As part of their work to advance innovation in healthcare, some health systems and tech companies are rolling out accelerator programs to give young startups the resources they need to develop digital health products. Recently, more accelerators specifically focused on health equity are emerging, such as the programs established by Amazon, UCSF and Boston Medical Center.
Two weeks ago, UCLA Health announced the inaugural cohort of startups for its health equity accelerator, dubbed the TechQuity Accelerator. The seven digital health startups, which represent pre-seed through Series A-stage companies, are developing digital health solutions to address chronic disease management, respiratory illness and healthcare accessibility for vulnerable populations.
Recognizing that the pandemic has exacerbated health inequities among the nation’s most vulnerable groups, UCLA Health engaged with regional stakeholders spanning different industry sectors to identify four themes its accelerator should focus on to improve Los Angeles residents’ health security and resilience: prevention, diagnosis, treatment and community impact.
These themes “are relevant across the entire healthcare delivery framework and represent opportunities to deliver improved value to patient care,” according to Jennifer McCaney the executive director of UCLA Biodesign, the university and health system’s program for venture creation and leadership development.
Through TechQuity, startups can access UCLA Health’s clinical and public health experts, as well as end users at the health system’s network of more than 250 hospitals and clinics. Companies will also participate in a series of curated workshops and roundtables with leading domain experts and receive direct product development support during the four-month program.
Oftentimes, accelerators take an equity stake in the startups they support in exchange for getting selected to take part in the program. However, McCaney said this is not the case with UCLA’s accelerator.
Onike Williams, a program director at UCLA Biodesign, added that guidance from community partners, such as community clinics and Los Angeles’ public health department, is a cornerstone of the program.
“Most life science accelerator platforms focus on training innovators within their cohorts, versus the communities in which they operate” she said. “Health equity spans the entire continuum of care, and technology intersects the patient journey at multiple points. Too often, the sphere of innovation eclipses the communities in greatest need.”
UCLA launched TechQuity in partnership with BioscienceLA, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit focused on advancing life sciences innovation. McCaney said BioscienceLA was “a natural partner” given their regional connectivity and mission to catalyze the life sciences space through economic growth and workforce development.
Below are the seven startups selected to participate in TechQuity:
- Aevice Technologies, which is developing an AI-based remote patient monitoring platform to identify acoustic digital biomarkers in chronic respiratory diseases
- Amptron Medical, a startup building a respiratory care device to keep patients off ventilators
- Etude DX, which is creating a point-of-care Covid-19 test for low-resource settings
- IHP Therapeutics, a company developing a home-based rescue therapy for sickle cell pain using a glycobiology-targeted platform
- Ioncell, a startup creating a pandemic management platform to facilitate access to community health resources
- Shared Harvest, which is a building a mobile platform to provide vulnerable populations with telehealth, tethering and rapid diagnostic testing
- Telebionix, a company creating a patient data management system that can relay patient data to clinicians in real time
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