7 start-ups transforming the world of healthcare

9 Jul 2020

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This week, we take a look at the solutions developed by this year’s World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers in the areas of health and healthcare.

It has now been more than six months since the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of Covid-19 to be a public health emergency of international concern.

In the months since that announcement, there has been a huge focus on the topics of health and healthcare, both when it comes to Covid-19 and many other conditions affecting public health.

There has, perhaps, been no other time in modern history in which efficient and accessible healthcare has been a more relevant topic.

With all of this in mind, the World Economic Forum (WEF) announced its Technology Pioneers for 2020 in the fields of health and healthcare in June. The seven start-ups selected by the WEF are innovating in health and creating medtech solutions focusing on a range of different issues, from diseases with unmet needs to digital health platforms.

Ada Health

Ada Health is a Berlin-based start-up that was founded by Claire Novorol, Martin Hirsch and Daniel Nathrath in 2011. Outside of its two offices in Berlin, the company has bases in Munich, London and New York.

Ada Health was founded by doctors and scientists to create a system connecting medical knowledge with artificial intelligence to help users actively manage their health. The firm asks simple, relevant questions and compares answers to thousands of similar cases to help find explanations for symptoms.

Ada Health currently employees around 200, including 60 in-house medical professionals. Since the firm was founded in 2011, it has raised more than €60m in funding and attracted 10m users who have completed 15m health assessments.


CureApp is a digital therapeutics start-up based in Tokyo. In 2015, the start-up launched a nicotine addiction treatment app that was jointly developed with the division of pulmonary medicine at Keio University’s School of Medicine. Outside of its Tokyo headquarters, CureApp also has an office in Sunnyvale, California.

In recent years, CureApp has changed its mission and now aims to create a world where everyone has equal access to high-quality treatment, without worrying about money. The firm develops evidence-based therapeutics interventions – or prescription digital therapeutics – for patients who suffer from conditions where conventional treatment methods with drugs or devices were not effective.

CureApp believes that digital therapeutics represent access to intervention schemes that have no physical limitations, as they can take place at home and outside of business hours. The firm offers personalised intervention through evidence-based guidance promoting cognitive and behavioural changes.

Genetron Health

Genetron Health is a Beijing-based start-up focusing on precision oncology, with a focus on transforming the existing approach to cancer care in China. It aims to make precision health a basic right for diagnosed cancer patients.

The company was founded in 2015 by Han Yan and is currently led by Sizhen Wang.

The start-up was recognised by the WEF for its technological breakthroughs in molecular diagnostics and early screening.

Genetron’s portfolio spans foundational research to commercialisation, anchored by research and development centres in the US and China, along with partnerships with hospitals and institutes.


Lunit was founded in Seoul in 2013, by Anthony Paek, Donggeun Yoo, Jungin Lee, Kyunghyun Paeng, Minhong Jang and Sunggyun Park. The start-up is developing advanced software for medical data analysis and interpretation through deep learning technology, specialising in processing medical imaging data.

The company believes that its solution can help physicians make accurate and consistent clinical decisions through a data-driven imaging biomarker technology. With its AI technology, Lunit wants to make data-driven medicine the new standard of care, with a focus on diagnosing cancer.

Lunit’s AI software for diagnostics, entitled Insight, is currently being used clinically in countries around the world such as Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, China, Thailand and South Korea. Investors in the start-up include SoftBank Ventures Korea, Formation 8 and Legend Capital.

Sherlock Biosciences

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sherlock Biosciences is a molecular diagnostics start-up that was founded by David R Walt, Deborah Hung, Feng Zhang, Jim Collins, Jonthan Gootenberg, Omar Abudayyeh, Pardis Sabeti, Rahul Dhanda and Todd Golub.

Since it was founded in 2019, the firm has closed a $31m Series A round and has received a further $25m in grants. Sherlock Biosciences has developed a platform it calls Engineering Biology to help deliver faster, more accurate and more affordable diagnostics.

The start-up aims to address the unmet needs in infectious disease, oncology, agriculture and other areas to transform diagnostic testing and public health, through a solution that can be used in low-resource settings, homes, industrial settings and hospitals.

Verge Genomics

Verge Genomics was founded by Alice Zhang and Jason Chen in 2015. Based in San Francisco, the start-up is using machine learning and human genomics to accelerate drug discovery for diseases with large unmet needs.

Verge Genomics is taking advantage of the lowering cost of sequencing genomes to create proprietary datasets from human samples.

Some of the diseases it is currently trying to gain a greater understanding of include motor neurone disease, frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

To discover drugs suitable for treating these conditions, the start-up uses the same technological breakthroughs that power Google’s search engines to map out the hundreds of genes that cause each disease and find drugs that target all the genes at once.


Also headquartered in San Francisco is Vim, a healthcare technology platform founded by Asaf David, Oron Afek and Yael Peled in 2015. Backed by Seqouia and GreatPoint Ventures, Vim curates networks of healthcare providers and connects them with patients.

The solution helps patients find doctors that best fit their needs, provides a booking solution and helps providers benefit from value-based contracts without the cost and administrative complexity of traditional programmes.

Vim aims to reduce the unwarranted variation in the US healthcare system to be on par with comparable OECD countries on a per capita basis. The platform also enables healthcare providers to analyse referral patterns and make value-driven decisions for their businesses.

Updated, 10.30am, 10 August 2020: This article was updated to remove founder information about CureApp, because Siliconrepublic.com could not confirm these details.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic