Healthcare and bioscience have been targeted by state and municipal economic development agencies as among the key industries to build a strong and sustainable economy. Venture-backed competitions focus on identifying startups that have potential to bring revenue and employment, and give them a leg up toward realizing success. Two startups that recently gained that edge are Phoenix-based Omni Bioceutical Innovations, a winner of the BioAccel Solutions Challenge, and Gilbert-based eVisit, a winner of the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Arizona Innovation Challenge.
Omni Bioceutical Innovations applies stem cell research to the aesthetics industry, with a line of skin-care product that improves the condition of skin and helps speed recovery for the emerging laser procedures as well as having benefit in daily use. “Laser skin resurfacing is one of the most common procedures, but the issue is down time,” explains company founder Jane Christensen. “Instead of taking seven to ten days off, they can have a treatment on Thursday and maybe go back to work on Monday.”
Christensen says her initial interest in the stem cell research was to address issues related to ALS and autism for loved ones, but “it was too early for those treatments.” It translated well into the aesthetic world, applying topical stem-cell growth factors to regenerative medicine in anti-aging and post-laser treatment. “Data shows there are 13 million patients wanting these in-office treatments, and there’s not a lot in terms of helping recovery.”
Taking part in the BioAccel Solutions Challenge “was an awesome experience,” Christensen says. “Being able to share your business and have somebody appreciate it and then give you money to invest in it is a dream,” says the entrepreneur whose previous ventures were self-funded. “Taking your business and mission and vision and honing it into an eight-minute presentation was a difficult task, especially with a product like ours in the cosmeceutical arena,” she says, explaining it was important to help people understand it is more than a skin-care line. She says the presentation to the Scorpions (judges) and audience, and having them ask questions, was a great exercise, and helped her also in preparing pitches to others after the event. Also valuable was the event’s evening mixer, which provided an opportunity to network with other companies that presented.
With the help from BioAccel and lab space at the City of Peoria’s business incubator BioInspire, Christensen is planning to bring the lab duties here from their current locations in Ohio and California, and will also be hiring a director of national distribution to work out of Phoenix.
The software platform of eVisit was developed specifically with physicians in mind, enabling physicians and healthcare providers to connect with patients through two-way video and offering a route to help monetize the treatment by combining online treatment, billing and e-prescription solutions as well as daily patient health data and analytics. Unlike other telemedicine software, explains Bret Larsen, co-founder and CEO, the focus is on maintaining an already-existing doctor-patient relationship, although the tool is flexible and is, in fact, also being used by urgent care practices. “We find that when doctors know their patients, the outcome is greatly improved because they have the history there,” he says.
Larsen cites security as eVisit’s No. 1 initiative, and notes his co-founder, Chief Technology Officer Miles Romney, has a strong background in healthcare security and is well-versed in HIPAA compliance, with previous success including the first mobile EMR that was eventually acquired by Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Being a winner of the ACA’s competition “goes a long way for morale and building momentum,” Larsen says, crediting the ACA with “understanding the struggles that an early-stage company goes through.” And he describes Phoenix as a great place to find talent and grow a business, specifically for healthcare. “There’s a lot that happens in the Phoenix area around healthcare.”
Of Arizona’s biotech scene, Christensen points to startups coming out of BioAccel and Arizona State University, and the development of larger businesses such as Translational Genomics Research Institute, ASU School of Medicine and other healthcare entities, and says, “It’s a great foundation and setting for emerging medical businesses.”