Home News Digital Health Accelerators Boosting Local Companies

Digital Health Accelerators Boosting Local Companies

Digital Health Accelerators Boosting Local Companies

Business accelerators have long been a crucial link for taking startups from the research and prototype stage to marketing and selling their products and services to customers. But until about six years ago, there were only a couple of accelerators to serve L.A.’s medical device and health tech industries — including one exclusively focused on medical devices for pediatric care.

Starting in 2015, a pair of life science accelerators came onto the L.A. County scene seeking to serve the burgeoning health tech sector: Cedars-Sinai Accelerator in West Hollywood and MedTech Innovator in Westwood. They were soon joined by KidsX in East Hollywood — affiliated with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and USC — and a program from the South Park-based Larta Institute known as Heal.LA, along with one incubator for health tech startups, ScaleHealth in Palms.

“These accelerators are an outgrowth of the local digital health market,” said Paul Grand, chief executive of MedTech Innovator.

“Increasingly, health tech is software-driven, even if hardware devices are involved,” Grand continued. “Los Angeles is a great place for software talent with both the availability of and lifestyle for such talent. Plus, our local academic medical centers and research institutions bring in more National Institutes of Health funding than almost any other metro area in the country.”

Unlike their brethren incubators serving bioscience companies developing the next generations of pharmaceuticals, these digital health accelerators do not have dedicated lab space. And most of them have an online instruction component.

Part of why they take this approach is due to the nature of accelerators: They are not about demonstrating proof of concept but rather about taking a company that has a proven product or service and bringing that company to the marketing and product or service sales stage. But it’s also due to the nature of today’s digital health companies: Almost all of them have software programs at their core, whether it’s artificial intelligence, self-learning algorithms or apps that tack on to hospital emergency medical record systems.

This lab-free setup enabled some of the accelerators to go completely virtual — even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“We have been completely virtual since 2018,” said Juan Espinoza, director and principal investigator of the West Coast Consortium for Technology & Innovation in Pediatrics, which has its central operation at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

The pandemic has amplified these trends and increased investor and government interest in health tech companies. It even prompted one local accelerator to form: Heal.LA, the latest initiative from Larta Institute, which has since 2004 focused on commercialization for tech firms nationwide.

“The pandemic brought with it a changing business climate for (the) federal government,” said Rohit Shukla, Larta’s chief executive. “That’s when we decided to bring our focus back to L.A.”

Looking ahead, these trends are expected to continue to fuel growth within local accelerators and possibly spur the formation of additional accelerators or digital health incubators.

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