Eleven startups join Bayer’s G4A Digital Health Partnerships programme

These include Wellthy Therapeutics, from India, OKKO Health, from the UK, and Carepay, from Kenya.
By Leontina Postelnicu
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Credit: Bayer AG

German pharma giant Bayer has announced this month that it will be working with 11 additional startups to accelerate the development of digital products improving patients’ health through its G4A Digital Health Partnerships programme.

The startups, which look at oncology, cardiovascular diseases and others, were selected from over 750 applications spanning 65 countries based on the development stage of their projects, their strategic suitability and internal expert evaluations.

WHY IT MATTERS

Initially known as Grants4Apps, the initiative was launched by Bayer in 2013 in Germany, focusing on mobile health apps. It later expanded to other areas, supporting around 150 companies since then. Recognising the evolution of the digital health space, earlier this year, Bayer announced that it would combine its Accelerator, Dealmaker and Generator programmes to create the G4A Partnerships initiative.

“The digital health ecosystem has matured over the years and there are some very well developed startups across the value chain. We wanted to simplify the process for entrepreneurs to work with Bayer and scale innovative solutions together, faster. That’s why it’s time to take the way we collaborate to the next level,” Eugene Borukhovich, global head of digital health at Bayer, explained.

WHAT HAPPENED

Now, the initiative is divided into two ways of collaboration. Under the Growth Track, early-stage startups will receive €75,000 for co-creating products. Their teams will also be able to use the co-working space at Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals division HQ in Berlin.

Partners selected include Litesprite, from the US, which builds mobile video games to help patients manage chronic health conditions. “Collaborating with an organisation like Bayer is an exciting opportunity and further establishes our leadership position in digital health,” said Litesprite chief executive Swatee Surve.

“Bayer understands the importance of behavior science in transforming how healthcare is delivered today. As part of the Digital Therapeutic and Integrated Care Ventures Challenge areas, we look forward to working with Bayer executives to establish a partnership that will accelerate our mutual goal of making healthcare more patient-centric,” Surve added.

The other startups are:

  • OKKO Health (UK) — personalised smartphone software enabling people to remotely monitor eye health
  • Wellthy Therapeutics (India) — digital therapeutic for chronic disease management
  • Visotec (Germany) — at-home device allowing automated optical coherence tomography (OCT) inspection of the retina
  • BioLum Sciences (US) — BioSense AMD, a point-of-care device working with proprietary biomarker technology to analyse airway inflammation
  • Upside Health (US) — Ouchie, an app for chronic pain management.

Meanwhile, in the Advance Track, the startups supported will be co-creating and executing commercial deals, with initial funding that will be followed by “incremental milestone-based payments”, according to Bayer.

Partners selected include Carepay, from Kenya, maker of a mobile payment platform connecting patients, payers and providers, and Blackford Analysis, from the UK, which offers a curated marketplace of medical image analysis apps and AI algorithms adding clinical value.

The others are:

  • Prevencio Med (US) — blood-based tests and algorithms for cardiovascular disease
  • NeuroTracker (Canada) — cognitive training programme to improve mental performance
  • RelianceHMO (Nigeria) — health insurance company using software, data science and telemedicine to improve access to services and make them more affordable.

THE LARGER TREND

Last week, Bayer announced the launch of an innovation hub in Reading, England, that would focus on creating AI-enabled imaging products to accelerate disease detection and data-driven drug discovery.

In September, the company also revealed that it entered a commercial licensing agreement to use the platform of OneDrop, a diabetes and chronic care company. OneDrop also secured $40m in a Series B funding round led by Bayer last month.

ON THE RECORD

Dr Zsuzsanna Varga, who is leading the Bayer G4A Digital Health Partnerships programme, said the initiative paved the road for collaborations enabling all parties to “bring to market new solutions at the intersection of health and technology”.

In a statement, Borukhovich added: “We received a high number of very mature digital health startup applications and are excited to jointly develop and scale new digital solutions that will help benefit the health of our patients and consumers.”

Editor’s note, 18 October: An update to this article has been made regarding the offering of Litesprite.