StartUPDATES: New developments for healthcare startups

Vector illustration - Startup

Vector illustration - Startup

Opala, a healthcare interoperability partner, has announced that Ken Chandler, former senior vice president of National Accounts for Premera Blue Cross, will join the company as CEO effective July 1, 2022. Having spent more than 30 years in the healthcare sector, Chandler brings unique experience and expertise about the needs of carriers and national employers that will be vital as Opala grows and expands its healthcare data exchange solutions.

“I’ve seen first-hand the challenges that payers and providers have in accessing all of the information they need to deliver the best possible care to patients,” said Chandler. “Opala is developing the connections the healthcare industry needs for a successful evolution to value-based care. Their solutions give payers and providers access to wide-ranging health data within their normal workflow, eliminating the administrative burdens that take time away from the patient. I’m joining the team because of the potential Opala has to make fundamental changes in healthcare. I have seen a lot of innovation in healthcare, and Opala stood out as a company that can provide greater efficiency and better outcomes for patients.”

Chandler joins Opala after a year of significant growth for the company as it reached revenue goals and grew its headcount from eight to more than 40 employees year-to-date. Looking ahead, Chandler will lead the company as it streamlines healthcare data exchange and expects to release new products to improve value-based contracts and satisfy CMS Interoperability mandates for health plans by the end of the year.

Equiva, a digital health engagement solutions provider, announced a strategic partnership with LanguageLine. The goal is to support healthcare organizations (HCOs) in advancing health equity by reducing language as a barrier to care.

The partnership enables HCOs to deliver LanguageLine’s interpreting application on Equiva’s platform more quickly and easily and ensure round-the-clock access to 17,000-plus interpreters in more than 240 languages via tablets and cell phones used by inpatients, outpatients, and people accessing services remotely.

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“Health inequities are far too prevalent. We must address language as a social determinant of health,” said Nir Altman, CEO of Equiva. “By providing one-touch, always-on access to interpreters via mobile devices, we enable patients and clinicians to collaborate in a very highly effective way.”

Research from the Center for Immigration Studies shows that 67.3 million US residents speak a language other than English at home, nearly tripled since 1980. In a recent article at Digital Health Insights published by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Jennifer Bresnick outlined three steps for reducing health disparities based on language barriers.

One step, she stated, is to increase investments in live interpreters and tech-driven solutions. “All clinical care providers and administrative staff should be equipped with tablets and/or smartphones to use for video and audio calling at the point of care,” she wrote.

Altman said, “Customers use our solution to advance health equity while also improving clinical outcomes and patient experience. And they do so in a way that’s not overly complex, cumbersome or costly.”

Sling Therapeutics, a biopharma company focused on late-stage development of an oral small molecule for the treatment of thyroid eye disease (TED), has launched the company with a $35 million Series A financing round led by TPG’s The Rise Fund. The funds will support a Phase 2b clinical trial evaluating the company’s investigational drug, linsitinib, for the treatment of TED.

TED is a debilitating autoimmune disease that affects about 20,000 people in the U.S. per year. The immune system mistakenly attacks the muscle and fat tissue behind the eyes, causing inflammation and scar tissue to form. As the disease progresses it can lead to pain, eye bulging, double vision, and a profound reduction in quality of life. TED predominantly affects women, and most frequently affects people with hyperthyroidism due to Graves’ disease.

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Quil, the digital health joint venture between Comcast and Independence Health Group (Independence), and People Power, a Palo Alto-based provider of AI and IoT technology for physical spaces, have formed a strategic partnership to bring innovative senior and caregiver solutions to the market.

Earlier this year Quil announced the limited commercial availability of Quil Assure, a connected home platform for seniors and their caregivers. The Quil Assure product uses People Power’s AI and Internet of Things platform. The platform uses ambient sensors placed strategically around a senior’s living space to discreetly monitor daily routines and notify a senior’s “Care Circle” of any unusual developments.

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Third Rock Ventures announced the closing of Third Rock Ventures Fund VI, raising $1.1 billion. Fund VI will continue Third Rock’s core strategy to discover, launch and build new groundbreaking companies focused on improving the lives of patients. The firm takes a hands-on approach to partnering with founders to build companies and provides early and rigorous integration of science, medicine, business and strategy to build successful companies.

Fund VI will provide both initial Series A as well as follow-on capital to support companies throughout their lifecycle. Third Rock intends to allocate capital from Fund VI to invest in groundbreaking new companies from the broader biotech ecosystem that are aligned with Third Rock’s mission and strategy.

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Picture: akindo, Getty Images

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