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Digital Health

Digital Health unicorns 2020. Meet the most valuable HealthTech exits of 2020.

In 2020 Covid-19 pandemic focused humanity’s attention on healthcare and HealthTech. According to CB Report, 2020 was the year when a record number of seven digital health companies have achieved the status of unicorns. 

The truth is not that exciting, as CB Report included two companies that are not digital health. Those are Gan & Lee (insulin manufacturer from China, recently wandering into oncology with a new CDK 4/6 inhibitor) and German CureVac, known for its breakthrough achievements in RNA vaccine technology. 

While both are interesting for other reasons, we shall focus on the five digital health companies valued above one billion dollars. Who are those unicorns of 2020?

1. GoodRx; Valuation $12.7 billion

GoodRx logo – Digital Health unicorn valued at $12.7bn

GoodRx, headquartered in Santa Monica, CA collects drug prices from pharmacies across the U.S. and helps users find the cheapest option for the medication they’re seeking. Its founders are Doug Hirsch (one of the first Yahoo! employees, later VP of Product at Facebook). Scott Marlette (who developed Facebook Photos) and Trevor Bezdek (founder of Tryrarc, an IT services and consultancy provider working with Anthem/BlueCross). It has been Doug’s personal experience of searching after the most affordable medicine, that has inspired GoodRx.

Source: GoodRx presentation.

GoodRx had a very successful IPO and is profitable. However, it is facing competition from Amazon’s PrimeRx. When in November 2020 Amazon announced its offering, shares of GoodRx felt 23%. Another shock came in March 2021, when GoodRx presented its 2020 results with $551M revenue (42% growth YoY), but also an unexpected $230M net loss (in comparison to $63M net income in 2019).

I remain optimistic about GoodRx future, as it has maintained the growth of its user base and the service it is offering is helping US-based patients to save money while adhering to prescribed treatment.

See GoodRx investor presentation

2. Grail: $8 billion 

Grail logo. Grail is Digital Health Unicorn exit valued at $8bn

Grail, based in Menlo Park, CA, is a company specialized in blood tests. Its main product, called the Galleri test, is able to detect more than 50 types of cancer from one blood sample. It allows for early detection of the disease, which highly improves chances for successful treatment. The idea behind the test is a combination of Machine Learning and insights gathered from the Human Genome Project. The commercialization of the Galleri test is expected this year.

Source: Grail press kit. Galleri is the multi-cancer early detection blood test kit.


Grail has started in 2016 as a spin-off from Illumina, supposed to focus on liquid biopsy. It has raised above $2bn from investors including Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. Illumina has kept a stake in the company, and in September 2021 re-acquired Grail for $8bn.

3. One Medical: $1.7 billion

One Medical logo. One Medical is a HealthTech unicorn valued at 1.7 billion dollars

One Medical is a membership-based digital platform for primary care service. The focus is on a seamless patient experience. One Medical offers telemedicine, online appointments for same-day or next-day, on-site labs. One Medical work in 12 U.S. markets, is available in DTC model and as an employee health benefit.

Founded by Tom X. Lee (who founded also a mobile clinical reference app Epocrates), the company went public in January 2020, raising $245M with a valuation of $1.7bn. One Medical is not profitable yet, reporting a $14M loss for 2020, however, its revenues and user-base are rising.

See One Medical Q4 2020 report.

4. Hims & Hers $1.6 billion

HIMS is a Digital Health unicorn valued at $1.6bn

Hims & Hers is a wellness brand operating digital pharmacy and telehealth platform. It has been started by Andrew Dudum and Jack Abraham via their VC Atomic. The initial offering o the company was around men’s health, in particular hair loss and erectile dysfunction, and it has been a tremendous success with $1M sales in the first week.

Source: HIMS website.

The company quickly grew with “hers” offering for women, and expansion into other therapeutic areas (primary care, mental health, dermatology). Hims & Hers includes its own EHR, and is targeting uninsured Millenials and Gen-Z patients with subscription plan priced at 20$ monthly.

The company went public in Jan 2021 raising $280M at the valuation of $1.6bn. While Hims & Hers is not profitable (estimated adj. EBITDA -$20M), its revenues are growing fast. 

See Hims & Hers investor presentation

5. Butterfly Network: $1.5 billion

Butterfly Network is a digital health unicorn valued at 1.5bn

Butterfly Network is working on a portable ultrasound medical imaging device. If successful it will decrease the cost and enable 3D imaging in remote areas, at home, or in an emergency setting with a Butterfly device and a smartphone.

The company is founded by Dr. Jonathan M. Rothberg, inventor of over 100 patents, mostly known for his work on next-gen DNA sequencing. As the company was heading towards IPO, it has also appointed a new CEO, Todd Fruchterman, former president of medical solutions at 3M.

Butterfly network went public via a merger with SPAC, at the valuation of $1.5bn. It has so far netted a $540M investment and it estimates to bring revenue of $78m in 2021.

See Butterfly Network Investor presentation

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Digital Health

Deprexis DiGA approved! 11th Digital Therapeutics (DTx) reimbursed in Germany

Deprexis – Digital therapeutics (DTx) for depression has received DiGA fast track approval for DTx prescription and reimbursement in Germany.

The innovative DiGA process allows for fast-track approval of digital therapeutics and is the first such program in the world. It was created by the 2019 Digital Healthcare Act and allows apps to be prescribed by doctors while costs will be reimbursed through German statutory health insurance. 

DiGA is managed by the federal regulator, BfArM. To get through DiGA, there are certain conditions:

  • Safety and Suitability for Use confirmed by CE-certification as a medical product in the lowest-risk classes
  • Data Protection Conformity to data protection legislation (EU-wide GDPR and German Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG)) 
  • Information security Assessment is based on the recommendations of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and specific parts of  IT-Grundschutz (ITbasic data protection) catalogs designated for healthcare apps. 
  • Interoperability Related to German central IT standards directory available via online platform vesta, managed by gematik
  • Availability of preliminary data on the health benefits provided. Data must show that patient-relevant endpoints, in particular morbidity, mortality, or quality of life, are positively influenced.

Check out the full guide for DiGA here.

Results of the assessment of applications within the BfArM's DiGA fast-track procedure
Results of DTx DiGA assessment as of March 2021. Source: BfArM.

At the time of writing this, there were 59 applications for DiGA listing, 40 for provisional listing, and 19 for the final listing. So far BfArM has approved 11 applications and rejected one. 25 applications have been withdrawn. In theory, the full approval process should take three months.

Deprexis, the 11th DiGA approved application is interesting on its own. The manufacturer of the app is GAIA Group, an offspring from Airbus which builds its products on a proprietary AI-platform called broca.

Deprexis, Digital Therapeutics (DTx) for depression. Source: GAIA Group AG


The focus here is clearly not on UX, but on medical benefits. Deprexis may not have the nicest UX, but is a proper DTx providing a three-month-long highly individualized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy support program for patients with depression. Application is able to perform a dialogue with the patient, learning from the input on the way. It contains 10 content modules and is available online via desktop and mobile app interface. 

Deprexis is backed by clinical data from at least nine studies, one of which had a sample of 3,800 patients, which does not sound much in pharmaceuticals, but it is a lot in DTx. While in Germany it just received reimbursement, in the US the price for treatment is $400 one-time payment, or $540 in three monthly installments of $135 each.

Categories
Digital Health

Big Data, AI and Coronavirus COVID-19 (NCov-2019)

Coronavirus COVID-19 (NCov-2019) has tested some of the digital health capabilities such as AI-based predicitive models and real-time big data visualization. As a positive side effect, it has also allowed public to learn about epidemiology via video games.

 

AI-based predictive models caught COVID-19 faster than us

According to the news reports, two AI-based and one human volunteer-based warning systems were first to alert humanity about the threat coming from Wuhan.

HealthMap Project Website

The first to react was the automated HealthMap system at Boston Children’s Hospital, which scans online news and social media reports for signals of spreading disease. Its warning was very quick and accurate (pneumonia cases in Wuhan) – raised at 11:12PM local time on December 30, but it did not assign significance high enough to the message.

The second report came from a human. Marjorie Pollack from the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMed)  has based on similar social media reports received about 4 hours before the HealthMap warning. ProMed team’s analysis was more detailed than the first warning from AI but came about half an hour later.

BlueDot Explorer (screenshot from the website)

The third and most publicized report came from another AI-based model called BlueDot. BlueDot first became aware of the pneumonia cases in Wuhan on December 31st, and in addition to notifying their clients and government stakeholders directly, they publicly released their findings in the Journal of Travel Medicine on January 14th. While it was not truly the fastest, it is worth hearing how Kamran Khan, a Canadian MD, and founder of BlueDot explains the process behind.

Big Data Visualization to track Coronavirus COVID-19 (NCov-2019)

Dashboards showing the number of infected people, geographical spread and trends of the disease are useful to HCPs but also journalists and the public. This use case, although unfortunate, shows how important it is to be able to see and not only read data.

coronavirus covid19 dashboard
Screenshot of the COVID-19 dashboard by Johns Hopkins CSSE

The first and most known dashboard came from the team at Johns Hopkins University. The dashboard, first shared publicly on Jan 22, illustrates the location and number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, deaths, and recoveries for all affected countries. It has been accompanied by an article in The Lancet.

Currently, there are multiple dashboards showing diverse aspects of the epidemic of COVID-19. The list of dashboards with working links can be found at ESRI website.

Coronavirus virally spreads a game for people want to know

Due to the virus business slows down. Except for Ndemic Creations, a studio that in 2012 developed Plague Inc. A game that simulates a viral epidemic.

Plague Inc. is a game, but it is based on science and realistically shows the spread of viral infections amongst the human population. In the game, the player is supposed to infect all humans before the cure is available. It is so successful in teaching about epidemiology, that it has been endorsed by the CDC. During the COVID-19 outbreak, it has reached the top of charts on the Apple Store. According to its developers, similar peaks in popularity have accompanied the Ebola outbreak in Africa in 2014-2016.