated in the routine clinical diagnostic workflow of doctors and laboratories for maximum effect of those products.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 22, 2020
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