DaVita alum raises $11M for kidney care company from some heavy hitters

Somatus Inc., a kidney care startup founded by a former executive of dialysis giant DaVita HealthCare Partners, raised $11 million in series B funding with support from some heavy hitters including former Obama administration official Andy Slavitt. 

Vienna, Virginia-based Somatus, created to bring a value-based approach to kidney care, is seeking to expand its technology capabilities and its reach into additional markets. It was co-founded by CEO Ikenna Okezie, M.D., who most recently served as group vice president at Colorado-based DaVita and in management roles at D.C.-based The Advisory Board Co. and McKinsey & Co. 

The funding round was led by Boston-based Flare Capital Partners and included investments from BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, a corporate venture fund program which includes commitments from 34 BCBS entities worth more than $550 million.

Investors also include Falls Church, Virginia-based Inova Health System and a new innovation firm founded by Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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Leadership for Somatus also includes co-founder and Chairman Tony Welters, former executive vice president of UnitedHealthGroup's public and senior markets group. Ramon Mendez, M.D., vice president of medical affairs, is a board-certified nephrologist.

"If wealthy people were the ones primarily on dialysis, it would have evolved years ago into a more humane and higher quality way of caring for people with chronic kidney disease. Instead we have spent decades and hundreds of billions of dollars on an antiquated care system," said Slavitt, who is also a Somatus board member. "Somatus aims to change all of this one patient at a time, one population at a time, and one innovation at a time. These are the types of entrepreneurs we all need to make successful." 

The company is working in an area that is a massive target for innovation in the healthcare market. Health and Human Services officials have called kidney disease a key focus area, saying Medicare spends more on kidney dialysis than it does on the entire budget for NASA or the Department of Commerce, MobiHealthNews reported.

Last week, CVSHealth announced a new initiative to target chronic kidney disease, saying it is working on developing a home-based hemodialysis device in addition to improving patient education about kidney health. Nearly 700,000 Americans have end-stage renal disease, which costs Medicare almost $65 billion a year for chronic kidney disease care and an additional $34 billion related to dialysis patient care, according to the company’s figures.