10 pioneering health-tech start-ups set to have a global impact

1 Aug 2019

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The World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers of 2019 lists 10 innovative health companies tackling global healthcare issues.

The Technology Pioneers of 2019 represent a collection of 56 early to growth-stage companies identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as trailblazers of new technologies and innovations.

Among this year’s pioneers are 10 health companies poised to have a significant impact on business and society with their cutting-edge ideas. “This year’s pioneers know that technology is about more than innovation – it is also about application. This is why we believe they’ll shape the future,” said Fulvia Montresor, head of Technology Pioneers at the WEF.

All 56 Technology Pioneers were celebrated at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions in July, and a select few will also attend the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos in January 2020. They will continue to participate in a two-year programme with the Forum, collaborating with emerging tech fellows, engaging with industry and working with global experts.

7 Cups

Psychologist Dr Glen Moriarty founded 7 Cups in 2013 to tackle mental health challenges by providing support to underserved populations worldwide. After presenting at the summer 2013 Y Combinator Demo Day, the company was selected among the top start-ups of the event by TechCrunch.

The US-headquartered company provides anonymous, anytime emotional support over the web and via a smartphone app using gold-standard therapeutic protocols, adaptive machine learning, and a combination of 180 professional therapists and 340,000 trained volunteers operating in 189 countries. Though the inclusion of non-professional ‘listeners’ on the service has been considered “controversial”, 7 Cups claims to have helped more than 25m people by providing broadly accessible support.

Coeo Labs

Coeo Labs founders Nachiket Deval and Nitesh K Jangir were inspired by a 2014 clinical-needs analysis programme at a hospital in Bengaluru. Their medtech company has since developed two world-first medical devices and raised close to $1m in funding.

VAPCare reduces the risk of a deadly infection called ventilator associated pneumonia, which can occur after endotracheal intubation. It keeps the airways of intubated patients clear of secretions with the help of AI and sensors.

Meanwhile, Saans is a neonatal breathing support device for premature babies that can be deployed in low-resource settings where the electricity and compressed gases needed for traditional machines are in short supply.


According to the World Health Organization, Africa bears 24pc of the global burden of disease but is home to only 3pc of health workers. DabaDoc, one of two African companies to be recognised as a 2019 Technology Pioneer, attempts to bridge this gap by connecting millions of patients with thousands of doctors across the continent.

Founded in 2014 by Zineb and Driss Drissi-Kaitouni, the Morocco-based health-tech start-up uses tele-health technology, machine learning for health education, and partnerships with key private and public stakeholders to make the most of limited human and capital resources.


Holmusk is also tackling global mental health issues, this time by leveraging data. Its mission is to build the world’s largest real-world evidence (RWE) platform that – through machine learning, deep learning and digital tools – can inform the provision of care and research into new treatments. This proprietary technology could also be harnessed to analyse RWE across other health concerns such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Founded in 2015 by CEO Nawal Roy, Holmusk is headquartered in Singapore with offices in New York, Shanghai, London, Malaysia and North Carolina.


Health data can help advance medical science, and so US company LunaPBC provides a people-powered data-sharing platform – LunaDNA – that transforms individuals from study subjects into research partners. This private and transparent data-sharing platform aims to ensure broad representation in research data and gives those who share their data ownership control as well as shares in LunaDNA.

Founded in 2017 by Dawn Barry (president), Bob Kain (CEO) and David Lewis (CFO), LunaPBC’s Technology Pioneer recognition comes following a $4.6m funding announcement from VCs including Arch Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures and F-Prime Capital.

MeMed Diagnostics

With a quick and simple blood test, MeMed Diagnostics transforms treatment of infectious disease. The tool translates complex immune signals to give patients a clearer diagnosis. A crucial application of the technology is in classifying infections as either bacterial or viral. This is a vital distinction, informing the method of treatment that should be used.

Co-founded by Dr Eran Eden and Dr Kfir Oved, and headquartered in Haifa, Israel, MeMed has to date raised more than $70m in support of its goal to combat overuse of antibiotics and resistant bacteria. The company has won multiple highly competitive contracts and awards from the US Department of Defense and the European Commission, totalling more than $25m.


San Francisco-based start-up Openwater is changing how we treat the human body and brain. Until now, patients have been dependent on heavy duty imaging facilities such as MRI, CT and PET scanners, all of which typically come at a multimillion-dollar cost. CEO and founder Mary Lou Jepsen believes Openwater can rival those pricey systems with high-resolution and high-quality images at a lower cost. Its revolutionary technology could also empower patients to progress their treatment at home.

Jepsen was named as one of Forbes’ top 50 women in tech in 2018. She has previously worked in Facebook, Oculus, Google X and Intel, and has founded four start-ups.

Sky Labs

Sky Labs is developing Cart, a wearable cardiac tracker that identifies arrhythmia. Arrhythmia refers to an irregular heartbeat that, despite being a common disease, is difficult to detect. Its detection and treatment are important as it can negatively impact quality of life and, in some cases, can lead to stroke or heart failure.

Jack Lee is the company’s founder and CEO. His previous endeavours include leading the development of 5G cellular communication technology when working in R&D with Samsung. Sky Labs is based in Seongnam-si in South Korea.

Spring Health

This New York start-up, co-founded by April Koh, began in the psychiatry department at Yale University. Spring Health challenges the perception that with mental healthcare, one size fits all. Using precision technology, it seeks to accurately predict the right treatment at the right time, improving recovery for patients.

Spring Health delivers its solutions to employers as a digital platform. It enables a two-times higher recovery rate, shorter recovery times and lower healthcare costs.

After completing a short assessment, employees receive a personalised, evidence-based treatment plan that could include any combination of exercise, digital cognitive behavioural therapy, in-person therapy, medication or more.


Also dedicated to improving patient lives through personalised therapies is Vineti, a software solution harnessing simplicity, compliance and patient safety in what is typically a complex medical field. Offering next-generation technology that helps advanced cell and gene therapies, Vineti holds promise for transforming the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Though based in San Francisco, the company is rapidly expanding and currently supports hundreds of leading medical centres worldwide.

According to Crunchbase, Vineti has raised a total of $47.3m in funding. Among its impressive backdrop of investors is Deloitte, which Vineti teamed up with on their Patient Connect platform.

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