American Heart Association, UPMC, Philips launch $30M venture fund for cardiovascular health startups

AHA, UPMC and Philips are investing $30 million in a venture fund to improve cardiac and stroke management. (Getty/Prykhodov)

The American Heart Association is teaming up with an academic medical center and a device manufacturer to launch a venture capital fund aimed at mobile solutions designed to improve cardiac health.

AHA, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Philips launched Cardeation Capital on Thursday, with each organization committing an initial investment of $10 million. The venture fund, managed by Aphelion Capital, pulls together three organizations that operate in different sectors of the healthcare industry to identify healthcare technology companies developing new and innovative tools.

The venture firm is already has some initial investments in mind, according to AHA CEO Nancy Brown. Broadly, the groups plan to focus on newer, grassroots technology as well as midstage companies that have demonstrated proof of concept viability for manage heart disease and stroke. Consumer-focused mobile apps that improve medication management or help monitor cholesterol may be of particular interest.

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RELATED: Former CMS administrator Andy Slavitt starts venture capital firm

“One of the most important things we think about at AHA is we can’t just invest in and create new discoveries that are only going to impact those that have access or influence to be able to afford expensive new tools and resources,” Brown told FierceHealthcare. “We need to really change the healthcare system so it benefits everyone.”

For UPMC, the partnership is an opportunity to find new solutions that the organization isn’t already investing in. The academic medical center’s innovation arm, UPMC Enterprises, has been funding startups for several years, but the cardiac-focused partnership offers a chance to find new companies on a national scale.

“If we felt we were all-knowing and could figure out all the solutions we wouldn’t need to bet on anything else,” Joon Sup Lee, M.D., co-director of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute said. “But we don’t think that. We don’t have a monopoly on innovation and creative energy.”

UPMC’s involvement also provides a clinical perspective and a potential testing grounds for cutting-edge solutions, while Philips lends perspective from a massive device manufacturer. 

With cardiac disease costs expected to exceed $1 trillion by 2035, Brown says heart disease will continue to be the “dominant healthcare problem in our country.”

A central focus of the venture fund will be finding solutions that can chip away at those costs, but the fund is also expected to generate revenue from its seed investments. AHA plans to reinvest that money into “innovating new solutions” for patient and health systems, Brown said.

She adds that the partnership, which combines an advocacy organization, an academic medical center and a device manufacturer, aims to fill a void in the marketplace.

“That is a real force,” she said. “I don’t know of any other fund that has quite the same convergence of partners.”

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