2021

Accelerated Innovation in the Life Sciences and the Life of a Biotech Startup

'As technologies such as AI and machine learning continue to make an impact on the healthcare space, startups will play an increasing role in such transformation.'

The COVID-19 pandemic saw an increase in movement in the life sciences and biotechnology startup space, with investors channeling 37 percent more in venture capital into biotech startups in 2020 than in 2019. According to Crunchbase, over the course of 2021, funding in biotech startups has increased by around 31.7 percent for a total of nearly $108 billion in investment. The pandemic led to both the building of new ideas and companies and the growth of existing life sciences companies, as they saw applications for their technology to help address the challenges of the pandemic.

Certain trends emerged with such growing biotech startups. For instance, the global telehealth market was worth approximately $144 billion in 2020, with an estimated growth of 135.2 percent in 2020. The projected growth of the telehealth market from 2021-2028 is a strong CAGR of 32.1 percent, indicating that the virtual health trend that accelerated during the pandemic will remain. In a survey by the COVID-19 Advisory Committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association of active clinicians, responses indicate that while 55 percent of practitioners used technology in less than 20 percent of their sessions, now, 55 percent are engaging in only online sessions. Looking ahead, 81 percent of respondents note that they plan to employ both in-person and telehealth care, demonstrating the lasting impact of telehealth.

Alongside digital healthcare, cloud computing has emerged as another trend in biotech startups. With large data sets acting as such a critical part of genomics, for example, cloud technologies have become integral for data management and analysis. Such technologies also enable biotech companies to generate smoother transfer of data and information between labs in different locations and drive both greater innovation and patient care.

Particularly in Southern California, the biotech industry has seen significant growth in recent years that is only continuing to accelerate. One company, HeyRenee, founded in June 2021 by Dr. Renee Dua and Nick Desai, focuses on digital health solutions. The founders have designed the HeyRenee platform to connect players in the healthcare industry to offer patients with more personalized care. AI LA had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Dua to Life Summit 2021 to deliver the keynote presentation, during which she highlighted HeyRenee’s goals of transforming the digital health space and ensuring that patients, especially those with chronic health conditions, receive the most personalized care. Dr. Dua was recently recognized for her innovative work by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at the 2021 Los Angeles Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on November 19th. HeyRenee recently closed a $3.8 million seed funding round and is continuing to grow.

Further, artificial intelligence has also continued to play a growing role in healthcare and biotech startups. For instance, Avenda Health, based in Santa Monica, focuses on precision health for cancer treatment. In particular, Avenda integrates pathology data with prostate MRI imagery and applies AI algorithms to predict the location of previously hidden cancer to plan ahead for treatment. As technologies such as AI and machine learning continue to make an impact on the healthcare space, startups will play an increasing role in such transformation.

Alongside the rapid acceleration of biotech innovation both in Southern California and across the world are the startup incubators and accelerators that are making a difference in bringing such innovative technologies to market. Optio Ventures, for instance, is a startup consulting and investment firm founded by Ian Akash Morrison that is providing companies across a range of industries, including biotech, with tailored consulting services and an upcoming investment fund. Mr. Morrison brings experience in entrepreneurship in the biotech space, having founded Avesta76 Therapeutics with the mission of combating cancer by transforming the process of drug discovery. In an interview with Mr. Morrison, he emphasizes how AI is making a difference in drug discovery, which has historically been a manual process.

In addition, particularly in healthcare, AI is becoming increasingly applicable in revenue cycle management, as Mr. Morrison notes, demonstrating the impact such technologies are having on traditionally manual spaces. Further, by transforming such startup experience to the venture studio Optio Ventures to support other biotech companies, Mr. Morrison demonstrates how the startup journey can easily evolve into investing in emerging companies and technologies, creating a cycle of innovation that can ultimately lead to a greater discovery in the life sciences along with improved patient care.

We see the life cycle, the theme of Life Summit 2021, captured in the life of a startup. From idea generation to growth to potential acquisition, for instance, the journey of founding a startup mirrors that of the life cycle, from birth to regeneration. Further, with the rapid increase in biotech IPOs, the biotech industry has seen significant growth, indicating an exciting acceleration of innovation that is changing the future of healthcare, the life sciences, and our relationship with the life cycle.

About THE author

Emy Li

Emy Li is a student at the University of Southern California studying Applied and Computational Mathematics. She is passionate about green innovation and hopes to combine her interests in technology, entrepreneurship, and sustainability to create positive environmental and social impact.

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