Funding chases clinicians, not consumers

By Brian Dolan
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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsDuring the winter, rabbits and squirrels are scarce so birds of prey need to focus on larger prey to survive. They hunt goats, antelopes and caribou. Fewer investments, bigger pay-offs.

Yes, it's July, but thanks to the current economy it's still winter for investors. While it may be sunnier in the emerging wireless health industry than elsewhere, recent events have helped your Taxonomist-In-Chief here at Mobihealthnews distinguish the squirrels from the goats.

Last week Qualcomm confirmed that it was "reviewing its options with LifeComm," a start-up that aimed to equip consumers with mobile phones that had preloaded health services and applications onboard. Qualcomm has incubated LifeComm since 2005 and said that "current capital market conditions... have prevented LifeComm from raising the third-party capital necessary to fully develop its initial launch product." LifeComm had the misfortune of being a squirrel during goat season.

Prominent bird of prey and venture capitalist Michael Goldberg of Mohr Davidow Ventures recently explained his firm's investment strategy for wireless health companies, which also breaks down the difference between squirrels and goats: "We have certain investments that are more consumer-centric in various other areas, but, [for wireless health] we tend to focus on clinically-centered ones. If you provide information that enables a guide to clinical decision," Goldberg explained, "that's a more well-practiced process of driving adoption in a physician audience than trying to stimulate consumer demand, which is a different business model." Goldberg is intent on hunting the bigger prey -- those start-ups that have a clinical focus.

Goldberg's firm has invested in Corventis, whose wireless remote monitoring service enables clinicians to better determine a patient's cardiovascular health. Companies like Corventis are, in some ways, following trail blazers like CardioNet, which has its own cardiac monitoring service already on the market. CardioNet has also secured reimbursement from CMS for its service. It's no squirrel.

As we have noted before, Qualcomm's focus in the U.S. wireless health market is on the clinical side: For example, it helped incubate CardioNet, which had its IPO last year. Qualcomm has also invested in Triage Wireless, a wireless platform that continuously monitors vital signs to keep clinicians connected to their patients whether in transport, in the emergency room or in general inpatient units. Qualcomm also has close ties to clinically-focused start-ups Proteus Biomedical, Isis and MicroCHIPS among others.

In 2009 venture capital firms invested in clinically-focused wireless start-ups like neonatal start-up Monica Healthcare, cardiac monitoring start-up eCardio and sleep monitoring start-up BiancaMed. It's a goat's world.

Of course, the squirrels, consumer-facing wireless health services, will have their day: ABI Research just predicted that 15 million wireless health devices will be in the market in just three years.