New SXSW Interactive Event To Focus On Nexus Of Cancer And Tech

Austin—South By Southwest Interactive is adding another healthcare-related event, reflecting a growing emphasis on the intersection between technology and the life sciences.

The “Connect to End Cancer” event is a joint project between the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health, both based in Houston. Organizers are scouting for startups innovating in areas like patient engagement and experience, clinical trials management, cybersecurity.

“For us, it is all about connecting patients, physicians, hospitals, and devices so that we can help improve treatment and research,” says Nadia Morris, head of innovation at AT&T’s Foundry. “The more we can do to understand healthcare challenges, and to remove obstacles impeding the technology to make healthcare jobs easier, the more they can focus on ending cancer.”

The expectation is that some of the chosen startups will present to investors at the cancer function. But it’s more than a pitch event; the program itself is scheduled to be made up of panel discussions on digital health needs in cancer care, fundraising and venture investment opportunities, and a look at how wearables and virtual care can play a role in treating cancer patients.

Health-related topics are playing a growing role at the annual South By Southwest Interactive festival, which first introduced such programming in 2011. By March 2015, interest and the local innovation ecosystem had grown. (One key development was the launch of the new Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.) At that point, it had become apparent that events like a pitch contest for startups in pediatric health could attract emcees like Mark Cuban, the tech billionaire and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. The Texas Medical Center hosted a reception at the festival last March, marking its official debut in Austin and a high-profile union of the healthcare communities in Houston and Texas’ capital city.

This year, the Health & MedTech Expo, which started as a standalone event two years ago in a hotel offsite, will be combined with SXSW Interactive’s main trade show. “Healthcare has become mainstream enough to be part of the larger technology conversation,” says Dana Abramovitz, a business development liaison for the health expo.

Next year’s SXSW Interactive runs from March 10 to March 19. Applications for the Connect to End Cancer event are due Feb. 10.

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