Propeller Health Raises $14.5M for Its Respiratory Disease Sensors

9/4/14Follow @XconomyWI

Propeller Health is already seen as one of the up-and-coming startups based in Madison, WI, having landed several million dollars from primarily West Coast investors and contracts with healthcare systems in major markets around the country.

Now, the company—which makes data-collecting devices that snap on to inhalers used by asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients—plans to take things to the next level, thanks to $14.5 million in Series B funding announced today.

The round was led by Wayne, PA-based Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE: SFE), with participation by Series A investor The Social+Capital Partnership, based in Palo Alto, CA. Propeller, formerly known as Asthmapolis, says it has raised $23 million in total funding since its 2010 founding.

“Propeller Health has positioned itself at the intersection of diagnostics and data-driven outcomes management—an area in which Safeguard sees tremendous opportunity,” says Gary Kurtzman, Safeguard senior vice president and managing director of healthcare.

Propeller says its system—which combines sensors, mobile apps, analytics, and individualized feedback for patients and their caregivers—can help lower healthcare costs associated with asthma and COPD by helping patients and doctors better understand the diseases, predict attacks, and reduce hospitalizations.

Propeller Health CEO David Van Sickle“Propeller delivers a new approach to chronic respiratory disease, long known for burdensome self-management and persistently high rates of preventable healthcare utilization,” co-founder and CEO David Van Sickle (pictured) says. “In the last year, individuals, physicians, and healthcare organizations have increasingly recognized the therapeutic potential of digital tools for improving adherence and outcomes.”

Propeller doesn’t say how many devices it has sold, but it currently has 15 partnerships with healthcare organizations around the country, including in California, Arizona, New York, Florida, and Kentucky. Propeller targets communities with environmental triggers for respiratory disease attacks, such as poor air quality, and regions where there’s a high concentration of respiratory disease patients, who perhaps moved there because of a favorable climate, Van Sickle says.

“This fundraising marks that turning point where we’re now ready to grow beyond the initial wave of customers we’ve had, to broader implementation and bigger programs,” Van Sickle says.

Propeller is also using the money to expand its team. The company currently employs 25 people in Madison, seven in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one each in Chicago and Nashville. It expects to add staff in product design, engineering, sales, and other departments, chief marketing officer Erica St. Angel says.

Chris HoggPropeller also has hired Chris Hogg (pictured left) to lead its San Francisco office as the company’s chief operating officer. Hogg previously was co-founder and CEO of 100Plus, a mobile health company purchased by Practice Fusion last year.

Besides investing in more staff and increased sales efforts, Propeller plans to spend more on R&D, Van Sickle says. That includes designing more sensors that can work with the full spectrum of respiratory disease medications that are on the market and in development.

“The respiratory pipeline is pretty active,” Van Sickle says. “We obviously want to be in front of that and be there to support a patient, regardless of what type of inhaled medication they end up buying.”

Propeller is wrapping up a 500-person randomized control trial in California to test the company’s product with asthma patients. The study started in April 2012, and the results are expected to be published later this year, Van Sickle says.

Jeff Engel is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @XconomyWI