Eight months later, West Wireless Health Institute launches
Eight months ago the Wests met Scripps Health's Dr. Eric Topol, who shared West's analysis of the coming healthcare crisis. Topol helped the philanthropists meet other key players to form a coalition that led to the creation of the West Wireless Health Institute. West said that Topol tapped Qualcomm's Don Jones and the three of them had a few bottles of wine over dinner to discuss. Soon after Jones took the idea to Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs and Topol pitched Chris Van Gorder, CEO of Scripps Healthcare.
"Paul [Jacobs] told me himself that he had a key interest in this space and wanted to support this kind of endeavor," West said. Both CEOs were intrigued by the concept and less than eight months later, the formal agreements were in place and the West Wireless Health Institute was announced.
"It must be some kind of world record--it only took eight months," West said. "But it is an easy sell because it's hard to shoot too many holes [in the wireless health opportunity]."
The wireless health tipping point is happening now
"I've been looking into this for ten years," West said. "Back then I concluded that everything couldn't fall into place. I came to that same conclusion five years ago; And again two years ago. The inflection point of medical and wireless being married together is happening now."
"We believe that the Obama Administration has a real interest in doing something about healthcare," West said. "He keeps talking about it but hasn't done anything yet. No one has heard exactly what [the Administration] plans to do. So he is going to need some solutions to help him and we think [wireless health] could be one. The time is right. No one has offered any solutions, but we are offering up a solution."
West said that while the healthcare crisis and the government's interest in the space are big drivers, another one comes from advances in technology like smart bandaids. Connecting smart bandaids to smart phones has been on the drawing board for at least four years, West said, but today it is a reality. West pointed to the recently announced partnership between GE and Intel as evidence that the market is ready for wireless sensors.
Scripps Health is facilitating the product pipeline for products that will go into clinical trials at the Institute and two such trials should begin by year-end, West said. The Institute announced its formation Monday morning and by the end of the work day Monday, ten wireless medicine companies had already called in to discuss their products and ask to be one of the first to leverage the Institute's new program.
We are Switzerland
"[The West Wireless Health Institute "is Switzerland," West said. "We have no enemies and no competitors. We can help any company who comes to us... [As a result] we will get more looks at new technology for wireless health than any other place in the world. So if we meet a company who we think is 80 percent on the way toward having a commercial ready product, we can make a match with a company who has that other 20 percent. It's likely they never would have found each other in the absence of our work."