The Rise Of The Health Startup? A Peek At The 13 Companies In Rock Health’s Inaugural Batch

There’s been a bit of a debate going on of late among venture capitalists and investors over whether or not web startups are currently experiencing a cash crunch when it comes to early-stage and series A financing. (You can read Alexia’s recent breakdown here.) As per usual, the answer depends on whom you ask. This recent debate contrasts with the data seen in Column Five Media’s infographic from June, which showed venture funding and investment levels picking back up in the first half of 2011, poised to storm back to pre-2008-collapse levels.

Of course, the data showed that not all tech sectors were experiencing the boom times: Health and medical-related investment, for example, was on the low end, receiving only 3 percent of venture funding over the last year. Yet, there may be some evidence that investment in the digital health space may in fact be heating up. Looking at this data compiled by new healthtech startup incubator Rock Health, we see a list of 41 healthtech startups have been funded in 2011. CrunchBase’s data, which uses slightly more generous paramaters for defining “health tech”, puts that number over 120 or so.

Of those startups that were founded this year, Aza Raskin’s Massive Health raised $2.25 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures, and more. (Well, Massive Health was actually founded in December 2010, but close enough.) And Azumio, which was founded this year, raised $2.5 million in seed funding from Founders Fund and Accel in July.

What’s more, we just covered 100Plus’ $500K seed raise from Founders Fund earlier this week. The personalized health prediction startup was not mentioned in Rock Health’s list, I assume because it is still in private beta.

But the point is, as we’ve seen in Dave Chase’s series of guest posts, the healthcare industry is ripe for disruption. Sure, the industry has a long way to go, but we’re seeing some great progress from startups like Practice Fusion, for example, which is busy becoming the largest provider of electronic medical records in the industry.

There’s also plenty of room for help in the way of incubators. On Friday, Rock Health, the startup accelerator for health-focused startups, hosted its Demo Day at UCSF Mission Bay, where the 13 startups in its latest class introduced their businesses to 250 attendees, among them investors from Accel, NEA, Khosla Ventures, True Ventures, Benchmark, Kapor Capital, SV Angel, The Social+Capital Partnership, Founders Fund and more.

For those unfamiliar, Rock Health provides seed funding ($20K grants, without taking equity), office space, and mentorship to entrepreneurs that want to break into healthcare. We covered their debut here.

The thirteen startups that demo-ed range from BitGym, which makes motion-sensitive iOS video games for working out; to IDEO-spinoff Omada, an online support group to reverse diabetes; toCellScope, a smartphone plugin designed to remotely diagnose ear infections.

It was also great to see that these teams included entrepreneurs that have previously worked in other areas of tech and media and are now bringing their talents to health: For example, Gabe Vanrenen, the former Founder and CTO of Flurry, Jackson Wilkinson, the former head of UX for Posterous and LinkedIn, to Jeff Lieberman, the host of Discovery Channel’s Time Warp.

Again, we covered the initial eight Rock Health startups that were ready to introduce their wares back in June, and you can read about them here. However, five of the startups were not yet ready for the limelight, so we’re providing brief introductions to those below:

Bigevidence provides clinicians focused access to the universe of medical evidence at the point of care and within electronic health records, improving quality of care, while reducing costs and risks.

BitGym thinks you should be using video games to exercise. Their patent pending technology uses an iPad to turn any cardiovascular machine into an interactive
gaming experience.

Cake Health is the best free way to manage your healthcare expenses online. The startup was a finalist at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco in September. You can read our initial profile here.

Crohnology is a social health network for people with chronic medical conditions to share and learn what treatments work, meet others near them, and track and share their health.

Heartbeat is a enterprise solution for wellness professionals that aims to empower people to be successful doing what they love.

Applications for Rock Health’s next class beginning in January 2012 are open until Wednesday, November 16th.

Relieve back pain, eat healthy – The choice is yours

Millions of people struggle through the agony of back pain every day. Many turn to pain relievers and other medicines to achieve relief so they can get through their day by day lives. What most do not realize is a few small changes to their daily schedule that can seriously improve their health and relieve this pain.

One easy change that can be made involves diet. Not only does being overweight affect your back and cause pain but what we eat can also have a massive impact. Healthy nourishment can play a big part in strengthening your back and overall physical health.

There are particular vitamins and nutrients that the human body needs to develop your muscles so they can support the spine. Without healthy eating, these muscles can deteriorate and may not perform, putting your back at risk to injury.

With the hectic life that most of us live, it is very easy to lose sight of nourishment and simply succumb to eating for convenience. Junk food is everywhere and even though it is cheap and convenient it does not supply our bodies with the correct nutrient elements that it needs to function properly.

The majority of these foods contain a lot of unhealthy carbohydrates which may cause a spike in blood sugar giving you a short burst of energy but leaving you hungry later on. Muscles need foods that will supply them with energy slowly and consistently over a period of time.

This is going to help the muscles perform correctly and you will be aware of the difference in everything from concentration to posture which can significantly increase the health of your back. Your diet should be high in complex carbohydrates and proteins.

Foods that are vital to make a regular part of your diet are fresh fruits and vegetables. Every type of nuts and legumes can help in promoting a healthy back. Other foods like Alaskan salmon, ginger, olive oil, and lean poultry are foods that work as an anti-inflammatory.

Another study indicates that cherries can also help to relive muscle pain and strain. The most important part of a good diet is to eat sensible foods at frequent intervals during the day. By eating smaller meals regularly, you can eliminate hunger fits which will help you make better choices and avoid the drive thru.

Crucial foods that you should limit in your diet are sugar, white bread, snacks, processed foods, fries and all kinds of fast foods. These foods could cause inflammation in the body. Other items like soda, caffeine and alcohol should only be consumed occasionally.

Having a majority of your diet composed from healthy whole foods can decrease inflammation through your body and help set you on your way to a health back. By making one or two changes in your diet and consistently selecting the proper foods you can help to improve the health of your back and overall physical condition. This could assist in alleviating agony and limit the pain relievers and other medications you want to take all though your day.

Napping Sets You Smarter, Scientists.

A good night’s sleep is crucial to storing knowledge learned earlier in the day — that much was known. Now, a new study finds that getting shut-eye before you learn is important, too.

Volunteers who took a 100-minute nap before launching into an evening memorization task scored an average of 20 percentage points higher on the memory test compared with people who did the memorization without snoozing first.

“It really seems to be the first evidence that we’re aware of that indicates a proactive benefit of sleep,” study co-author Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, told LiveScience.

“It’s not simply enough to sleep after learning,” Walker said. “It turns out you also need to sleep before learning.”

Refreshing naps

Earlier research has found that dreams boost learning, with one study suggesting a 90-minute napmay help lock in long-term memories. But Walker’s research, published this week in the journal Current Biology, finds that another phase of sleep, called nonrapid eye movement (NREM) is most closely linked to the learning boost provided by a nap.

Walker and his colleagues recruited 44 volunteers — 27 women and 17 men — to come to the sleep lab at noon. First, the volunteers were given a task in which they had to memorize 100 names and faces. Then they were tested for how well they recalled the face-name matches.

Next, the researchers tucked half of the volunteers in for a nap between 2 p.m. and 3:40 p.m. The scientists measured the napping volunteers’ brain waves as they slept. The other group of participants stayed awake and did daily activities as they normally would. At 6 p.m., both groups memorized another set of 100 faces and names and were tested on their memory. (The experiment was set up so nappers had more than an hour to shake off any remaining fuzziness before the test, Walker said.)

The first major finding, Walker said, was that learning ability degrades as the day wears on. Volunteers who didn’t nap did about 12 percent worse on the evening test than they did on the morning test. (Walker presented preliminary findings of this effect at a conference in February 2010.) But shut-eye not only reversed those effects, it provided a memory boost: Napping test-takers did about 10 percent better on the evening test than they did on the morning test. In all, the difference in scores between nappers and non-nappers was about 20 percent, Walker said.

Secondly, the brain-wave monitoring turned up a likely culprit for the memory upgrade: a short, synchronized burst of electrical activity called a sleep spindle. These sleep spindles last about one second and can occur 1,000 times per night during NREM sleep. People who had more of these spindles, especially people who had more over a frontal area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, showed the most refreshment in learning capacity after their nap, Walker said.

Uploading memories

Walker and his colleagues suspect that the sleep spindles are working to transfer information from the hippocampus, a small area deep in your brain where memories are made, to the prefrontal cortex, which serves as long-term storage. That frees up the hippocampus to make new memories, Walker said.

“It’s almost like clearing out your informational inbox of your e-mail so you can start to receive new e-mails the next day,” he said.

NREM sleep and sleep spindle frequency change throughout a person’s life span, Walker said. Older people, for example, have a decline in sleep spindles, suggesting that sleep disruption could be one reason for the memory loss prevalent in old age. The volunteers in the current study were young, but the researchers hope to investigate the effect of sleep spindles on learning in older adults, Walker said.

The research also draws attention to the importance of sleep, Walker said. Sleep spindles happen more frequently later in the night, precisely the time people cut short when they rise early for work and school, Walker said.

“Somewhere between infancy and early adulthood, we abandon the notion that sleep is useful,” Walker said. That needs to change, he said: “Sleep is doing something very active for things like learning and memory. I think for us as a society to stop thinking of sleep as a luxury rather than a biological necessity is going to be wise.”



Lap Band Obesity Surgery Going Best.

Lap-band adjustable gastric banding is the latest entrant that’s been approved by the FDA in 2001 in the sphere of surgical treatment for morbid obesity.

This blubber surgery is a non-permanent weight loss treatmentthat has become a favourite option for people suffering from clinically severe obesity. It is also called gastric banding, involves creating a smaller stomach chamber. Unlike gastric bypass, this operation is easily reversible, a distinct advantage for prospective patients concerned about the doable side effects of bariatric surgery.
The good thing about this operation is that it does not involve any slicing or stapling of the stomach. In addition, it can be adjusted to the patient’s need after surgery without any operation. For patients requiring more nutrition, like pregnant women, they can have their bands loosened. For patients who are not adequately benefitting can have their gastric bands tightened. Lap Band blubber surgery is the only adjustable surgical treatment acquirable in the United Says as of now.

The device used is prefabricated out of Silastic, a type of plastic that does not react with internal body tissues. An inflatable tube is located inside the band; when inflated with an injection of saline solution, the tube provides adjustable gastric banding. The reservoir used for injecting solution is implanted under the skin during gastric Lap Band blubber surgery. A bariatric surgeon can adjust the tube at a later date by injecting or removing saline solution.
As with any medical procedure, Lap Band blubber surgery results vary from patient to patient and depend on several factors. Two of the major benefits of this band surgery are 1)successful, safe, and effective weight loss and 2)freedom from many obesity-related health problems.
Other benefits that are specific to gastric surgery includes: minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, stomach remains intact, no stomach stapling, normal intestinal function, adjustable gastric band, fully reversible procedure, relatively short recovery. Risks and complications of band surgery might include: stomach surround deterioration, formation of ulcers, vomiting, heartburn, gas bloat, and difficulty in swallowing.
Like gastric bypass surgery, it reduces the size of the stomach and grants patients to feel full after consuming very tiny food. Bariatric surgeons generally like the this procedure as it involves less anguish and a shorter recovery period.
Still, Lap Band blubber surgery, is not absolutely without risk even though it is considered the safest of surgeries for obesity. The device might require repair and time consuming additional minor operations, and weight loss is very dependent on longterm follow-up visits. Plus, certain foods might never be well tolerated by patients.
Obesity is a serious problem, whatever age you are, and whatever stage you are in your life. For this reason it is important that blubber is not ignored but addressed as soon as doable so that people can enjoy their life for the full with as few physical ailments as possible.

I have conducted an honest review of all Hoodia weight loss products which claim to give nearly miraculous weight loss results for dieters worldwide.


Stay Social, Stay Healthy

With no offense to my husband or the rest of my family, I really don’t think that I could make it through the day — much less have weathered all the ups and downs of the last three decades or so — without my friends.

Whether it’s comparing child-rearing notes with Puffin, gossiping over coffee with Hannah and Maggie, hashing out long-term goals with my power-walk partner Sara, parsing last night’s festivities with Stacie or commiserating with Janet about a major setback, each of these women helps keep me balanced and sane.

My inner circle has been there for me in countless ways over the years, and I’ve always tried to reciprocate with as much time, support and love as possible.

Not that I ever need an excuse for a girls’ night out, but research suggests that good friends may actually be great medicine: Strong social ties may help stave off memory loss as you age; reduce stress; boost immunity; help you lose weight and keep it off; and buffer against depression, among other health benefits. There’s also a strong longevity link, says Carl Latkin, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: “If you have supportive relationships, you’re going to live longer.”

In fact, a 2010 review of nearly 150 studies that was published in PLoS Medicine found that people with strong social ties had a 50 percent better chance of survival, regardless of age, sex, health status and cause of death, than those with weaker ties. This conclusion was based on information about more than 300,000 individuals who were followed for an average of 7.5 years. According to the researchers, the health risk of having few connections was akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and more dangerous than being obese or not exercising in terms of shaving years off your life.

And numerous studies have shown that friends may affect your health even more than family members: The 2005 Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging found that close relationships with children and other relatives had little impact on longevity, while people with the most friends tended to outlive those with the fewest by 22 percent.

Close comrades seem to be a valuable advantage when it comes to battling specific medical conditions such as heart disease and obesity. A study of 2,230 breast cancer patients in China published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology last month found that social quality of life – including the strength of friendships — was the most important predictor of both cancer recurrence and survival. “It’s very exciting, because we believe social quality of life is modifiable — it’s something that we can change,” says the study’s lead author, Meira Epplein, an assistant professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Still, experts stress that it remains unclear exactly why the buddy system seems to convey benefits. “If you have a larger social network, is it material resources like those people taking you to the doctor and making sure you take your medication? Does that make a difference?” asks Latkin. “Or does having a confidant result in some emotional or psychological process that might increase well-being and reduce depression? In other words, are friends protecting you from bad things or promoting good things?”

Much has been made of the remarkable power and influence of female friendships in particular. (See: “Fried Green Tomatoes, ” “Thelma and Louise,” “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”) But both sexes seem to benefit by having close confidants, says Latkin. “It used to be thought that men had larger social networks while women had more intimate networks, but . . . that’s not necessarily a tried-and-true statement anymore,” he says. If men manage to gather similar emotion support around them, they’ll likely experience the same benefits.

A 1993 study of 736 middle-aged Swedish men, for instance, makes that point: It found that having a strong social network seemed to significantly decrease the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease.

Even so, as anyone with a wide social network can probably tell you, chums aren’t always a positive thing. “There are downsides … like if you have a lot of network members who are requesting support and demanding resources from you, which can be highly stressful,” says Latkin. He adds that having people in your friendship network with whom you have conflicts or whom you can’t stand tends to overcome the positive effects of true friendship within that group. And sometimes the behavior of good pals can cause problems: A 2007 study suggested that if your friends gain too much weight, you’re more likely to do so, too.

For the Internet generation, it’s also worth noting that “it’s both the density and quality of social relationships that make a real difference in people’s lives,” says psychologist David Shern, president and chief executive of Mental Health America, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Alexandria.

“Simply having 1,000 friends on Facebook is much less important than having a few friends with whom have a very high-quality, mutually supportive relationship with integrity — meaning that you can count on people to be straight with you, and … to rely on when you find yourself in need.”

But why wait until you’re in need, given how beneficial a little friendly face time can be? I, for one, am planning my next girls’ night out right now.



Seasonal Flu

Updated figures on this winter’s flu situation released today show that the number of reported cases of people with ‘flu-like symptoms continues to fall.

The figures show that:

  • there have been 40.7 GP consultations per 100,000 in England and Wales. This compares with 66.5 last week and 124 four weeks ago;
  • 247 critical care beds are occupied with people with ‘flu-like symptoms – around 7.1 per cent of capacity. This compares with 418 last week and 850 at its peak; and
  • 72.2 per cent of over 65s and 49.1 per cent of under 65s in at risk groups have been vaccinated (71.7 and 48 per cent last week).
  • The HPA have verified a total of 338 deaths in the UK since the flu season began in October last year.

The vast majority of the new deaths reported today 84 did not occur in the past week, there are other reported deaths that have yet to be verified as to there cause.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Interim Chief Medical Officer said:

“I am cautiously pleased with the decline in cases again this week. But winter isn’t over yet and we still all need to be on our guard against flu. That means catching our germs in a tissue, throwing it in a bin and washing our hands regularly – catch it, bin it, kill it.

“It isn’t too late for people in an at risk group to be vaccinated and I would urge people to contact their GP or practice nurse to make an appointment.

“Any GP who has seen demand exceed supply has been able to order extra vaccine from manufacturers and from our central stock of the Pandemrix vaccine.

“I would like to thank everyone working in the NHS for their hard work and dedication so far this winter. It’s been a tough winter, the NHS has been under pressure but, thanks to the detailed planning that was put in place in advance, it has coped fantastically well.”

Further Information

  1. The full Health protection Agency update can be found at the link below.
  2. So far this year, 72.2 per cent of over 65s and 49.1 per cent of under 65s in at risk groups have been vaccinated – more than this time in 2008/09.
  3. At its most busy so far this winter, 850 critical care beds were occupied by patients with ‘flu-like symptoms. This was around 23 per cent of critical care capacity. Because of the good preparations the NHS had put in place for this winter, local NHS organisations were able to increase critical care beds where necessary.
  4. The number of ‘Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation’ (ECMO) beds (specialist treatment which helps patients with acute reversible respiratory failure by providing oxygen directly into their bloodstreams) available for adults is at 25, one of the highest numbers per population in the world.