Virta Health pulls in $133M to expand its diabetes reversal platform

Virta Health, a startup that offers a program for diabetes reversal, has banked $133 million of equity financing led by Tiger Global.

The Series E financing boosts the company's valuation to $2 billion from $1.1 billion back in December, according to the company.

San Francisco-based Virta Health plans to use the financing to scale its virtual metabolic clinic and approach to reversing chronic metabolic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and obesity.

The fresh capital will help support growth in research and product innovation, as well as enable Virta’s commercial team to meet the demand for diabetes reversal from employers, health plans, and government, executives said.

“The norm in diabetes care has been more medications, more weight gain, and more suffering. Diabetes reversal changes this,” Sami Inkinen, Virta Health co-founder and CEO said in a statement. “We have shown a path for people to live medication and diabetes-free, and this investment is about reaching even more people and taking diabetes reversal mainstream.”

The investment in Virta Health, and the company's continued growth, signals a shift in how chronic diseases are considered and treated, according to company executives.

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"Virta is redefining how diabetes and other chronic diseases should be cared for, delivering significantly better health outcomes and impressive cost savings,” said Scott Shleifer of Tiger Global in a statement. “We are excited to partner with Virta as its pioneering approach becomes an invaluable benefit offering for more employers and health plans everywhere."

The company launched in 2014 with an ambitious goal to reverse Type 2 diabetes in 100 million people by 2025. Inkinen, a technology executive, started Virta Health after he found out through routine health tests that he was at high risk for Type 2 diabetes despite being an active athlete.

Inkinen researched the science of Type 2 diabetes and a growing body of scientific research into carbohydrate restriction and the impact on metabolic health, according to the company.

Virta uses a digital platform to help users regulate their blood sugar and eliminate the need for diabetes medications. Patients have access to certified clinicians and health coaches nearly around the clock who assist in crafting meal plans and driving behavioral changes. The aim is to get patients off medications and Virta says its model drives long-term adherence to nutritional interventions that can stop the progression of, and even reverse, chronic disease.

In peer-reviewed clinical studies evaluating Virta Health's program, 94% of patients using insulin decrease or eliminate their dosage at one year, and 63% of all diabetes prescriptions are eliminated, the company said.

Medication reduction occurs simultaneously with an average drop in HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar) of 1.3%—a figure that rivals drug therapies. Virta’s weight loss results exceed the goals of the National Diabetes Prevention Program and the FDA benchmark for weight loss drugs by nearly 150%.

For healthcare payers, these improvements can translate to an estimated $5,000 per patient per year in gross savings, according to Virta.

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Nearly half of U.S. adults suffer from type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse. People with diabetes are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and the risk of dying from the disease is twice as high compared to those without diabetes.

The startup works with over 100 organizations. Large employers, health plans and government entities are increasingly interested in adding reversal solutions to their benefits portfolio and Virta has experienced surging demand, boosting its growth rate to nearly 200% year over year.

The Series E financing follows a recent $65 million raise in December of 2020, nearly doubling the company’s valuation in just 5 months to $2 billion. Virta has raised $366 million to date.

According to the company, its continuous remote care model has shown great success reaching underserved patients, including rural Americans, those living in food deserts, veterans, Native Americans, and older adults.