All posts in “Health”

Confirmed: Color Genomics is in the final stages of an $80 million Series C financing round

Genetic health screening startup Color Genomics is in the final stages of allocations for an $80 million Series C financing round, TechCrunch has confirmed with the company.

Axios first spotted Color had raised $52 million so far in a recent SEC filing. The company has since told TechCrunch it will soon be closing on $80 million in financing led by General Catalyst, which led Color’s previous Series B round.

Other investors in this latest round include Laurene Powell Job’s Emerson Collective and CRV.

Color is similar to other genetics startups, like 23andMe and Ancestry, in that it provides information to you based on the DNA given in a spit tube test. It’s main focus has been in providing a series of genetic cancer screenings in an at-home kit.

The company recently launched a test for hereditary high cholesterol as an indication for possible heart disease and says it plans to release more genetic health screening kits in the future. Color tells us this new round of funding will help get it there.

“This new funding will enable Color to continue developing new tests for hereditary conditions where the science is clear and the results are actionable — and new services that help our clients proactively manage their own health,” co-founder and CEO Othman Laraki told TechCrunch.

Color had raised a total of $98.5 million before this round, bringing the total to $179 million in venture capital raised thus far.

Huddle is a mental health app that aims to be a safe space to share with peers

Dan Blackman’s father was a well-known man in the community of his small Pennsylvania town. He was a lawyer, ran a good business and everyone liked him and liked drinking with him. His dad died a few years ago from a combination of liver and lung cancer. His dad was what they call a functioning alcoholic.

“It wasn’t until I started talking to my family a bit more that I realized my dad never got the help he needed,” Blackman told me.

That started a chain of events that ultimately led to him to create Huddle, an online video platform where people could share their issues with one another.

Nearly 44 million American adults suffer from some form of mental problem but due to the stigma of seeking help, an estimated 60 percent won’t get the help they need. Huddle wants to provide a bridge for these people by making it easy to talk about your issues with others going through the same thing — almost like a digital Alcoholics Anonymous, but also for other topics like body image issues, depression and anxiety as well.

Several therapy apps and platforms like Huddle have popped up in the last few years as more of us have adopted smartphones and health practitioners started seeking new ways to make it easy for everyone seek help. Some of these platforms, like Talkspace, allows you to pay for digital therapy sessions. Crisis Text Hotline provides a way for teens to text with trained volunteers about their problems.

But not many of these mental health startups have gone the open video route — and for good reason. It takes a lot of trust to put your face up on the internet and openly talk to strangers about something hard — be it alcohol addiction, body image issues or something else.

That is likely a huge barrier Huddle will have to overcome when trying to onboard new users. But Blackman didn’t want his app to go the text-based clinical path.

“At least for me, I never got that same experience through [text apps] that I got in person,” he said.

Note, even though it’s video-based, you can pixelate your video to obscure who you are and create a pseudonym if you don’t want to be identified. However, there’s no voice augmentation so someone could still possibly decipher your voice.

Though many of the topics are of a sensitive nature, most people currently on the platform do not blur out their image — and that’s part of Huddle’s goal.

“In the beginning we were only seeing people coming in and just pixelating themselves…then all of a sudden, one person decided to become clear and started to tell their story and we started seeing the next posts more people doing that,” Blackman told TechCrunch. “That’s what we want to create. We want to create a place where it is a balance of people seeking and people giving.”

Huddle is meant as a safe space where anyone can post their inner thoughts and talk about what’s bothering them. It’s not meant as a professional treatment platform. But with zero professionals, or even volunteers with some training, people could easily give bad or even dangerous advice to someone in a fragile state. Of course, there’s also the inevitable cyber troll sure to pop up as the platform grows.

Blackman and his co-founder Tyler Faux say they have a zero tolerance policy for bullies.

“We know people aren’t always that great so we’re asking for people’s Facebook or phone number when they sign up,” Faux said, adding he and his co-founder actively moderate the community themselves.

The Facebook sign-up may concern some hoping to keep their identity a secret, which could be another barrier to on-boarding but it also serves to keep those on the platform honest, Faux says.

The two have some experience building other online communities — first as software developers at Tumblr and later at Swedish startup TicTail.

The hope is Huddle, unlike other anonymous apps and online communities, will become a platform that allows people “to be as vulnerable as they want to,” says Faux. Only time will tell if others feel they can be on the app.

Huddle launches today on iOS, with plans for Android sometime later this year. It’s still a fairly small community for now but Blackman and Faux have taken in $1.2 million in seed to help it grow from Thrive Capital and their old boss and founder of Tumblr David Karp, as well as Product Hunt’s Ryan Hoover (who’s started to get into investing, following an acquisition by AngelList late last year).

Omega Ophthalmics is an eye implant platform with the power of continuous AR

Google and other tech companies have come up with glasses and contact lenses for the purposes of AR, but Omega Ophthalmics is taking a much more invasive approach by using surgically implanted lenses to create a space for augmented reality inside the eye.

It sounds wild, but lens implants aren’t a new thing. Implanted lenses are commonly used as a solve for cataracts and other degenerative diseases mostly affecting senior citizens; about 3.6 million patients in the U.S. get some sort of procedure for the disease every year.

Cataract surgery involves removal of the cloudy lens and replacing it with a thin artificial type of lens. Co-founder and board-certified ophthalmologist Gary Wortz saw an opportunity here to offer not just a lens but a platform to which other manufacturers could add different interactive sensors, drug delivery devices and the inclusion of AR/VR integration.

“We’re creating the glove,” Wortz says, comparing it to what Elon Musk wants to do with neural lace inside the brain. “Inside of the eye we are creating this biologically inert space that is going to stay open for business for whoever wants to develop an implant that will sort of fit hand-in-glove.”

Though, he doesn’t expect young people with good vision to come running for AR implants anytime soon. Instead, he thinks his platform has a much broader application for 70-somethings wanting to maintain independence. An augmented map to help this person get around or to alert them if something is wrong medically would be useful.

He also mentioned the usefulness to “super soldiers” and others.

“We know there’s a huge market for AR; this is essentially a real estate play that tech companies don’t realize yet,” his co-founder and CEO Rick Ifland told me over the phone.

The company is not looking for any outside investments for the idea at this time — though Wortz and Ifland mentioned they’d been approached by two major VC firms in New York and Orange County. However, Omega has already taken initial capital from angel investors and ophthalmologists “that understand the space.” Wortz said.

Does the technology work? Maybe. So far, Omega has hit the six-month mark with no incidents on a very small human clinical trial outside of the U.S. involving seven patients. I’m told the company also has a few other yet to be released studies in the works, including a much larger human trial it plans to launch soon.

The company must still wait for FDA approval and is hopeful Ophthalmics will receive approval in Europe in the next 12 to 24 months, pending outcome of the larger trial. Wortz seemed positive about the process with the FDA, as well.

“We’re very excited about Scott Gotlieb at the FDA. He seems very pro device,” he said.

ScriptDrop delivers your prescriptions with pizzazz

Larry Scott and Nick Potts worked at CoverMyMeds, a software solution for pharmacies. After connecting a bunch of pills with a bunch of pharmacists they started ScriptDrop, a service that helps pharmacists deliver those same prescriptions to your door. It’s active in New York now but expanding into other areas soon.

The team, who hail from Nashville, settled in Columbus to work for CoverMyMeds. They quit to try something new and used many of the tricks they learned in the mother ship to build out their massive network of pharmacies. They have also created a system for med reminders that help pill takers remember to take their pills.

“We are live with a pharmacy system that has 1,200 pharmacies. Two integrations are being completed that will give us access to 13,000 independent pharmacies,” said Potts. “We have pilot contracts with two national chains for delivery. For the med reminders, we’re piloting the text solution now to ensure the clinical decision tree is comprehensive.”

The team learned a lot working at CoverMyMeds and the bigger company gave the pair their blessing to spin out and expand the features available to pharmacists.

“We’re integrated into the pharmacists workflow. The pharmacist doesn’t have to download an app. They simply hit a button to request a delivery or setup medication reminders. We have a secondary solution if the pharmacy doesn’t have the direct integration,” said Potts.

Interestingly, over 25% of patients never bother to pick up the medicines prescribed them. The cost of picking and storing the medicine and then putting it back was $300 billion and offering a simple delivery service was the best way forward. The team uses local couriers to pick up and drop off the meds.

“Through data, I noticed that patients were coming into pharmacies to fill a prescription and being told to come back a day later to pick it up. When this happened 25% of the time that patient never returns,” said Potts. “I worked closely with pharmacies and spoke to them about why they think that it happened. They listed a myriad of reasons. One offering would help to solve a lot of the issues.”

The team has raised $1 million in seed and is looking for add-on funding.

Updated: Apple won’t have a yoga workout mode for WatchOS 4

Update: We’ve looked into this further and it turns out you might have to wait longer for yoga tracking – this reference in the file is apparently about new labels for optional, manual workouts you can program yourself on Apple Watch, not about automatic tracking for yoga. Control of external yoga apps will still be on the table in Watch OS 4 though.

News continues to leak out about what’s new in iPhone 8, and most of those rumors seem to be coming from a leaked iOS release related to the HomePod speaker. Something else we were tipped to in that same file: several references to yoga, including under a listing of workouts associated with the Apple Watch.

While the yoga listing (right under “walk” and before “crosstraining”) isn’t directly connected with the Watch, the list includes many of the typical workouts associated with workouts on the Watch.

Downhill skiing also makes an appearance in that same list, something MacRumors has mentioned could be coming to Apple Watch.

Yoga shows up 29 times in the file; many of these are references to websites. However, the file also mentions some interesting findings, such as “Workout Activity Type,” “doing Yoga” and “yoga Prototype.”

So far Apple has required Watch owners to manually enter yoga and other not-yet-added activities as “other” in the workouts menu.

Yoga is probably tough to track through a device on your arm as it requires interpreting a lot of slow movements. There don’t seem to be many workout trackers that have added yoga as a listed choice for likely that reason. But other uses for the Watch during yoga could be remote control of instructional videos or apps.

Fitbit offers the ability to add yoga as a workout for some of its devices, but it’s not automatically on its list of workout activities — you have to set it up as a preferred workout first. Misfit’s app also claims to include yoga as an activity for its Shine device, but you must first set up a “tag” for yoga. It’s unclear how accurate these trackers are at interpreting yoga movements, but a few Fitbit users have voiced their confusion over the process.

Apple declined to comment and has not confirmed it will be adding yoga as a workout, but has announced it will include HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, in the WatchOS 4 roll out, along with a Siri activity coach, the addition of GymKit and an “enhanced Workout app.”

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