Entrepreneurs and innovators encouraged to pitch for HealthXL’s ‘Moonshots’

5 Jun 2014

Pictured: Martin Kelly from HealthXL with Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

The HealthXL Global Gathering in Dublin set out ambitious ‘moonshots’ in health technology, and now wants start-ups to pitch their ideas. Claire O’Connell was there.

The meeting was organised by HealthXL, an initiative to bring together innovators and industry leaders in order to change the rate of innovation in healthcare. 

The HealthXL Global Gathering in Dublin saw more than 200 individuals from 17 countries discuss challenges facing healthcare and how technology can help to overcome them, explains HealthXL CEO Martin Kelly, who stresses the need to act quickly.   

“Our strategic partners are 10 of the biggest global firms in the industry with a combined market cap of over $500B who are helping to drive these moonshots,” he says. “We have a unique opportunity to become a global hub for Digital Health but we need to move from talking to action quickly or we lose this advantage.”

Shooting for the moon

To stake out the moonshots, around 60 of the delegates from the worlds of healthcare, technology and investment met in Icon in Leopardstown last week, where they spent much of the day discussing challenges and solutions in the areas of big data, health monitoring and behavioural change.

The resulting moonshots were announced the following day at the Gathering’s main symposium at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

The Big Data moonshot, which is to increase life expectancy and quality of life through big data, prompted discussions about the sheer scale of information that is becoming available from sources such as wearable monitoring devices and the need to make sense of the information in a way that is clinically relevant.

The Remote Monitoring moonshot is to monitor ‘any time, any place, anyone’ with an emphasis on ‘providing synchronous and seamless monitoring from conception to end of life regardless of the time, place, person or device’ – though the word ‘remote’ was dropped to highlight that the person bring monitored should be at the centre of the process. And finally, the Behaviour Change moonshot is looking to keep millions of hearts beating younger, stronger and longer.

“We selected the moonshot approach because we believe healthcare faces a number of grand challenges that we know we need to solve, but don’t know how to solve them yet,” explains Kelly. “We will only make progress by bringing together these different groups.”


With the moonshots now drawn up, HealthXL is inviting innovators (whether start-ups, entrepreneurs or corporates) to apply and pitch their ideas about how they can help in the effort to reach these far-reaching goals. 

To apply you need to submit a 60 second video before July 15 (video guidelines and application details are here). Those selected for the next round will be asked for a longer presentation and the finalists will get to present to ‘a panel of experts and an audience of thought leaders in the digital health space’ in San Francisco in September. Ultimately, the HealthXL strategic partners will provide the entrepreneurs who are invited into the program with access to patients, expertise, data and commercial connections.

So what advice does HealthXL CEO Kelly have to start-ups who think they can contribute to one of the moonshots and are looking to enter the competition? “Share your passion,” he counsels.  “Tell us how your project can help us move closer to our moonshots and what you need from HealthXL and our partners to make this a reality.”


As well as pronouncing the moonshots, the HealthXL Global Gathering heard from the finalists from HealthXL’s Healthees competition. Representatives from Asia Pacific, Latin America and Africa each spoke about why their region of the world is the best for innovation in digital healthcare. 

Founder of healthystartups.com Jason Berek-Lewis from Australia spoke of the challenges posed by “massive disparities in terms of access to care” and made the case that Asia Pac is the “engine room” for building mobile devices that can help deliver solutions. “We are not going to train enough doctors to provide healthcare services, we are not going to be able to build massive hospitals in third world countries,” he told the audience. “But we can provide opportunities for people to access healthcare through mobile phones.”

Health Informatics and telehealth specialist Professor Magdala de Araújo Novaes made the case for Latin America, but it was Dr Byrite Asamoah, CEO of Vantage Medical Solutions, who won the inaugural Healthees award with his talk on the challenges and potential opportunities for mobile and digital health in Africa.

New perspectives on Ireland

The HealthXL Global Gathering also offered delegates the chance to see a bit of what Ireland has to offer – as well as social events, there was a trip to the Science Gallery to see the current exhibition Fat: It’s Delicious

Delegate Lisa Suennen, managing partner of Venture Valkyrie Consulting, offers an entertaining and insightful roundup on her blog.

Dr Claire O’Connell is a scientist-turned-writer with a PhD in cell biology and a master’s in science communication