Duncan Turner, M.D. Chair, General Partner at SOSV, Managing Director at HAX
The last few months have created unimaginable changes in our world. HAX, with our largest hub located in Shenzhen, saw the earliest effects of COVID-19 in January. What began with uncertainty, rapidly led to lockdowns and isolation for our staff. There is no question that tough times are ahead, but at least for now, we have some hope for the global situation as Shenzhen begins its return to a new normal.
HAX is an accelerator backed by a Venture Capital Fund, SOSV, which predominantly invests in Hardware (through HAX) and Life Sciences (through Indie Bio). We invest in early-stage technology companies across a range of different industry verticals. At HAX, our first cheque into a company will be ~$250k then increase up to $1m in subsequent rounds. We specialize in accelerating R&D using the Shenzhen ecosystem and our full-stack engineering resource.
The biggest market we invest in is healthcare. There will be many start-ups that don’t make it through these tough times ahead, but just as many (if not more) are fighting to keep up with the massive new opportunitieWs ahead of them. We see some amazing opportunities here to impact the struggling healthcare system and continue to provide healthcare assistance.
HAX is evolving rapidly to get ahead of COVID-19. Our investments are evolving too. COVID-19 is no longer a crisis in China; hopefully, the same will be true in the rest of the world soon. However, we anticipate it will continue to affect the future of healthcare, work, entertainment, travel, and education for some time. Most importantly, we have been given a wake-up call to pandemics, and we can now prepare for the next one.
Digital Health, in Particular, Remote Rehabilitation, can Help
COVID-19 has pushed the healthcare system in every country to the point of breaking. While flattening the curve is proving to help the situation, until there is a vaccine (or a treatment), there will be a continued burden.
“It’s no longer about keeping the doctor away; it’s about keeping away from the hospital.”
A recently published points system, designed to help doctors decide priorities for a ventilator in the event of a shortage, gives us a morbid insight into priorities for innovation in remote healthcare. It is not just the elderly that should keep away from hospitals, also those that have Asthma and other respiratory illnesses, coronary health issues, diabetes, and impaired immune system.
Our sister accelerator, IndieBio, has done a fantastic job of mobilizing to create quick test-kits such as CASPR (caspr. bio) under a unique COVID-19 accelerator program that was set up by SOSV in New York within weeks of the outbreak. Teams within this program will also have full access to HAX to accelerate any hardware they may have.
At HAX, we are actively looking for digital health technology that can assist in remote care. At the top of our list is:
These are areas that technology can play a role in assisting or monitoring at-risk patients. It’s not just for the elderly; some of this technology can help over-stretched hospital staff to keep tabs on critically ill people and make decisions that could save lives.
We already have some fantastic companies working in the space with COVID-19 responses or technology that can help. We are actively investing additional money into these companies to push them through expedited FDA market authorization. Some highlights for us:
Strados Labs is working on a Remote E-Stethoscope Platform (RESP), used to record patient lung sounds that can be made available for playback or transmitted to telehealth workers and monitored for changes in status. This remote wearable stethoscope can be used for spot-checking a patient’s condition, thus reducing the burden on clinicians and bedside nurses. Physicians and nurses can experience noise fatigue as their hours are extended, and patient ratio increases, so having a patient’s breath sounds available for playback for a fresh set of ears to further assess can help clinicians more effectively diagnose and treat patients.
Axem Neurotechnology’s software guides stroke survivors through their home rehabilitation program in a game-like environment that includes brain activity feedback. Healthcare providers remotely monitor progress and manage the program, and family members are connected to ensure patients feel supported as they work to regain their independence.
Japet is developing Atlas, an active exoskeleton thatrelieves back pain and assists physical activity. Through ambulatory vertebral traction created by fourmicro-motors, the Atlas device provides immediate pain relief by decreasing nerve root compression.