Amazon and Walmart try—again—to upend prescription drug prices

Amazon and Walmart try—again—to upend prescription drug prices

Enlarge (credit: Getty | George Frey)

Amazon and Walmart are ramping up their efforts to grab market share in the $360 billion prescription drug market in the US.

Today, Amazon announced that Prime members can receive a six-month supply of several widely prescribed drugs, starting at $6. Many drugs are pricier but are still discounted relative to typical cash prices. And yesterday, Walmart said it would be adding new discounts of up to 85 percent on prescription drugs purchased through its Walmart+ RX service, with an average savings of about 65 percent.

The new announcements come as the retail behemoths have largely failed to disrupt the traditional pharmacy industry. Big names still dominate, with CVS and Walgreens topping the rankings by revenue. Walmart, which has a significant physical footprint for its pharmacies, comes in fifth. 

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#amazon, #healthcare, #pharmacy, #policy, #prescription-drugs, #walmart

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Ro raises $500M to grow its remote and in-home primary care platform

Healthcare tech startup Ro has raised $500 million to help fuel continued growth of its hybrid telehealth/in-home primary care platform, which also includes a growing pharmacy business as the company pursues a strategy of vertical integration to optimize delivery and reduce costs for clients. The company’s latest raise is a Series D round, and means it has now raised over $876 million since its 2017 founding.

That may seem like a lot of money, but as Ro fo-founder and CEO Zachariah Reitano told me in an interview, it’s actually “peanuts” when it comes to the healthcare industry – which is part of why they founded the company in the first place.

“Sometimes people talk about how great it is to be in the healthcare arena, in tech circles,” Reitano said. “They say, ‘Oh, healthcare is a $4 trillion market – it’s so massive.’  But that’s the worst thing in the entire world; it’s awful how large it is. And I think what we have the opportunity to cut it in half with technology.”

That’s what Reitano says will be the primary focus of this round of funding: Fueling its efforts around vertical integration of healthcare services and technology, to further the eventual end goal of reducing costs to patients through the efficiencies realized in that process.

“To me, what I’m really excited about is being able to continue to invest in that infrastructure and add even more,” Reitano told me. “We’ll continue to invest in telemedicine, we’ll continue to invest in our logistics and pharmacy, and continue to invest in in-home care, as well as the connection between the three, and then we’ll also invest in additional diagnostics, remote patient monitoring – so collecting and distributing devices to patients to go from reactive to proactive care.”

Ro’s model focuses on primary care delivered direct to consumer, without involving any payer or employer-funded and guided care programs. The idea is to reduce costs through vertical integration and other efficiency engineering efforts in order to get them to the point where they’re effectively on par with your out-of-pocket expense with co-pays anyway. Reitano explained that the insurance system as it exists in the U.S. now only effectively masks individual costs, making it less clear that much of what a person pays out in healthcare costs comes out of their pocket anyway, whether it’s through taxation, or employers allocating more of the funds they have available for compensation to healthcare, vs. take-home pay.

Image Credits: Ro

That’s what’s behind Ro’s recent push into operating its own pharmacies, and growing that footprint to include more all the time. Reitano told me that the company will have 10 pharmacies by the end o this year, and 15 by the end of next, all placed strategically around the country to ensure that it can provide next-day shipping to patients at ground shipping rates pretty much anywhere in the U.S.

Doing that kind of vertical optimization has enabled Ro to offer 500 common drugs at $5 per month, including treatments for heart disease, anxiety, depression and diabetes — with a plan to ramp it to 1,000 drugs available at that price by year’s end. That’s roughly equal to the co-pay required for many insurers for the same treatments.

Meanwhile, Reitano says Ro has seen big changes in the healthcare system generally that favor its model and accelerate its hybrid care plans owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would say that there are two most profound impacts of the pandemic on the healthcare system,” he said. “One is that it simultaneously shed light on all of the inequities for the entire country to see, right at the same time where we all cared about it. So those things were sort of known for the people impacted day to day — the geographic inequity, the financial inequity, the racial inequity. If someone felt that that inequity, then they would talk about it, but it wasn’t something everyone cared about at the same time. So this massive spotlight was shed on the healthcare system. And the second was that everyone’s healthcare journey now starts online, even if it is going to end in person, it will still start online.”

Ro’s model all along has espoused this time of healthcare delivery, with remote care and telehealth appointments handling most day-to-day needs, and follow-up in person care delivered to the home when required. That obviously generate a lot of efficiencies, while ensuring that older patients and those with mobility issues also don’t need to leave the house and make a regular trip into their physician’s office for what amounts to a 15-minute visit that could’ve been handled over video.

Ro co-founders Rob Schutz, Zachariah Reitano and Saman Rahmanian (left to right)

Ro co-founders Rob Schutz, Zachariah Reitano and Saman Rahmanian (left to right)

According to most industry observers, Reitano is likely right that healthcare probably won’t go back to the old, inefficient model of favoring primarily in-person care after the pandemic ends. One of the positive outcomes of the COVID-19 situation has been proving that telehealth is more than capable of handling a lot of the primary care needs of a lot of people, particularly when supplemented with remote monitoring and ongoing proactive health measures, too.

While Ro doesn’t work with insurance currently, Reitano points out that he’s not against the concept entirely – he just says that health insurance as it exists now doesn’t actual work as intended, since it’s meant to pool risk against an, expensive, uncertain and rare outcome. Eventually, he believes there’s a place for insurance in the overall healthcare mix, but first the industry needs to face a reckoning wherein its incentive structure is realigned to its actual core customer – patients themselves.

#articles, #ceo, #depression, #diabetes, #funding, #health, #health-insurance, #healthcare, #healthcare-industry, #pharmacy, #physician, #ro, #tc, #technology, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #united-states

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Ghana’s mPharma partners with Ethiopian conglomerate to enter its eighth market

mPharma, a Ghanaian health tech startup that manages prescription drug inventory for pharmacies and their suppliers, today announced its expansion to Ethiopia.

The company was founded by Daniel Shoukimas, Gregory Rockson and James Finucane in 2013. It specializes in vendor-managed inventory, retail pharmacy operations and market intelligence serving hospitals, pharmacies and patients.

In Africa, the pharmaceutical market worth $50 billion faces challenges such as sprawling supply chains, low order volumes, and exorbitant prices. Many Africans still suffer preventable or easily treated diseases because they cannot afford to buy their medications.

With a presence in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zambia, as well as two unnamed countries, mPharma wants to increase access to these medications at a reduced cost while assuring and preserving quality. The company claims to serve over 100,000 patients monthly and has distributed over a million drugs to Africans from 300 partner pharmacies across the continent.

CEO Rockson says that when mPharma started eight years ago, he wanted to own a pan-African brand with operations in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria from the get-go.

By 2018, mPharma went live in the West African country. In 2019, the health tech acquired Haltons, the second-largest pharmacy chain in Kenya, subsequently entering the market and gaining 85% ownership in the company. However, it seemed like a stretch to the Ghanaian-based company to expand to the East African country as it met several pushbacks. Rockson attributes this to the harsh nature of doing business with foreign companies.

“Ethiopia is one of the most closed economies on the continent. This has made it a bit hard for other startups to launch there just because the government rarely allows foreign investments in the retail sector.”

According to Rockson, most foreign brands operate in the country through franchising, a method mPharma has employed for its expansion into Africa’s second most populous nation.

The company signed a franchise agreement with Belayab Pharmaceuticals through its subsidiary, Haltons Limited. Belayab Pharmaceuticals is a part of the Belayab Group — a conglomerate that is also an official franchisee of companies like Pizza Hut and Kia Motors in Ethiopia.

Rockson says we should expect the partnership to open two pharmacies in Addis Ababa this year. Each pharmacy will offer the company’s consumer loyalty membership program called Mutti, where they’ll get discounts and financing options to access medication

Image Credits: mPharma

This franchising is a part of mPharma’s growth plans of enabling companies looking to enter the pharmacy retail sector. The plan is to provide access to a “pharmacy-in-a-box” solution where mPharma handles every infrastructure involved, and the pharmacy is just concerned about the consumer

“What we’ve done is that we enable these pharmacies with our software, and we have the backend physical infrastructure and warehousing,” he said. ‘They can rely on mPharma to do all the background work from getting the products into your pharmacy and also providing the software infrastructure to be able to run delivery services while they focus on clinical care.”

mPharma is one of the well-funded healthtech startups in Africa and has raised over $50 million. Last year when it secured a Series C round of $17 million, Helena Foulkes, former president of CVS, the largest pharmacy retail chain in the U.S., was appointed to its board. She joined Daniel Vasella, ex-CEO and Chairman of Novartis as members who have decades of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.

This sort of backing, both in expertise and investment, has proven vital to how mPharma runs operations. Rockson doesn’t mince words when saying the company wants to dominate African healthcare with Ethiopia, its toughest market to enter, already secured.

“There are issues of fragmentation in pharmacy retailing, poor standards and high prices that haven’t been fixed. The African opportunity is still huge, and we are still at the beginning stages of privatisation of healthcare on the continent,” he said.

#africa, #biotech, #ethiopia, #ghana, #health, #healthcare, #kenya, #mpharma, #nigeria, #pharmacy, #rwanda, #startups, #tc

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Spain’s Savana Medica raises $15 million to bring its AI toolkit turning clinical notes into care insights to the US

Savana, a machine learning-based service that turns clinical notes into structured patient information for physicians and pharmacists, has raised $15 million to take its technology from Spain to the U.S., the company said.

The investment was led by Cathay Innovation with participation from the Spanish investment firm Seaya Ventures, which led the company’s previous round, and new investors like MACSF, a French insurance provider for doctors. 

The company has already processed 400 million electronic medical records in English, Spanish, German, and French.

Founded in Madrid in 2014, the company is relocating to New York and is already working with the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and over 100 healthcare facilities.

“Our mission is to predict the occurrence of disease at the patient level. This focuses our resources on discovering new ways of providing medical knowledge almost in real time — which is more urgent than ever in the context of the pandemic,” said Savana chief executive Jorge Tello. “Healthcare challenges are increasingly global, and we know that the application of AI across health data at scale is essential to accelerate health science.”

Company co-founder and chief medical officer, Dr. Ignacio Hernandez Medrano, also emphasized that while the company is collecting hundreds of millions of electronic records, it’s doing its best to keep that information private.

“One of our main value propositions is that the information remains controlled by the hospital, with privacy guaranteed by the de-identification of patient data before we process it,” he said. 

 

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #disease, #electronic-health-records, #health, #machine-learning, #madrid, #new-york, #pharmaceutical, #pharmacy, #seaya-ventures, #spain, #tc, #united-states

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Closing on $75 million in new cash, Truepill plans at-home testing service as it nears $175 million in annual revenue

Truepill, the white-label healthcare services company that provides telehealth and pharmacy fulfillment services, is adding at-home medical testing as the third branch of its services powering the offerings of companies like Hims and Hers, Ro, and other direct-to-consumer healthcare companies. 

Financing this expansion of services is a new $75 million round of financing from investors led by Oak HC/FT, with participation from Optum Ventures, TI Platform Management, Sound Ventures and Y Combinator.

“With the change in reimbursement for telemedicine, it changed the trajectory of the direct to consumer companies,” said Annie Lamot, the co-founder and managing director of new lead investors Oak HC/FT. “When we talked to every one of them they all seemed to be using Truepill .”

With its expansion into lab testing, Truepill can provide a full suite of services that used to be confined to the doctor’s office remotely. As more patients adjust to remote delivery of care, these kinds of options will become more attractive.

The move to telemedicine isn’t just something for new entrants either. Incumbents are also finding that they need to provide the same care as their direct to consumer competition, especially as the priority shifts to value-based care rather than fees for services on the reimbursement side — and consumers start demanding lower cost options on the direct pay side.

“I think it enables health plans to provide better care in targeted programs,” said Lamont, a longtime investor in healthcare.

Truepill’s executives certainly hope so.

The two co-founders, Umar Afridi and Sid Viswanathan met over LinkedIn where Viswanathan cold-emailed Afridi. At the time, Afridi was working as a pharmacist filling prescriptions at a Fred Meyer near Seattle).

Initially, Truepill’s growth came from acting as the pharmacist to companies like Hims, Ro, Nurx, and other direct-to-consumer healthcare companies focused on serving the elective health needs of people who wanted hair loss treatments, erectile dysfunction medication, and birth control.

Image Credits: Truepill

As the company has grown, so have its ambitions. By the end of the year, Truepill expects to book up to $175 million in revenue, according to Viswanathan, and that revenue will come from a more evenly distributed mix of customers among direct to consumer companies, insurance companies, and healthcare providers.

“Everything we do is white labeled from our pharmacy to the lab testing component. You can go to teladoc and use that service. What we like to think early. 80 percent of healthcare is going to happen on a digital channel.. We’re in a perfect position to build the platform company in that space,” Viswanathan said. 

At-home testing is a critical component of that platform. Expected to launch before the end of the year, Truepill is working with lab testing providers to offer hundreds of at-home tests. The company said it will focus on tests to manage chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease. Incidentally these are areas which have attracted a lot of interest from investors who are backing companies that provide direct to consumer or digital therapeutic solutions to treat or help address these conditions.

“To create a comprehensive, effective digital healthcare experience, there are three essential pillars: pharmacy with extensive insurance coverage, at-home lab testing and telehealth,” said Viswanathan, in a statement. “By adding diagnostics to our suite of solutions, we’ll be able to deliver direct-to-patient healthcare at scale through one platform – Truepill. We envision a future where 80% of healthcare is digital. With diagnostics, telehealth and pharmacy built on our foundation of API-connected infrastructure, Truepill will power that reality.” 

#articles, #birth-control, #diabetes, #erectile-dysfunction, #heal, #healthcare, #hims, #insurance, #lamont, #linkedin, #nurx, #optum-ventures, #pharmacy, #ro, #seattle, #sound-ventures, #tc, #teladoc-health, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #truepill, #y-combinator

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Amazon launches online pharmacy in India

Amazon has launched an online pharmacy in Bangalore, the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state, as the e-commerce group looks to spread its tentacles in more categories in one of its key overseas markets.

The company said on Friday its new service, called Amazon Pharmacy, has started accepting orders for both over-the-counter and prescription-based medicines in Bangalore. (In India, antibiotics and several other drugs can often be purchased from pharmacies without prescriptions.)

Amazon Pharmacy is also selling traditional herbal medicines and some health devices such as glucose meters, nebulisers, and handheld massagers.

“This is particularly relevant in present times as it will help customers meet their essential needs while staying safe at home,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

Online sales of medicine in India, for which New Delhi currently does not have clear regulations, presents yet another major opportunity for Amazon that has invested more than $6.5 million to date into its India operations and where it competes with Walmart-owned Flipkart.

For Amazon, pharmacy is not a new idea. The company, which has hired several health experts in recent years, acquired online pharmacy startup PillPack for nearly $1 billion in 2018.

Scores of startups such as 1mg, Netmeds, Medlife, and PharmEasy currently sell medicines in India online and deliver to most parts of the country. 1mg, which has raised more than $170 million, today delivers orders in more than a 1,000 cities in the country, for instance.

These startups, as with any e-commerce player, offer enticing discounts to customers on each order to increase their market share. On that front, Amazon says it is also offering up to 20% discount on all orders.

In recent months, Amazon has expanded into a handful of new categories in India. It launched its food delivery service in parts of Bangalore in May and received approval to sell and deliver alcohol in the state of West Bengal a month later.

Last month, the company started to sell auto-insurance in India and said it planned to expand its insurance service to offer coverage on health, flight and cabs in the future.

Its expansion into more categories comes as Flipkart is also entering new spaces including hyperlocal delivery that it piloted in Bangalore late last month.

Both the firms are now facing an emerging challenger: India’s richest man. Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail, the largest retail chain in India, began testing e-commerce venture JioMart late last year.

The service, which is now operational in over 200 cities and towns across India, reported selling over 400,000 orders a day last month, surpassing daily peak figures of grocery delivery startups BigBasket and Grofers.

Local media has reported that Amazon is eyeing a multi-billion dollar stake in Reliance Retail. Ambani’s other venture, telecoms giant Jio Platforms, has raised about $20 billion from Facebook, Google, and 11 other high-profile investors in recent months. Ambani said last month that the company had concluded fundraise for Jio Platforms and is looking forward to “induct global partners and investors in Reliance Retail in the next few quarters.”

#amazon, #amazon-india, #apps, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #india, #jiomart, #mukesh-ambani, #online-pharmacy, #pharmacy, #reliance-jio, #reliance-retail, #walmart

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Treasure8 adds Chris Cowart to its executive team as it renews pushing its tech to reduce food waste

Chris Cowart, the longtime IDEO product designer, Singularity University faculty member, and consultant to a variety of venture firms and tech projects, is joining the food preservation technology developer Treasure8 as its new chief innovation and strategy officer, according to a post on LinkedIn.

“In the last three years food has come to the fore as a theme,” said Cowart in an interview with TechCrunch. Cowart, who previously spent the majority of his time consulting on healthcare companies became interested in food through a year spent as an advisor to X, the Alphabet subsidiary that develops technologies and companies focused on sustainability, connectivity, and new computing paradigms.

At X, Cowart was looking at projects that would use artificial intelligence to accelerate circular economy projects and it was there that he began to focus on food waste. The gravity of the situation around America’s food waste and food insecurity in the country was driven home through Cowart’s research, he said. “We overproduce by double and we throw away 30 percent of our food,” said Cowart. “And in Santa Clara county one-in-six families are food insecure.”

After completing his project at X, Cowart went to Treasure8 and was immediately pulled into strategy conversations which led to him coming on board in June.

Unlike Apeel Sciences or Hazel Technologies, which have developed new preservative technologies to keep food fresh on store shelves (and raised several hundred million dollars), Treasure8’s technology is a new spin on freeze-drying, which lets perishable foods hold their nutritional value while they’re used as ingredients, supplements, or powders.

Brands can reform it with dehydration, or put it into their products or reuse pieces of the vegetables and fruits in their products. “There are byproducts that you can break down and start to use to pull out their nutrients into probiotics and nutraceuticals,” said Cowart.

He also thinks that Treasure8 could use its process to become a provider of biochar that can be applied in more sustainable agriculture techniques.

Treasure8 initially launched with a focus on food preservation, but quickly pivoted into working with cannabis companies that wanted to work with the company to use more parts of the cannabis plant in products. For now, Treasure8 is operating off of its pilot facility on Treasure Island, the manmade island in the San Francisco Bay which is currently the site of a multi-billion dollar development project.

With its new innovation officer in tow, Treasure8 is now heading to market to raise a new round of financing, Cowart said. Targeting under $50 million, the new round could help the company as Cowart starts to think longer term about ways that Treasure8’s treatment process could contribute to the development of more functional foods.

“Taking food waste streams to make products and ingredients and letting it be something useful rather than something that harms the environment, that’s the interesting part,” Cowart said of his role at the company. “[And] if you’re able to go from food securty to nutritional security… If you can powder vegetables, and make them into bits and food that are stable and affordable.. All of this nutrition feeds into the food as medicine and functional food. We’re going to want to fight immunity and recover from viruses and we’re going to have to rebuild our food supply.”

 

#advisor, #alphabet, #america, #artificial-intelligence, #computing, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-science, #food-supply, #food-waste, #hazel-technologies, #health, #healthcare, #ideo, #nutrition, #pharmacy, #tc

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Nuro’s self-driving vehicles to deliver prescriptions for CVS Pharmacy

Nuro, the autonomous robotics startup that has raised more than $1 billion from Softbank Vision Fund, Greylock and other investors, said Thursday it will test prescription delivery in Houston through a partnership with CVS Pharmacy. The pilot, which will use a fleet of the startup’s autonomous Toyota Prius vehicles and transition to using its custom-built R2 delivery bots, is slated to begin in June.

The partnership marks Nuro’s expansion beyond groceries and into healthcare. Last month, the startup dipped its autonomous toe in the healthcare field through a program to delivery food and medical supplies at temporary field hospitals in California set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilot program centers on one CVS Pharmacy in Bellaire, Texas and will serve customers across three zip codes. Customers who place prescription orders via CVS’ website or pharmacy app will be given the option to choose an autonomous delivery option. These pharmacy customers will also be able add other non-prescription items to their order.

Once the autonomous vehicle arrives, customers will need to confirm their identification to unlock their delivery. Deliveries will be free of charge for CVS Pharmacy customers.

“We are seeing an increased demand for prescription delivery,” Ryan Rumbarger, senior vice
president of store operations at CVS Health, said in a prepared statement. “We want to give our customers more choice in how they can quickly access the medications they need when it’s not convenient for them to visit one of our pharmacy locations.”

Nuro is already operating in the Houston area. Walmart announced in December a pilot program to test autonomous grocery delivery in the Houston market using Nuro’s autonomous vehicles. Under the pilot, Nuro’s vehicles deliver Walmart online grocery orders to a select group of customers who opt into the service in Houston. The autonomous delivery service involves R2, Nuro’s custom-built delivery vehicle that carries products only, with no on-board drivers or passengers, as well as autonomous Toyota Priuses that deliver groceries.

Nuro also partnered with Kroger (Fry’s) in 2018 to test autonomous Prius vehicles and its first-generation custom-built robot known as R1. The R1 autonomous vehicle was operating as a driverless service without a safety driver on board in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. In March 2019, Nuro moved the service with Kroger to Houston, beginning with autonomous Priuses.

nuro sleep train autonomous

Image Credits: Nuro

The company’s contactless delivery program shuttling medical supplies and food is also continuing. Under that program, which began in late April, Nuro’s R2 bots are used at two events centers — in San Mateo and the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento — that have been turned into temporary healthcare facilities for COVID-19 patients. Nuro is delivering meals and equipment to more than 50 medical staff at both sites every week.

It’s unclear how long the field hospital program will continue. Last week, there were 25 patients across the two sites. The Sleep Train Arena is accepting patients through June 30 via California Office of Emergency Services. The hospital may be converted to a shelter for those affected by fires through the end of this year.

#automotive, #companies, #cvs, #cvs-health, #cvs-pharmacy, #dave-ferguson, #houston, #nuro, #pharmacy, #retailers, #select, #softbank, #toyota, #transportation, #walmart

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Owkin raises $25 million as it builds a secure network for healthcare analysis and research

Imagine a model of collaborative research and development among hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, universities and other research institutions where no one shared any actual data.

That’s the dream of the new New York-based startup Owkin, which has raised $25 million in fresh financing from investors, including Bpifrance Large Venture, Cathay Innovation and MACSF (the French Pension Fund for Clinicians), alongside previous investors GV, F-Prime Capital and Eight Roads

The company’s pitch is that data scientists, clinical doctors, academics and pharmaceutical companies can all log in to the virtual lab that Owkin calls the Owkin Studio.

In that virtual environment, all parties can access anonymized data sets and models exclusively to refine their own research and development and studies to ensure that the most cutting-edge insights into novel biomarkers, mechanisms of action and predictive models inform the work that all of the relevant parties are doing.

The ultimate goal, the company said, is to improve patient outcomes.

In its quest to get more companies and institutions to open up and share information — with the promise that the information can’t be extracted or used in a way that isn’t allowed by the owners of the data — Owkin is replicating work that other companies are pursuing in fields ranging from healthcare to financial services and beyond.

The Israeli company Qedit has developed similar technologies for the financial services industry, and Sympatic, a recent graduate from one of the recent batches of Techstars companies, is working on a similar technology for the healthcare industry.

Owkin makes money by enabling remote access to the data sets for pharmaceutical companies and licensing the models developed by universities to those companies. It’s a way for the company to entice researchers to join the platform and provide another revenue stream for research institutions who have seen their funding decline over the last 40 years.

We have a huge loop of academic universities that have access to the data and are developing algorithms and we share data,” said the company’s chief executive Dr. Thomas Clozel. “At the end what it helps is developing better drugs.”

Declines in federal funding for scientific research since the 1980s (Image courtesy of The Conversation)

The investment from Owkin’s new and existing investors takes the company to $55 million in total capital raised through the extension of its Series A round. In all, the round totaled $52 million, Clozet said.

“We are exactly where we need to be because it’s about privacy and privacy is more important than ever before,” said Clozet.

The COVID-19 epidemic has emphasized the need for closer collaboration among different corporations and research institutions, and that has also increased demand for the company’s technology. “It touches everything… We have access to the right data sets and centers to build the best models for COVID,” said Clozet. “We’re lucky to have the right traction before the COVID happens and we have the right research that has been done.”

In fact, the company has launched the Covid-19 Open AI Consortium (COAI), and is using its platform to advance collaborative research and accelerate clinical development of effective treatments for patients infected with the coronavirus, the company said. All of its findings will be shared with the global medical and scientific communities.

The initial focus on the research is on cardiovascular complications in COVID-19 patients in collaboration with CAPACITY, an international registry working with over 50 centers worldwide, the company said. Other areas of research will include patient outcomes and triage, and the prediction and characterization of immune response, according to Owkin.

“Since we first backed Owkin in 2017, we have been sharing its vision to apply AI to fighting one of the most dreadful diseases on earth: cancer,” said Jacky Abitbol, a partner at Cathay Innovation. “Owkin has risen to become a leader in digital health, we are proud to grow our investment in the company to fuel its ambition to pioneer AI for medical research, while preserving patient-privacy and data security.”

#artificial-intelligence, #cancer, #cathay-innovation, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #eight-roads, #f-prime-capital, #gv, #health, #healthcare, #new-york, #owkin, #pharmaceutical, #pharmacy, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #techstars

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Instacart jumps into prescription delivery with Costco

Online grocery delivery company Instacart is launching a prescription delivery service through a partnership with Costco as demand for online delivery continues to rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company said Thursday the delivery service is now available from nearly 200 Costco locations in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York, Washington and Washington D.C. The service, which was initially piloted at several locations in Southern California and Washington, will expand nationally in the coming months, the company said.

Customers who use the online prescription service will receive a text message from their Costco pharmacy when their prescription is ready. The text will include a link with the option to schedule their prescription for delivery. Once the customer clicks the link, they will be redirected to Costco’s site. From here, customers can confirm their prescription and continue to add groceries and household goods to their Instacart Costco delivery order. The orders are delivered to customers in a sealed, tamper-proof bag to ensure customer safety and privacy.

Instacart is also offering contactless delivery for most medications. Instacart shoppers are able to scan a customer’s ID for verification without a signature on qualifying prescription orders. Customers are also able to schedule delivery up to one week in advance under the new service.

The new service was driven by demand in the wake of COVID-19, Instacart president Nilam Ganenthiran.

“For many people, we know that part of their grocery shopping experience goes beyond fresh produce, meat, seafood and pantry staples, and also includes getting much-needed medications,” said Ganenthiran.

Instacart has seen demand for its grocery service skyrocket as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. The company’s total order volume last week was 400% higher than the same week last year. Customers are spending more as well. The average customer basket size — meaning the total amount a customer spends on their order on Instacart — is more than 25% month-over-month, according to the company.

The increase in demand has prompted Instacart to expand its reach by adding nearly 150 new stores to its marketplace since March 1. It’s also adding workers to keep up with the increase in customers.

Instacart  announced April 10 that it doubled its “Care” team, from 1,200 agents to 3,000 agents. These employees answer questions about how Instacart works as well as respond to delivery issues and other mishaps with orders.

The hiring news followed a strike in March organized by Instacart shoppers who demanded personal protective equipment, hazard pay, default tips and extended sick pay.

#apps, #arizona, #california, #costco, #covid-19, #florida, #gig-economy, #illinois, #instacart, #new-york, #pharmacy, #president, #tc, #washington

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