Wireless-Life Sciences Investor Meeting Puts Innovation on Stage—Boston Sleep Company Zeo Claims a Top Prize

Xconomy San Diego — 

As Qualcomm’s vice president of health and life sciences and as chairman of the San Diego-based Wireless Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA), Don Jones is attuned to subtle disturbances in the field of mobile health. He tells me that one of the auspicious signals for the still-emerging industry is that the 200 people who registered for the Wireless-Life Sciences Investor Meeting yesterday in La Jolla nearly doubled last year’s attendance. He also notes that more companies sought to make presentations at the conference, and the quality of those selected also has improved.

“The maturity level of the companies have improved, and the stories have improved,” Jones says. “Their business models also have become more and more rational. In the early years, we had companies with new technologies but no business plans.”

The investor conference marks the first day of a three-day WLSA Convergence Summit that continues through Thursday. In the early years of the WLSA Investor Meeting—circa 2006—the conference consisted of maybe 40 people sitting around a table, says Rob McCray, who became the WLSA’s first president and CEO earlier this year. Although he can’t offer any data just yet, McCray contends that 2010 will mark the first year in the development of a new industry that uses wireless technologies to improve healthcare by lowering costs and enhancing patient treatment, health, and safety.

The WLSA, a non-profit trade group, invited 12 mobile health companies to make presentations about new technologies they are developing in three categories: clinical applications; operational effectiveness; and consumer experience. The group issued an award to one company in each category “to continue to raise awareness of wireless healthcare and of the WLSA,” according to Peter Erickson of TripleTree, the Minneapolis-area investment banking firm that sponsors the awards. The presentations also offer a cross-section of the type of innovations now underway in mobile health. So here is a roundup, with the award winner noted for each category:

Best Clinical Applications

—AirStrip Technologies of San Antonio, TX, is developing technologies that enable doctors to view certain patient vital signs usually available only on hospital bedside monitors. AirStrip senior vice president Layne Haney says one FDA-cleared application allows a doctor to view the historic and real-time fetal heart tracings and maternal contraction patterns of labor on any handheld mobile device.

—Calgary Scientific of Calgary, Canada, has developed PureWeb, a cloud-based software platform with a unified user interface and a related suite of advanced software that processes diagnostic medical images. Co-founder and CEO Byron Osing says the technology can be used to retrieve medical imaging data from any standard web browser.

—Ocutronics, based in the Los Angeles area, has developed a handheld camera that can be used by primary care physicians to take retinal images through the undilated pupils of a patient’s eyes as part of a routine exam. Co-founder Robert Levine says the camera transmits the images to a Web-based system where they can be viewed by an opthalmologist for signs of diabetes-related blindness and macular degeneration.

—CortiCare, of San Diego, provides remote and continuous electroencephalography monitoring of patients admitted to a hospital intensive care unit for signs of micro-seizures. President Brad Wescott says CortiCare uses its EEG equipment to transmit patient’s signals to a centralized monitoring center.

The best clinical application award was bestowed on Calgary Scientific for technology that integrates imaging data from various health IT systems.

Best Operational Effectiveness Solutions

—CellTrak of Schaumberg, IL, has developed a Web-based visit manager system that enables home health care agencies to track caregiver visits and ensure that they have provided required services to patients at home and hospices. Senior vice president Scott Hermann says CellTrak’s software as a service transforms a caregiver’s cell phone into a point-of-care monitoring and compliance device.

—InnerWireless of Richardson, TX, provides comprehensive wireless technology installed in hospitals, casinos, and other buildings to ensure that every type of wireless technology works inside the complex. CEO Ed Cantwell says the carrier-agnostic platform assures wireless coverage, signal strength, capacity, and continuity in buildings where wireless service is “mission critical and life critical.”

—PerfectServe of Knoxville, TN, has developed a Web-based clinical communication system that enables caregivers at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities to quickly and efficiently exchange information with the appropriate attending physician. CEO Terrell Edwards says the software as a service routes calls or messages to doctors based on rules provided by the physicians themselves.

—PharmaSecure, based in India and Cavendish, NH, provides products and services that help pharmaceutical manufacturers deter drug counterfeiting. By printing a code on prescription drug blister packs, co-founder and CEO Sarah Hine says PharmaSecure enables patients to send a text message, using the code to get an automated reply that verifies the drugs are authentic. She says counterfeit drugs in India claim hundreds of thousands of lives annually and take between 10 and 20 percent of drug manufacturers’ revenue in the $50 billion market.

The best operational effectiveness award went to CellTrak. “This is not as sexy as some of the other companies,” TripleTree’s Erickson says, “But at the end of the day, it really solves a pain point, which is in home healthcare.”

Best Consumer Experience

—hopskipconnect, a Boston-area company, has developed a Web-based service that transmits timely, contextual, and personalized messages for any mobile device that are designed to motivate and encourage patient compliance in nutrition, exercise, and related health programs. CEO Rick Lee says a hypertension pilot program conducted with EMC in 2008 helped to reduce high blood pressure among employees in the test group.

—Great Connections, which was started in Sweden and moved to San Diego last week, has developed technology that transmits ultrasound and X-ray medical images to any mobile device. Co-founder and CEO Asa Nordgren says, “You can have a crappy ol’ clamshell phone and it works.”

—ZMQ Software Systems, a software development company based in New Delhi, India, uses online gaming to promote healthy behavior by delivering messages, for example, about safe sex to prevent the spread of HIV. The company’s chief technology officer, Hilmi Quaishi, did not make a scheduled appearance.

—Zeo, a Newton, MA, company that has developed a lightweight wireless headband device that monitors the user’s quality of sleep. CEO David Dickinson says the gadget transmits data to a bedside display, and the company provides web-based analytical tools and e-mails personalized coaching advice to help users improve the quality of their sleep.

The best consumer award went to Zeo. As TripleTree’s Erickson put it, “Sleep is both a driver of behavior and a consequence of behavior at the same time. Sleep is something that is becoming more and more germane to every therapy.” Zeo will be presenting again on June 17 at XSITE 2010, the Xconomy Summit on Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship in Wellesley, MA.