Midwest Healthcare Leaders Converge To Discuss Cutting-Edge Innovation

Physicians, investors and entrepreneurs directly exchange ideas at unique business mixer in heart of America.

authors Julie Brown Patton

Giving physicians unprecedented access to companies on the verge of medical-related breakthroughs was the goal of leaders at venture capital firm iSelect Fund when they hosted a first-ever, evidenced-based innovation event in St. Louis in November. Established as an intense, 2-hour round-robin at which “creative disruptors” of the healthcare landscape were spliced together for 7-minute exchanges, led to the flow of many forward-thinking ideas.

The event attracted several hundred physicians, investors and entrepreneurs representing two dozen companies in St. Louis’ Cortex innovation community, a 200-acre hub for bioscience and technology research in the city’s Central West End and Forest Park area.

Event organizer Renee Moore said iSelect executives hoped to strengthen the healthcare innovation community by assembling a specific, targeted group of physicians to provide them the opportunity to discover the novel happenings in and around the Cortex district.
She and her colleagues hoped attendees would get at least two things from the event: the desire to know more and to do more, she said.

Called Innovation 1.0, opening speaker David Apted, vice president at financial services firm Smith Moore, greeted attendees by encouraging them to share and give first-impression thoughts.

He explained the evening’s concept was to exchange information, and then to not leave without texting to a provided central phone number rating each participating company’s concept “cool, good or great idea,” by texting a 1, 2 or 3 in respective order. “Cool” meant keep up the good work. “Good” indicated an attendee wanted to be kept in the loop. “Great” equated that attendee wanted to keep talking.

Apted also said company representatives wanted to receive text comments.
Cortex President Dennis Lower described the area as the “epicenter of the region,” emphasizing its 200-plus companies, six innovative centers, Venture Cafe and technology shop. “It’s all about exchanging ideas,” he said. “We hope you find interesting concepts and professionals tonight, and that you take them under your wing and help them fly.”

Companies represented during Innovation 1. 0 included proprietary novel products, such as a cancer vaccine for treating tumors; cancer drug inhibitors; compounds to treat CNS disorders, such as epilepsy; unique therapies for fibrotic diseases; in-vitro diagnostics; and disease diagnostics.

Other concepts included air purification technologies; a dog-related, stress-monitoring device and intervention; an avant-garde wheelchair storage mechanism for vehicles; a mobile chair that revolutionizes spinal tap procedures; variable-prescription eye glasses; new cystoscopy viewing devices; a pocket-sized sensor and app for lung function; ergonomic product designs; a medical identify theft prevention device; and a Smartpillow.

Some companies represented service-based concepts, such as HIPAA-compliance tracking, health information technology, financial investing, telehealth 24/7 options, mobile texting and web services for patient support, and also a computer platform to enhance clinical collaboration through real-time information.

One company at the Innovation event is already launching 10 clinical trials for customized, prescribed “digital interventions” to give physicians and medical providers missing information from in-between clinic appointments about patients’ hypertension, depression and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.  

The event also included representatives of IDEA Labs, a bioengineering design and entrepreneurship incubator founded in 2013 at Washington University in St. Louis.
Craig Palubiak, a St. Louis business consultant and investor, called the unique innovation event “fantastic.”

Palubiak, Optim Consulting Group president, said he had just returned from a business trip to the Silicon Valley, and was asked there about St. Louis. “I was being told St. Louis is one of the cities to watch,” he noted. “Others are noticing the sincere effort the St. Louis community is making, and what we’re doing. St. Louis is becoming a foundation for the medical community, and more people now want to know about the secrets waiting here.”

Prior to the event, Carter Williams, iSelect’s president and CEO, said the reason there isn’t more innovation in general is because there are too many barriers to finding and tracking down entrepreneurs and getting them moving. “They succeed best when they have access to investment capital, when they have a network of talent that understands the market, and when they have access to customers,” he said.

Williams said the idea to host Innovation 1.0 came from seeing that doctors love to adopt new, innovative tools, and they love to educate people in the best products they need. “But we discovered in talking to them that none of them really knew Cortex existed or that St. Louis had these startups around,” he said. “All of our companies need customers, and the customers are doctors. So we thought, why don’t we figure out if we can get the doctors to come over and meet the companies? Why don’t we set up that kind of event?”

He also said the occasion was a unique way for managers of 20 startups to understand doctors’ preferences concerning their new service or product. “Then, merging that ecosystem together with some nice wine and fun … that’s where the magic happens … it always does when people start talking,” said Williams.



St. Louis’ Cortex Innovation Community

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