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2015-02-03

USF joins hands with Pfizer, PATH, Manipal Hospitals and Narayana Health to back healthcare startups in India

The programme offers for-profit healthcare startups non-dilutive capital, hands-on support, access to expert advisors.

At the BioAsia 2015 conference in Hyderabad, Unitus Seed Fund along with Pfizer, PATH, Manipal Hospitals and Narayana Health have announced the launch of StartHealth, an innovative programme to provide up to Rs 10 crore ($1.6 million) 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.

“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.”

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 selectup to 5 startups in 2015.

“We like the approach the Unitus is taking to invest in healthcare entrepreneurs innovating for the masses in India,” said Dr 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.”

All of the StartHealth partners have years of experience in working with early-stage entrepreneurs who have promising breakthrough healthcare businesses. Many entrepreneurs are stuck in underfunded pilots, have insufficiently-developed business models, face regulatory challenges for their healthcare technologies, and/or are missing key competencies on their teams. These challenges prevent them from tapping into venture capital in India, which they desperately need to advance. They are stuck in the funding “valley of death.”

“Over the past 2 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. They will also entitled to get Rs 1 crore ($165K) 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.”  With broad representation from various sectors, “BioAsia is the ideal platform for announcing the launch of this innovative program that aims to combine the business savvy of the start-up community with the global health access mission of governments and NGOs,” she added.

Speaking on the collaboration, Viren Shetty, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Planning, Narayana Health, said, "Narayana Health is seen as one of the role models in its endeavor 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. 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.”

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