Emerging companies clock pace of innovation
For a real-world look at the speed at which innovation occurs and what it means to truly have an innovation mindset, a panel of start-up companies — each at various stages of development and maturity — talked about the white spaces their organizations targeted and the solutions they created to fill those voids at a special Health Innovation Summit, hosted by CVS Health in partnership with Drug Store News and Mack Elevation in June.
Following is a brief recap of the companies that participated in the June 13 discussion.
Teddy Hodges, the founder and CEO of Chicago-based BraceUnder, is deeply familiar with the medical issues that his product seeks to treat and prevent. A veteran of several knee surgeries who struggled with knee braces, Hodges saw the need for such a product as BraceUnder, which is a customizable compression garment system designed for injury recovery and prevention.
The system is made from a compression tight and reusable, orthopedic tape, which work together to facilitate movement control and assist in reducing injury risk. The tights are designed for fashion and comfort, as well as versatility — users or such medical professionals as trainers can apply the orthopedic tape to achieve optimum results.
The system leverages what the company calls “smart thermogenesis” — the body’s own heat-generating mechanism — to reduce swelling from the hip joint to below the knee. The product, currently available for pre-order, has been tested by more than 150 wearers, including more than 20 professional athletes.
Chrono Therapeutics, based in Hayward, Calif., is developing a wearable, transdermal drug delivery system designed to help people quit smoking.
The Chrono system delivers nicotine doses of various levels based on the predicted timing of a user’s peak cravings. The system offers support tools and coaching via an app to assist the user in giving up cigarettes. The technology also supports compliance measurement and data analytics. Early clinical trials have shown that the system has been successful in reducing cravings, the company said.
Last fall, Chrono Therapeutics, a recipient of the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer Award, received $47.6 million in series B financing. “This financing will bring us closer to commercializing our system for smoking cessation, and also enable us to dive more deeply into other applications where we can make a major impact and save lives,” said Alan Levy, chairman and CEO of Chrono Therapeutics.
Sleep.ai combines a mobile app with a wearable device to alert users to certain sleep disorders, including tooth grinding, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
The system leverages the fact that about 70% of people only snore when they are sleeping on their back. The “Do I Snore or Grind” app detects snoring sounds and sends a signal to the Anti-Snore Wearable, a strap worn around the arm, which then vibrates as a reminder for the wearer to turn onto their side.
The app also records the sounds of snoring and tooth grinding during sleep, which can then be presented to a doctor and can help users identify whether or not such factors as alcohol or medication are having an impact on their snoring and grinding. The company, based in the Netherlands, was co-founded by CEO Michiel Allessie, a dentist who conducted research on bruxism (tooth grinding) before launching the start-up venture.
The sequencing of the human genome holds promise for a range of medical functions, from disease prevention to custom drug delivery.
Mountain View, Calif.-based personal genetics company 23andMe was founded in 2006, shortly after the Human Genome Project completed its 13-year effort to sequence the human genome. Its Personal Genome Service, which tests saliva samples, allows users to access, understand and benefit from that research.
In April, the company said the Food and Drug Administration granted the company the first authorization to market genetic reports on personal risk for certain diseases. The authorization includes reports on genetic risk for 10 conditions, including late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, celiac disease, hereditary thrombophilia (blood clots) and others. “This is an important moment for people who want to know their genetic health risks and be more proactive about their health,” said Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe’s CEO and cofounder.
Austin, Texas-based UnaliWear has developed a speech-driven smartwatch that provides a range of medical alert services for the user.
The Kanega watch — named after the Cherokee word for “speak” — is designed to detect falls, provide medication reminders and guard against wandering. The technology includes machine-learning capabilities so that the watch can detect deviations from the wearer’s normal lifestyle. It combines continuous speech recognition, cellular service, GPS, Wi-Fi and BLE, or bluetooth low energy, technologies, and an accelerometer for fall detection. The watch is currently available for pre-order.
The company was founded by CEO Jean Anne Booth, who previously founded two technology start-ups that were acquired by Texas Instruments and Apple. Marc DeVinney, co-founder and chief technology officer, previously developed a location-based device to protect autistic children and a cloud-based system to help protect seniors in long-term care facilities. The third co-founder, Brian Kircher, senior member of the technical staff, also has a background in technology.