When investors survey the digital health sector today, they see nearly every number trending upward.

There is more deal volume than VCs have seen in past years, with the third quarter of 2020 outpacing anything they’ve seen in the past by double-digit percentages. There are more veteran healthcare investors making bets in digital health, and there are more newcomers with little to no prior healthcare experience jumping in with both feet.

Investment activity by corporates and strategics is up,  and appetites for digital health offerings among public-market investors are increasing.

Mature digital health companies are reporting higher revenue, and offering more proof points that their technologies are improving patients’ lives. These companies are raising more funding than they may have done in the past, and at higher valuations. And there are more exit opportunities for these high-quality companies than there were a year ago.

Investors, company founders, policy experts and healthcare professionals at the Rock Health Summit talked about the digital health sector from their point of view. And the word “more” was used consistently.


Continue Reading Rock Health Summit 2020 Takeaways: Digital Health Is Firing on All Cylinders

Virtual healthcare staked out exciting new ground with the recently announced $18.5 billion merger of telemedicine pioneer Teladoc Health and chronic disease management company Livongo.

The deal illustrates the growing appetite among public-market investors for innovative healthcare solutions. Analysts at Rock Health likened the deal to a “starter pistol” that signals the beginning of a race—in this case, a race toward consolidation in a red-hot sector that has been maturing rapidly since the pandemic opened up a need for new models of healthcare delivery. At the same time, the initial public offering window is also wide open this year for privately held digital health companies.

Whether you invest in startups or publicly traded digital health companies, one thing is certain: the coming months and years will be active and fast-paced as established leaders team up to dominate markets and startups race toward liquidity events.


Continue Reading More Consolidation, IPOs Ahead for Digital Health Companies

Venture investors are pleased to see digital health companies continue to transform the healthcare system despite unprecedented challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding for digital health startups broke records in the first half of 2020 as adoption of telemedicine and other remote programs spiked to meet the sudden surge in demand. But the future of digital health will be determined not just by consumers, technology developers and investors. Government agencies, insurers and public-market investors will also wield considerable influence, and investors are expecting more regulatory scrutiny from these stakeholders going forward.

This was a key takeaway from a July 30 virtual event held by Rock Health, “Unprecedented Funding in an Unprecedented Time,” where I joined Steve Kraus of Bessemer Venture Partners, Liz Rockett of Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Bill Evans of Rock Health for an in-depth discussion about the road ahead for digital health.


Continue Reading Digital Health Investors Offer Cautious Optimism at Rock Health H1 2020 Event

The spread of COVID-19 has created a defining moment for the digital health sector, as many products and services once considered “nice-to-haves” have transformed into necessities. Venture investors and company founders may be operating remotely but they are still hard at work, and the deal flow in the second quarter of 2020 reflects that.

The first quarter of 2020 was a record-breaker, with billions of dollars raised by digital health startups across hundreds of deals. But with social distancing efforts keeping people homebound, more than two out of three digital health investors surveyed by Rock Health at the end of the first quarter said they expected a slowdown ahead. Analysts at CB Insights echoed that prediction in early June, saying U.S.-based digital health startups would likely see a financing drop in the second quarter even as the numbers tick upward for startups based in other countries.

And yet, there has been no shortage of notable deals in the second quarter, especially for companies that, as Bond Capital’s Mary Meeker says in her special COVID-19 trends report, “decentralize medicine away from hospitals and empower patients as consumers.”

Here’s a look at just a few of them:


Continue Reading COVID-19 Pandemic Shines a Spotlight on Digital Health in Q2 2020

Despite the changes and uncertainty rippling across the entire venture-backed startup ecosystem, the digital health sector saw its best first quarter since analysts began tracking its performance more than a decade ago, logging $3.1 billion across 107 deals, according to Rock Health. StartUp Health put the figure even higher, reporting $4.5 billion raised in health innovation funding.

But these record-breaking numbers are not expected to hold up for the rest of 2020, researchers said. Supply chain disruptions, market upheaval, hiring slowdowns and reduced growth projections are roiling the healthcare sector, and 67% of digital health investors surveyed by Rock Health say startups will likely have a tougher-than-usual time raising capital this year.

A strong start followed quickly by a pullback aligns with larger trends from the wider startup ecosystem, where investors in January backed a record 126 privately held companies headquartered in the Silicon Valley before cooling down to 60 in February and 44 in March, according to Fenwick’s Silicon Valley Venture Capital Flash Report on investment activity in the first quarter of this year.

But even with all of the economic uncertainties the pandemic has brought, digital health—which saw $8.2 billion in investment in 2018 and $7.4 billion last year—is expected to remain strong as the country’s healthcare needs change and as patient-consumers become ever more comfortable engaging with digital health technologies going forward.


Continue Reading Digital Health Investments See Significant Uptick in Q1; Investors Consider COVID-19 Impacts in Coming Months

The annual gathering of life sciences executives and investors in San Francisco that many now call “JPM Week” recently concluded, marking the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference’s 38th year.

The Big Story of 2019 & 2020 Outlook: M&A

The one-week confab centered on the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square is thought to set the stage for life sciences investing for the coming 12 months. Last year, that certainly proved to be the case when Bristol-Myers Squibb’s acquisition of Celgene—announced at the beginning of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference—set the stage for a surge of M&A activity that exceeded $340 billion in value by the end of 2019.

It was the biggest year for M&A since analysts at Dealogic began tracking deals in 1995, and prompted biotech journalists to refer to 2019 as the year of the “mega-merger.”

While no transactions reaching the size of the $74 billion Celgene deal were unveiled during this year’s conference, Barron’s reported that some significant deals have been announced including Dermira’s $1.1 billion acquisition by Lilly.

EY expects M&A activity to maintain record, or near record levels in 2020 based on data from their Global Capital Confidence Barometer. They report that 52 percent of life sciences executives said their company plans to actively pursue M&A activity in the coming 12 months, and that 68 percent are expecting the M&A market to be even more lively in 2020.


Continue Reading Biotech & Life Sciences Trends to Consider Following JPM 2020: M&A, Venture Capital and More

At Fenwick’s recent Digital Health Investor Summit, Bill Evans—CEO and managing director of Rock Health—noted to attendees that private investment in digital health showed signs of leveling off in the third quarter of 2019. As of November 8, 2019, the year-to-date total through the third quarter is $5.5 billion, putting the sector on track to raise $7.3 billion this year, slightly below 2018’s high watermark of $8.3 billion. He also noted that megadeals, those valued at $100 million or more, continue to drive the topline and are clustered in the later stage.

Half of the 10 largest deals in the third quarter were valued at $100 million or more. The quarter’s largest deal clocked in at an impressive $550 million, and all but two of the deals were classified as late stage, according to our analysis of PitchBook data.

The largest deals also reflect the key digital health trends that Evans outlined at the summit, including the growth of behavioral health, women’s health and direct-to-consumer prescription services.


Continue Reading Megadeals Continue to Dominate as Digital Health Investment Levels Off

Fenwick’s eighth annual Digital Health Investor Summit took place against the backdrop of strong and increasingly diverse investment markets, a focus on clinical validation of digital health tools, and a healthcare system that is shifting to prioritize wellness and disease prevention rather than treating diseases only after they have developed.

Speakers included Rock Health’s Bill Evans and Goldman Sachs’s Peter van der Goes, who shared the digital health investment outlook for 2020, and Rock Health’s Megan Zweig, who discussed developments in digital health therapeutics with Antoun Nabhan of Pear Therapeutics and Jenna Carl of Big Health. My colleague Dawn Belt moderated a panel on wellness and remote patient monitoring with TRIPP’s Nanea Reeves and Forward’s Adrian Aoun. To finish the day, Fenwick’s Ian Goldstein chatted with Bill Taranto about startup enterprise partnerships in the digital health space.


Continue Reading Key Takeaways from Fenwick’s 2019 Digital Health Investor Summit

Industry leaders anticipate that the use of artificial intelligence in medical imaging will have a substantial clinical impact, ushering in an opportunity to significantly improve decision support in medical image interpretation. In this post, we cover a variety of promising medical imaging applications for AI and machine learning—including diagnosing cancer and brain aneurysms—as well as recent regulatory developments.

Metrics Climb

CB Insights reports that healthcare-related AI investment totaled $1.44 billion in the first half of 2019, putting investment in the space on track to surpass the prior year, in which investment reached $2.5 billion. Much of the attention to date has surrounded applications in medical imaging or radiology.

VC-backed deals and financing to healthcare AI startups, Q1'18 - Q2'19 ($M)

The National Center for Biologic Information (NCBI) reports that publications covering AI in radiology have steeply increased in recent years. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of articles published on the topic ranged from 700 to 800. That’s compared to 100 to 150 articles published between 2007 and 2008. In addition, more than half of recent articles focused on applications related to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). And January saw the launch of a peer-reviewed journal devoted to AI in medical imaging: Radiology: Artificial Intelligence
Continue Reading AI in Medical Imaging: Exploring the Frontier of Healthcare Applications

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Rock Health reported that $4.2 billion was invested in digital health companies during the first half of 2019. This places the sector on pace to exceed 2018’s record total annual investment of $8.2 billion.

Strong and Steady with No Signs of Froth

This steady growth should put to rest, at least for the time being, concerns that emerged at the end of last year about a digital health investment bubble. Rock Health provides a detailed “bubble analysis” in its midyear report, but in short the venture fund concludes that the space is not experiencing a bubble thanks to sound business fundamentals, a strong base of repeat investors and the lack of fraud or misuse of funds.

Rock Health also notes that the $4.2 billion in investment was spread over 180 deals. About a third of the money invested went toward megadeals—deals of $100 million or more.


Continue Reading Q2 2019: Big Deals in China, Drones and the Return of the Digital Health IPO