There’s Less Pie in the Sky as Wireless Health Gets Connected

5/30/13Follow @bvbigelow

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30 percent, from $970 million in 2011 to $1.4 billion in 2012.

Of the $1.4 billion invested in 2012, Qualcomm Life has been the most active investor, according to Don Jones, a Qualcomm Life executive who co-founded the WLSA and now serves as chairman. Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) has not disclosed exactly how much it has invested in digital health startups, but Jones also noted that Walgreens and Aetna have each embarked on multi-million dollar efforts to develop software for health-related applications.

The increase also has been evident at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jones said. “CES went from no [digital health] exhibitors three years ago to over 300 exhibitors in a dedicated pavilion this year.”

“Another big trend of the last 12 months is that big pharmacy is here, and they’re building real products,” Jones said. While Johnson & Johnson has been involved since the early years of the WLSA, Sanofi, Roche, and Lilly have begun to commit substantial resources to R&D in connected health over the past year. “If they were here before, they were just kicking the tires,” Jones said.

Another trend emerging in recent years is in basic research, where dedicated R&D centers have been proliferating. In addition to UCLA, the University of Southern California, UC San Diego, and San Diego’s West Health Institute, Jones said UC San Francisco, Harvard University, Cornell University, and Georgia Institute of Technology have all established R&D centers focused on connected health in recent years.

The phase change became especially clear during a series of presentations yesterday afternoon in a session billed as “Business Models Built to Last—Perspectives from Early Stage Successes.” In each case, the technology innovation addressed real problems and the CEOs outlined sound and practical business strategies:

FitLinxx, founded in 1993 and based in Shelton, CT, has expanded from its core expertise in developing computerized exercise tracking systems to providing wellness programs that include wireless activity monitors and Web applications. The Pebble, designed for … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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