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The Digital Health Revolution: Growing a New Economic Cluster in Massachusetts

As a global leader in life sciences, Massachusetts is poised to revolutionize healthcare with an emerging industry known as digital health.


June 15, 2017

Ever wonder what the future of healthcare looks like? One thing we know for sure: it will be a lot more digital.

Today’s entrepreneurs are applying different digital technologies to solve a range of problems in the healthcare system, such as patient adherence, access to medical care and records, and health data collection. From apps that help kids with chronic conditions remember to take their medicines, to devices that can help detect a major medical event before it happens, healthcare’s digital transformation is empowering patients with information and raising the standard of care for everyone.

Massachusetts is perfectly positioned to become a hub for this new economic cluster. With some of the world’s top biotech’s, universities, research centers, teaching hospitals and entrepreneurs collaborating within the same innovation ecosystem, we can make our state the premier location to start and grow a digital healthcare company.

Jeff Leiden awards the $100,000 Diamond Award to SyncThink, Inc. at the PULSE Finale on Tuesday, June 13.

That’s exactly what a group of Massachusetts leaders set out to do with the Digital Healthcare Initiative. Led by our CEO Jeff Leiden and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, the public-private partnership is designed to accelerate the competitiveness of the state’s digital healthcare industry by addressing four high-impact areas of need. One of those components is PULSE@MassChallenge, a startup accelerator focused exclusively on digital health companies. After six months of mentorship with “champion” companies like Vertex to turn their ideas into reality, the inaugural cohort of startups was celebrated at the PULSE Finale event earlier this week.

“The 31 startups and more than 80 partner companies that worked with them in the first year of PULSE perfectly demonstrate the impact of an ecosystem coming together to support its newest members and the tremendous innovations that can emerge from that community to improve human health,” said Jeff Leiden before awarding the grand prize at Tuesday’s PULSE Finale. “And I have to give a special shout out to the two startups we worked with this year and are so impressed by – Wizdy Games and Emerald Innovations.”

Vertex partnered with two of these startups, Wizdy Games and Emerald Innovations, because they wanted to leverage our leadership in cystic fibrosis (CF) to adapt their technologies to help the CF community. Mentors from various functions across Vertex provided guidance, resources and support to enable the companies to expand into this new market.

Wizdy Games

Wizdy Games is using mobile gaming apps to educate and empower kids to adopt healthy behaviors. The team already has two apps on the market, Wizdy Pets and Wizdy Diner, which teach kids pediatrician-approved asthma and food allergy care. Our goal is to co-develop an educational app for kids with CF to help them better understand the disease and how to manage it. We’re continuing to partner with Wizdy after the PULSE program ends to successfully bring this app to the market.

Emerald Innovations

The team at Emerald is changing the way a person’s movements outside of the hospital are monitored and analyzed, without using a wearable. The MIT-born technology looks and works like a Wi-Fi router. It tracks the 3D motion of a person, even if they’re in a different room. Currently, Emerald is applying the technology to detect a fall of an elderly person who lives alone. However, the technology can also sense coughs, sleep apnea and other breathing incidents that are correlated with CF symptoms. The Emerald team met with stakeholders across Vertex and visited a local clinical site to develop a validation study for their device in monitoring cough during sleep.