A Theranos that works, Best Buy’s home health play, & a chat with B Capital’s Robert Mittendorf

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A familiar blood testing pitch

I trekked across the Bay to Palo Alto to get an inside look at how a prominent genetics and big data expert is trying to overhaul blood testing. For about six years, Stanford professor Mike Snyder and his lab have been refining a method for collecting individual drops of blood and analyzing their molecules for health indicators. (Throughout one week in 2019, he drew 98 drops of his own blood to test the process, dragging a dry-ice filled cooler with him to each meeting.)


The system his lab is patenting — known as “multi-omics micro sampling” — could eventually make it easier for patients to collect their own blood and get them it analyezd more frequently. It often draws an obvious comparison to Theranos, but that hasn’t dissuaded Snyder. His goal is to give people their own health data, empowering them to make more informed lifestyle and health care choices like cutting out caffeine or prioritizing sleep.

I spoke with Snyder and two Y Combinator-backed companies spinning out of his lab that plan to use micro sampling as a key part of their business. One, called Iollo, aims to monitor heart and kidney health. RTHM plans to offer blood assays to long Covid patients to track disease progression. Read my full dispatch.


What Best Buy sees in home health

Best Buy isn’t the first name that comes to mind when people think of health care. But a new partnership between the electronics retailer and Atrium Health, part of the nonprofit health system Advocate Health, is a sign of how big tech and retail companies are looking to get in on the booming hospital-at-home market, writes my colleague Lizzy Lawrence.

Best Buy entered the health care space with its acquisitions of GreatCall and Current Health. Atrium Health, meanwhile, was one of many hospitals that took advantage of the CMS program to reimburse hospital-at-home care during the pandemic. The goal of the partnership is to apply Best Buy’s delivery and technical support expertise to home health care. If a patient needs a blood pressure cuff, for example, Best Buy would deliver the device and then enlist “Geek Squad” support employees to train patients on how to use the at-home hospital setup.

Tech companies looking for opportunities in the home health market will be paying close attention to the Best Buy-Atrium partnership. Read more from Lizzy here.

A chat with B Capital’s Robert Mittendorf

Last week, West Coast investment firm B Capital — whose health care portfolio includes InnovaccerEvidation, and Bright Health — launched a separate $500 million fund dedicated specifically to health innovation companies. I chatted with Robert Mittendorf, who joined B Capital in 2021 to lead its health initiatives. Like many other funds, he told me, B Capital Healthcare Fund I will keep a close eye on AI and machine learning — but only for applications where it could actually prove useful. Here’s what he told me about his broader investment philosophy.

B Capital already has some health investments, so why are you launching a separate fund?

B Capital has historically invested in health tech and digital health, but not as much in biotech or med tech. [The new fund] has a specialized team focused on healthcare investing. The team we have — members of B Capital, along with some additional team members both in the U.S. and globally, have worked in operating roles in health care, have more technical backgrounds, and have been investors in health care. The domain knowledge we have us is pretty impressive.

How do you tell which companies can weather this phase of digital health investing?

The proving out period is where I think we are with digital health. You have to have a clinical model that makes sense, you have to be addressing a clinical health problem. Digital health companies have to have a solid clinical model that has some prior history of being able to work. Or at least a logic that will work.

You need to have a business model, or a reimbursement model, or a value-based care model that exists today.  It could be in its nascent form. You need to have a strategy that involves proving to the market that what you’re doing has clinical and economic value.

The teams are also super important. Teams can have digital or technical expertise or healthcare expertise. The teams that are monolithic in one of those areas are usually unsuccessful. They need to be hybrid, they need to be tech and healthcare based teams, and those cultures are hard to build.

Where do investors disagree about what’s likely to take off in health care?

Probably the biggest one I think people usually don’t get right is how they interpret evidence on an intervention. I believe that digital health in many ways should be examined the way you would [for] clinical operations in medicine, and new procedures and new drugs.

FTC continues health data privacy crackdown

The Federal Trade Commission is pushing forward with its plan to curb unfettered data sharing by consumer health companies. Following its watershed settlement with GoodRx, the agency last week charged online therapy business BetterHelp — a division of Teladoc — of failing to protect consumers’ privacy despite assertions that it would do so. The proposed settlement includes $7.8 million including refunds for affected BetterHelp customers.

BetterHelp shared data about users and visitors with sites and apps like Facebook and Pinterest for ad purposes, according to the complaint — it also shared emails and IP addresses of more than 5 million users with Snapchat, among other allegations.

Transcarent scoops up part of 98point6

Self-insured employer focused health care platform Transcarent, led by Livongo founder Glen Tullman, has agreed to acquire part of text-based primary care company 98point6. The companies said the deal was valued at about $100 million, and gives Transcarent access to 98point6’s customers including Boeing and Banner | Aetna. 98point6, which will rebrand as 98point6 Technologies, will focus on licensing its AI software to other health systems, beginning with MultiCare.

Other deals and job moves

  • Organ preservation company Paragonix technology raised $24 million in a Series B round led by Signet Healthcare Partners
  • Parkinson’s care company Rune Labs named Naveen Kumar its chief commercial officer. Kumar joins from Guardant Health. 
  • Fertility company Kindbody Health raised another $100 million from Perceptive Advisorstipping its valuation to $1.8 billion.
  • Weight Watchers is buying telehealth company Sequence, facilitating its entry into the market for Ozempic prescriptions, WSJ reports.
Source: STAT