AI Technology Founders Abroad Seek Partnerships to Navigate U.S. Healthcare

dr. John Halamka, president of Mayo Clinic’s healthcare technology and big data effort, Mayo Clinic Platform, traveled more than 6,000 miles last week to launch the Rochester, Minnesota-based health system’s latest technology initiative: a partnership with Sheba Medical Center in Phone. aviv.

The two hospitals will jointly develop and validate artificial intelligence algorithms, including those used for image analysis, digital pathology and clinical specialties such as cardiology, neurology and nephrology.

Mayo Clinic and Sheba Medical Center will also support AI startups participating in each other’s innovation programs. For example, Mayo Clinic will help AI startups working with Sheba Medical Center understand US market needs, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance, and Food and Drug Administration approval.

“We believe that to be successful in the global healthcare transformation, that is: [the] Mayo Clinic Platform vision, you need to work globally and embrace the best technologies around the world,” Halamka wrote in an email.

Mayo Clinic is the latest healthcare organization to sign a deal abroad as a way to tap into a broader ecosystem of AI discoveries.

Funding for AI healthcare startups around the world nearly doubled last year as investors poured $12.2 billion into such companies, according to data compiled by CB Insights. Financing for AI in healthcare hit a quarterly record quarter of $3.7 billion in the fourth quarter of the year.

While US-based startups dominated healthcare AI funding, nearly a third — or $1.1 billion — of the fourth-quarter funding went to companies in other regions, mainly in Asia and Europe.

Nevertheless, it is not an easy journey for products to hit the US market, especially for technologies that are gaining traction like AI. Startups must build business models that align with the way U.S. healthcare works and navigate a complex regulatory approval and payment landscape made up of a hodgepodge of Medicare, Medicaid, and private payers.

Just because a startup has regulatory approval — such as CE Mark, which means European regulatory approval — from another government doesn’t mean it’s a shoo-in to get the green light from the US FDA. In fact, it’s common for companies to get CE-marked for devices three or more years before the product is launched in the US, said Brian Scarpelli, senior global policy counsel at the Connected Health Initiative, an industry coalition that advocates for health technology. policy.

That’s where collaborations with US healthcare organizations can pay off. The partnerships can give healthcare organizations early access to innovations and support entrepreneurs in developing a localized business plan.

AI startup Soundable Health was founded in South Korea in 2017 and was headquartered in San Francisco in 2018. “It was a very natural decision for us,” said Catherine Song, the founder and CEO.

The startup is mainly active in the US, but is also exploring collaborations in Europe and South Korea.

During the early years of Soundable Health, it focused on the development of AI technology. But in 2020, the company turned its attention to commercializing its first product — an app that assesses bladder health by analyzing the sounds of a patient’s urine flow — and is preparing to sell to academic medical centers and specialty urology. clinics in the US

For support in learning the intricacies of the U.S. health care system, Soundable Health partnered with the South Korean government-funded nonprofit Korea Small-Medium Enterprises and Startups Agency and the Chicago-based startup. incubator Matter for healthcare.

Called the Korean SME US Market Adoption Program, the program helps Korean companies align their product, sales and fundraising strategies with the US. Matter has a similar program for Canadian startups, partnering in June with Amazon’s cloud arm for an incubator targeting startups in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Texas Medical Center, a medical district in Houston, has developed infrastructure to help launch international startups. The group’s BioBridge program, which started with Australia in 2016, works with agencies in other countries and helps startups from those regions develop go-to-market strategies and test their products in the U.S.

The program has been expanded to include the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland from May. In many cases, startups entering the U.S. through BioBridge establish their U.S. bases at the Texas Medical Center campus, allowing member hospitals to continue accessing their work, said Bill McKeon, president and CEO of Texas Medical Center.

“We want the best solution — whether it’s the next medical device, or the next drug, or the next digital solution — we want that to happen on this campus,” McKeon said.

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