Pheramor – A Dating App with a Higher Purpose

If you’ve watched TV at all lately, you’ve likely seen an advertisement for a dating application. All of them make the same promises — they’ll find love for the user. But statistically speaking, over 80 percent of dating app users report that they’ve never found a meaningful connection. Pheramor is a Houston-based startup company that is putting a biological spin on the dating app. The company is sequencing its users’ Human Leukocyte Antigen (acquired via a simple cheek swab), a gene that is strongly attached to feelings of attraction between two people.

Oh, and in case Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) sounds familiar to you, it’s likely because you’re also familiar with bone marrow transplants. So while Pheramor’s primary goal is to make a love connection, the company will be gathering consent to turn its users into registered bone marrow donors.

As of 2015, the National Marrow Donor Program reported that it had reached 25 million potential donors around the world. That said, each year sees thousands of new diagnoses for blood cancer, and bone marrow donation can also hold the key to life-saving treatment for over 70 other diseases as well. Since Pheramor will already be collecting HLA data, a simple opt-in from its users could make a significant impact on the number of potential donors who are registered worldwide.

One area where Pheramor is setting itself apart is in how it will build user profiles. Rather than relying on inaccurate self-reporting, the company will pull in activity from social media platforms to give an accurate representation of who a person is based on information that already exists. Combining the profile data, HLA sequencing, and a machine learning algorithm, the company should have significantly better compatability rates than other dating platforms that rely on self-descriptions or user-reported data.

Pheramor is opening a syndicate round of funding via AngelMD where it hopes to gather investor interest in order to meet its next set of goals. These include enhancing the existing product, investing in branding and marketing, as well as covering costs for legalities, operations, and hiring of a management team.

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Investor Spotlight – Dr. Navin Subramanian on “Evidence-Based Investing”

Around the halls of AngelMD we often talk about investing in what you know. This is the thesis upon which we’ve built the company, and so it’s an exciting moment for us when members of the network echo how important that sentiment is to them. We recently had the chance to speak with Dr. Navin Subramanian, a Houston-based orthopedic spine surgeon, whose own experiences are a testament to the power of the AngelMD network.

Dr. Subramanian is an interesting case for an Investor Profile. Normally we focus on investors who have been Syndicate leaders, or those who have the time to serve on AngelMD’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). Dr. Subramanian has not yet worked in either of these capacities, but he is a significant investor in the AngelMD Catalyst Fund (the money with which AngelMD, as an entity, invests directly into startups) and has joined a number of syndicates as well. As such, he’s a good example of the typical investor in the AngelMD network, so his experiences should speak to many of you who read this.

Beyond the money, what is your motivation for investing?

One thing that we’re driven to in healthcare is the idea that everything revolves around the doctor-patient relationship. That’s true to an extent, but that relationship is evolving. We’re just so focused on our training and experiences, and on the personal interaction, that we forget all the other things that surround healthcare. There is so much innovation, technology, and an evolution to a digital era that the future holds. For me, investing gives me the opportunity to see new technology and ideas that otherwise I might not have thought of or heard of. Those ideas and technology can lead to so many other possibilities.

You’ve been an active Angel Investor for a few years now. Looking back, what would you have done differently?

I wish that I’d known how to truly evaluate a product. There are analytical ways available, but I was using more esoteric and anecdotal ways. Today you can use data analysis to get a really good indication of the viability of a company or product.  The AngelMD platform allowed me to do that, and it’s sort of like Moneyball for investing.

There is still value to what we call “the eye test”. What are the impressions that we’re getting? But that’s just one aspect of whether a company will become successful. I want to know how they’ll be different than other companies that have tried to do the same thing, so it’s important to take those impressions and combine that with evidence-based investing.

What gets you excited about the potential in a deal?

First and foremost, what clinical applications it has. Is it piercing a market that is otherwise untouched, or only has limited penetration? Particularly with spine, I want to know if it’s actually new or just a regurgitation of something we’ve seen in the past. I also like seeing things that are a novel approach to a previous treatment. Is there IP that can be protected, and have they done so?

On the other side of that equation, I want to see things that will save a physician time. It goes back to the idea of the doctor-patient relationship, and anything that can help to improve that.

How much of a role does healthcare play in your portfolio?

I get deals all the time to invest in areas that I don’t know — like ride-sharing startups and such — but I think you have to invest in what you know when it comes to high risk. For my Angel investing, healthcare makes up over 50 percent of my portfolio. I also don’t use my life savings for high-risk investment. I use money that’s otherwise earmarked for other areas.

What attributes do you want to see in an entrepreneur? 

I want to know their passion. Do they have emotional investment in what they’re doing? I also want to see some personal financial and time investment from them. The technology is really just one piece of the puzzle. I also need to see how they do with marketing, and the general points of running a business.

Is there any advice that you could offer physicians who are looking to invest?

I think the most important thing to me is that I understand my limitations, the primary one being time. But I believe that AngelMD does the work of the due diligence for me, and that’s especially true with the Catalyst Fund. I also know my limitations when it comes to measuring financial viability, and using hard data to find the answers.

What are three things that you’re really excited about right now?

I feel like there’s a revolution coming in spine, and it’s centered around regenerative and digital medicine. When you look back, medicine tends to go through 10-15 year stretches of innovation, starting with the advent of penicillin. This allowed us to finally treat and cure infections. Looking at surgery, anesthesia was a huge revolution. We could finally cure these diseases because we could keep the patient asleep and comfortable long enough to perform the procedures.

More recently we’ve seen a revolution in diagnostic imagery. X-ray became nuclear medicine, CT, and MRI in the 1980s. Then in the 1990s we saw a pharmacological revolution with new medications being invented, allowing us to treat all of these conditions that you previously couldn’t do much for. There was another surgical revolution in the late 90s with the surge of minimally-invasive, laparoscopic, and arthroscopic surgeries. Now we’re poised for another revolution in digital health and regenerative medicine as far as ortho is concerned.

What’s the last book that you recommended to someone?

I love American history, especially related to the American Revolution. The last great book that I read was Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis.

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Sensulin: Diabetes Management, No Injections Necessary

For people with Type 1 (juvenile onset) Diabetes (T1D), daily life is a system of checks and balances. While times have gotten better with the advent of insulin pumps and less-invasive testing systems, there are still challenges to living with the disease. Sensulin, a company based out of Oklahoma, has developed a unique drug delivery method that acts similarly to a healthy pancreas. This Agglomerated Vesicle Technology (AVT) could also find its way to working with other drugs that require a stimulant response.

To better understand the problem that Sensulin is solving, we need to step back to look at its cause. T1D is caused by the body attacking the beta cells in the pancreas that create insulin. This inability for the body to create its own insulin means that the blood glucose level cannot be regulated through biological means. The T1D patient is therefore required to test multiple times daily, and regulate their insulin level through injection or via a pump. Missed meals, exercise, or high-glycemic foods can all cause sudden swings in blood glucose levels, leading to potentially dangerous (or even fatal) conditions.

Suffice it to say, multiple daily injections are far from convenient, and medication adherence is a constant concern for both the patient and the treating doctor. While there have been advances in an “artificial pancreas” — a device that would provide constant monitoring and insulin adjustment — that look promising, there is a cost concern as estimates range between $5,000 to $8,000 for the device itself plus thousands more each year for disposable sensors.

Sensulin’s Agglomerated Vesicle Technology takes a tested and verified method and adds a new element. AVT uses an insulin-containing liposome that has a boronate “glue” that will dissolve in the presence of sugar. As this glue dissolves, the AVT can release insulin into the body and regulate blood glucose levels back to a normal range.

T1D treatment is just the first stop for Sensulin. The company is also making strides in its research to bring the AVT system to other drugs that could benefit from stimulus triggers such as hypoxia or inflammation.

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Alpha Speaker Spotlight – Matthew Collier

 

If only we had a crystal ball. Predicting the future of healthcare is far from easy, but data can tell us a lot of the story. As Sr. Managing Director, Global Head of Healthcare Strategic Consulting at Accenture, Matthew Collier is tasked with doing just that. We’re looking forward to welcoming Matthew and getting his insights at AngelMD’s Alpha Conference, on January 5th and 6th in Napa, California.

His role at Accenture means that Matthew spends a good part of his time tweaking and redesigning business models, helping organizations to understand the evolving needs of their customers. However, his ability to look into the future of healthcare doesn’t stop there. He’s also known for writing industry reports that focus on specific areas such as artificial intelligence that can help young companies and investors alike to better grasp the changing landscape.

In the video above, he makes the argument that healthcare needs to be fundamentally reimagined. But it’s not enough to simply think about things differently. Companies, investors, practitioners, and patients all have a role to play when it comes to bridging the gap between where we are today to where we need to be in the future.

The market change is happening now. It’s not future-speak.

Everything about Matt’s focus is on the future. Not how do we get to the next step, but rather how do we approach the steps beyond that one. If you have some time, make sure to catch this panel from Startup Health that focuses on Digital Disruption to Improve Patient Lives.

Matt will be joining a distinguished group of doctors, healthcare innovators, and other investors as we cultivate an environment of learning focused on better understanding and capitalization of healthcare innovations. Join us at AngelMD’s Alpha Conference, and help shape the future of healthcare.

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Alpha Speaker Spotlight – Rasu Shrestha

While everyone around AngelMD is passionate about bringing innovation to healthcare, we get excited when new ideas surrounding innovation come to light. Rasu Shrestha is a Radiologist by trade, and he serves as the Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). He posits that the focus of innovation should be on making the technology invisible, but that doing so will require a change in our behavior. Rasu will be joining us at AngelMD’s Alpha Conference, held in Napa, California from January 5th – 7th.

We’ve quite blindly moved from analog into digital by moving everything that was analog into the digital form factor.

It doesn’t take long to understand the premise of Rasu’s theory — what we’ve done is good, but how we’ve done it needs improvement. In a recent talk with Redox, he states that it’s not enough to just have good data, but that the data needs to be translated into knowledge, and then knowledge into insight. It’s only by freeing these data silos that we’ve created that we’ll be able to enable clinicians to influence behavior changes.

His second point in the Redox interview is one that strikes home for us at AngelMD. “The future of healthcare is going to be built on the strongest of partnerships.” This is something that we not only believe internally, but also facilitate through our network of physicians, investors, and startups. We truly believe that we don’t pick winners, we help create them. Beyond that, we know the power of partnerships through our work with the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the American College of Cardiology.

You’ve probably seen Rasu’s work around the Internet, or you might have seen him speaking at an innovation-related event. He’s also a prolific sharer of information via his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, so make sure to follow him ahead of his talk at Alpha. We look forward to what he has to share and picking his brain on the topic of innovation in healthcare.

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