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The Singapore office of PwC, aka PricewaterhouseCoopers, and HealthTech Arkansas are working together to bring startups from Singapore to Arkansas for clinical trials and pilot projects with 11 health care providers.
The first startup will come after a monthslong process. So, for now, the coronavirus outbreak is not expected to affect these plans, said HealthTech Arkansas Director Jeff Stinson.
HealthTech Arkansas is an accelerator and investment fund connecting providers with early-stage health companies with disruptive technologies. Its focus is on digital health (software), medical evices and diagnostic platforms. m
The 11 providers the organization works with are Arkansas Heart Hospital, Arkansas Children’s, Arkansas Urology, Baptist Health, CHI St. Vincent, Conway Regional, Mercy, St. Bernards Healthcare, OrthoArkansas, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Washington Regional Medical Center.
The organization’s core offering is its accelerator. Applications for the third year of that program are being accepted now, Stinson said. It is the only accelerator in the country that guarantees pilot projects to participants, he said. In fact, they are guaranteed at least two pilot projects. Each participant receives an initial investment of $75,000 as well.
“Hospital engagement is really important for early-stage companies,” Stinson said. “We just get an exceptional quality of companies that come into Arkansas every year to work with us. It also is the reason that PricewaterhouseCoopers in Singapore was attracted to working with us, because of that clinical engagement.”
He called it “just another way for [providers] to see new technologies that may benefit their operations in some way, either enhancing quality of care, making our health care providers more efficient or bringing them additional revenue.”
Five or six companies will be selected for the 2020 program. Last year, 170 companies from 18 countries applied; six were selected, the same as in 2018.
Stinson said the Singapore deal came about when one of the investors in the HealthTech Arkansas fund introduced the two organizations to each other.
Under the partnership, PwC Singapore will send information on startups of its Venture Hub, and HealthTech Arkansas will review that data. If the companies are a fit for providers here, connections are made. Then the pilot projects or clinical trials will commence.
“We are very excited for this first-of-its-kind cooperation, which is specially designed to be beneficial for healthtech startups and will help to grow the healthtech capabilities in PwC Singapore’s Venture Hub,” Dr. Zubin Daruwalla, health industries leader at PwC Singapore, said in a news release.
“This cooperation will not only provide our healthtech portfolio companies and startups that successfully complete the tailored programs we run for them with direct access to potential pilot projects and/or clinical trials, but also provide support to bridge the gap between the U.S. and [Asian-Pacific] regions,” he said. “This will enable healthtech startups to have greater access to the required and experienced support from both a business and clinical perspective.”
Stinson called the partnership with PwC Singapore a “parallel effort” to the accelerator. The Singapore companies won’t be participating in the accelerator but will do what the accelerator companies do. Already, three companies are being reviewed by HealthTech Arkansas, he said, and one of those, a medical device company, “has potential.”
Through his organization’s efforts, Arkansas is not only gaining access to new health care technologies but also gaining jobs, Stinson said.
HealthTech Arkansas aims to “engage the startup companies with enough of our health care providers here inside the state so that they will need to hire employees here,” he said.
Stinson said most of the accelerator participants are “pretty far along” and based in large metropolitan areas on the coasts, so the expectation is not that they’ll move their headquarters or open a location in Arkansas.
Stinson said his organization is playing a long game, because it never stops working with companies as long as the companies are around and want its help.
“We have put Arkansas on the map with respect to health care innovation. So not only do you have PricewaterhouseCoopers in Singapore who wants to partner with us, we’ve just recently been approached by another Eastern European entity that wants to do the same sort of thing,” he said.
“We have a lot of momentum right now. And we’re just going to keep leveraging that to drive health care innovation inside the state.”