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Rs 10 crore to help develop affordable technology-driven healthcare products and services

Hyderabad: Unitus Seed Fund, Pfizer, PATH, Manipal Hospitals and Narayana Health on Monday announced the launch of StartHealth, an innovative programme to provide up to Rs 10 crore in grants and investments to very early-stage startups seeking to enhance access to affordable technology-driven healthcare products and services for the low-income masses in India.

The programme offers for-profit healthcare startups non-dilutive capital, hands-on support, access to expert advisors, medical facilities, and seed venture capital, enabling them to more efficiently and effectively complete development and scale their operations in India. The partners expect to select up to five startups in 2015, according to the announcement made at the BioAsia 2015 conference on Monday.

“Over the past two years, we have met more than 150 healthcare entrepreneurs in India who had interesting innovations but who were not yet ready for seed venture capital,” said Dave Richards, managing partner, Unitus Seed Fund. “Rather than telling them to come back when they’ve progressed more, we can now engage, invest and support them immediately to get them on the road to commercialization success and scale.”

With StartHealth, each emerging healthcare startup selected can take advantage of the funding, expertise and assets of the sponsoring parties, including up to Rs 50 lakh of non-dilutive capital to fund immediate pre-seed business progress for 6 to 12 months; hands-on support from PATH, Manipal Hospitals and Narayana Health’s staff; access to expert networks of Pfizer, PATH, Manipal Hospitals, Narayana and Unitus, in India and globally; access to facilities of Manipal Hospitals and Narayana for pilots and market testing; and average Rs 1 crore of seed venture capital and support from Unitus Seed Fund and its investing partners to prepare for growth and then to raise scale-up capital.

“We are excited to bring our healthcare experience to the impact investment community in India to address health inequities through new and innovative business models,” said Dipika Matthias, director of PATH’s Global Health Innovation Hub initiative. “We look forward to working closely with health technology-driven startups that are emerging as critical players in the effort to transform global health.”

Areas the StartHealth leaders are particularly excited about include low-cost diagnostic and monitoring devices connected to the user’s or doctor’s smartphone to enable more timely diagnosis and treatment; affordable healthcare cloud IT solutions to overcome service constraints for consumers in low-resource healthcare settings; and appropriate micro-device innovations for use in labs or clinical settings to improve the quality of care at lower levels of the healthcare system, such as primary care clinics.

The fundamental elements of success for a StartHealth company include an excellent entrepreneur with strong med/tech credentials, a concept that can reach lakhs, if not tens of lakhs of consumers/patients within about five years, and an opportunity for a strong financial return as the innovation scales over time.

“We are pleased to support innovation in India and help to make new healthcare services affordable and accessible to low-income populations,” said Jazz Tobaccowalla, managing director, Pfizer India. “StartHealth is a unique approach combining grants, expert support and smart venture capital to accelerate promising health-tech entrepreneurs.”

“We like the approach the Unitus is taking to invest in healthcare entrepreneurs innovating for the masses in India,” said Ajay Bakshi, managing director and CEO, Manipal Hospitals. “We are committing our healthcare experts and resources to complement the contributions of our partners to help bring more innovations to market sooner.”

“Narayana Health is seen as one of the role models in its endeavour to make quality healthcare accessible to the masses and the use of latest technology to enable the same. We constantly adopt better technology that enables us to deliver quality healthcare services to a large low-income patient base making it affordable to them,” said Viren Shetty, senior vice president, strategy and planning, Narayana Health. “This partnership enables us to collaborate closely with entrepreneurs, investors and other healthcare specialists with a goal of accelerating access to technology driven healthcare services.”

Unitus Seed Fund is a venture seed fund supporting startups innovating for the masses in India. Pfizer is a major biopharmaceutical company. PATH is an international non-profit organisation and a leader in global health innovation.

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