In this week's edition of Nosta & Friends, John visits with his friend, Jack Young, Senior Director, Qualcomm Life Fund at Qualcomm Ventures, and General Partner, dRx Capital, fresh from the IPO of Fitbit, one of his fund's investments, which many insiders consider to be a seminal event in digital health.
Jack get's it. It's really as simple as that. Jack Young is a digital health leader with a sensitivity--a heart and brain--to put ideas under a microscope and reveal their potentials. He's also a powerful VC voice that can inspire innovation and just as quickly ground us in the practical realities of startups.
Let's see what Jack is up to these days...
Tell us how Qualcomm Ventures has become one of the most active investors in digital health.
Qualcomm Ventures (QCV) was formalized in 2000. Shortly after, Qualcomm started a concerted effort to explore business opportunities and market our solutions to the healthcare industry. We witnessed that digital and mobile technologies have transformed many industry verticals which we know: banking, transportation, commerce, etc, and it was apparent that healthcare was one of the last frontiers to benefit from this evaluation.
QCV made our first healthcare investment in a San Diego based company called Sotera Wireless in 2007, when digital health, the intersection of the health and digital tech, just started to burst to the forefront. The Qualcomm Life Fund (QLF), a $100M pure digital health venture fund was launched in 2011, to put more wood on the fire. With the edition of our latest company, Doctor on Demand, we now have a portfolio of 19 digital health companies with 5 outside the US. Given the pace, we were ranked as one of the most active VC investors in digital health for the past 3 years.
What are the investment themes of Qualcomm Life Fund?
As part of the QCV, a corporate investment arm of Qualcomm, QLF, strives to achieve a balance of both strategic and financial returns. We started by focusing on investment opportunities addressing large population health topics: wellness and fitness, out-patient visits, major chronic conditions, etc. We prefer to mobilize mature medical technologies and applications, instead of exploring new development with significant science and regulatory risks.
For example, diabetes is a chronic illness which affects a large global population. Since unfortunately there is no known cure yet, the standard care relies heavily on patient self-administered procedures such as checking glucose, and dosing and injecting insulin. Digitizing and mobilizing these daily routines using connected technology holds promise for better management and leads to healthier living.
What is the new joint fund with Novartis?
Early this year, Novartis and Qualcomm teamed up to launch a joint investment company, dRx Capital AG, with $100M in capital commitment. dRx (d for digital) Capital aims to catalyze the success of digital medicine products and services by investing in early-stage companies and leveraging our extensive networks in Pharma, Mobile/IT, and the investment community. The entity is registered in Switzerland with 4 fund managers located in the US: MA, NJ and CA.
My colleague Dr. Lucian Iancovici and I, while continuing to manage the 1st fund, Qualcomm Life Fund portfolio, will be shifting our energy to the 2nd fund. We are joined by Dr. Aaron Nelson and Carolyne Zimmermann from Novartis who bring in extensive business and clinical experience from a leader in the pharma industry. We have been busy sourcing deals, In fact, we have already talked to 120+ startups in the space during Q1 2015, and we are ready to make investments.
What are the goals of the joint investment company?
dRx Capital strives to be a value-added investor, and seeks to accelerate the eco-system development in the digital medicine space while vying for meaningful financial returns.
- Acting as sensors for industry trends including disruption in both technology and business model for its backers
- Accelerating the development of the eco-system, and facilitating business development activities
- Promoting best technology and practice from the backers to the eco-system
Novartis and Qualcomm both realize the broad opportunity to deploy digital and mobile technologies in pharma-related healthcare practice. The dRx Capital is a platform which will foster strategic alliances with leading players from both sectors to accelerate the development.
What is the area of investment focus?
The team has identified a number of areas which intersect pharma and mobile/IT as our initial investment focus:
- Pill+/Digital Therapeutics - Sensors, devices, apps and services which can be used in combination to enhance standalone pharma products and med devices; or pure digital therapy in lieu of the traditional “pill” to achieve efficacy benefits.
- Infrastructure Tech for Pharma - Enterprise software to improve efficiency for R&D, Med Affairs, sales and/or marketing; retrospective or real-time data mining from internal and/or external sources for clinical or operational business intelligence.
- New Business Models - New clinical care delivery models which might change distribution and/or payment methods. Care management or coordination which may require pharma participation.
The investment focus areas will be refined on an on-going basis, and new areas will be evaluated and added in the future.
Thanks for the visit Jack. With you at the helm, it's no wonder Qualcomm is doing so well. We appreciate your leadership and vision for the potential of all that digital health has in store both now and in the future.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.