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Disruption Garage: Where Are They Now?

June 3, 2020
Posted by Publicis Health Media

HealthFront 2020 was planned for this week, but was postponed due to COVID-19. We thought it a great opportunity to take a look back and celebrate last year’s Disruption Garage winner, Validose.

It’s been almost one year since Publicis Health Media’s inaugural HealthFront 2019, the first fully-dedicated media upfront exclusively focused on health. The market shaping forum in New York brought together thought leaders in tech, healthcare, and media as well as other disruptive leaders to address challenges and opportunities the industry faces. The two-day program featured more than 60 speakers addressing critical issues such as the rise of tech, patient data, the outcomes economy and how generational shifts are changing our industry in a big way.

One of the most exciting components of the HealthFront was the Disruption Garage, a Shark Tank-like pitch session that had four health tech startups competing for an award valued at $1.5 million in strategy, marketing and media services*. That honor went to Validose for its Smart Atomizer, an at-home intranasal platform that optimizes drug delivery for controlled substances and other drugs to prevent medication misuse.

One year later, PHM’s Chief Investment Officer Colan McGeehan caught up with Validose CEO Marcel Botha for an update on where the technology now stands and how HealthFront has played a role in its development.  

Colan McGeehan: You bested three other rather fierce competitors for the prize. There’s an interesting back story to Validose’s development. Can you fill us in?

Marcel Botha: A lot of people don’t realize it was a very dark moment just before we met at HealthFront. I had just lost my house due to a fire and was living in a hotel. I was thinking, ‘why am I doing this Validose thing and how does it fit into pharma?’ And then I had this epiphany. We didn’t want to build something that would just be another niche drug application, another device that doesn’t scale. So we looked at the most prescribed drugs in the US to see how we can build a platform that would help make those experiences safer.

We looked at the numbers and started the project as a Norketamine delivery device for people who were resistant to depression [medications]. By July of last year, we were ready for it to be used with any nasal drug that would be a good fit. Our research showed that there were more than 630 possible prescriptions for pain management, abuse management and depression management. Really, anything that has a pump-based applicator can use the Validose technology. We [wanted] to reset the conversation around delivery at home. Yes, [this] would be more expensive, but you won’t spend all that money on managing addiction later on.

I had worked on developing other delivery devices and [other] startups trying to scale. 

Validose kept coming up as a relevant product and we had conversations around it as a telehealth supported IoT application around five years ago. But the market was not ready. We put it on a slow, systematic development track and about six months before we met at HealthFront, we were pushing out a prototype every eight weeks. It was definitely getting traction.

CM: You definitely shook things up at the HealthFront. How has COVID-19 impacted Validose?

MB: Since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns in New York, we have had multiple conversations with investors, both institutional and private and with large pharmaceutical manufacturers and companies in the novel drug space coming out of Silicon Valley. We are definitely having conversations about how to scale this in a more accelerated fashion than we had last summer. It’s even more important now as people can’t see their doctors in person and monitored home delivery is so critical.

CM: The reward package is valued at over $1.5 million and consists of strategy, marketing and media services.* I’m curious as to how the services have been used?

MB: The prize was amazing! It took us a whole quarter to realize how awesome the prize was and then to navigate how to start implementing it. 

We’re working with the Foundry to build out a content piece now to build out the future of care and to talk about the work we’re doing changing the physical interaction and digital and physical telehealth oversight. That will come out very soon.

We’re getting a lot of guidance from Sharecare about fundraising and scaling, and a lot of support from GoodRx and their network of investors. Some of the prize donors have agreed to table them for when we’re ready, which will be later in the year. We want to be ready to put our device in the hands of patients and the thing we’re most excited about is to build out the digital platform on top of the assets and software that’s already been developed.

CM: Has the Disruption Garage helped Validose outside of the prize?

MB: First of all, the press was amazing. (Validose was profiled in CNET, Forbes and FiercePharma). I was just excited about the general coverage we received and some of the judges became really good advisors in some capacity. (Judges included Dr. Mehmet Oz, Martha Stewart, Google’s Ryan Olahan, CNET’s Brian Cooley and Natalie Schneider, VP, Digital Health at Samsung.) Natalie (now Senior VP of Business Development, Sharecare) has been a treasure trove of guidance and introductions—an amazing resource.

CM: Well, I’d like to formally invite you to HealthFront 2021. A year from now, what do you think we’ll be talking about when we talk about Validose?

MB: I have built enough early-stage startups or have been a part of them either from an investor or advisor capacity and am relatively impatient. It needs to go fast or get bored very quickly.

I plan to spend the next 12 months until HealthFront 2021 working to give as many patients access to this technology, as soon as possible and want to do this through the formalized mechanism of a MedTech launch. We believe Validose has a massive opportunity to improve quality of care and also continuing care, particularly as there are major implications of not being able to see your doctor in a clinic.

With Validose, I believe we have solved everything that needs to be solved, and have done that quickly. The next generation of the device will be ready in July and I anticipate starting due diligence produces with a large multinational manufacturer of intranasal packaging [then] to see how the device can scale. And to do it in a saleable and repeatable way. We have built the partnerships, and are continuing to build on those partnerships to create a global MedTech company.

As we plan for, and look forward to, HealthFront 2021, look for more content from last year’s event in our The Road to HealthFront series.

*The $1.5 million in goods and services include:

  • Galaxy Fit watches from Samsung
  • Advisory sessions with Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD and founder, chairman and CEO of Sharecare
  • Advertising inventory across the GoodRx platform
  • Audio consultation and production for media placed across the iHeart Media Network
  • CBS Interactive consultative session across business and marketing strategy with its industry experts, design services and targeted media
  • A Meredith Corp. content and media package including creative services from The Foundry
  • Creative, marketing, and PR services from Publicis Groupe through the Power of One

Connect with Marcel and Colan on LinkedIn.

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