New startups in UCLA Health’s TechQuity Accelerator continue focus on equity-driven innovation
The eight companies selected to participate in UCLA Health’s second TechQuity Accelerator – launched in September – are creating innovative health care tools and services in harmony with the program’s special attention to equitable access for vulnerable populations.
Several of this year’s participants are tackling transformative mental health solutions; others address chronic disease, skin cancer prevention, safety net programs, and women’s health.
“The COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities spotlighted many of the inequities that are endemic to health care,” said Jennifer McCaney, PhD, executive director of UCLA Biodesign and assistant director of the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “TechQuity was launched in response to the dramatic effects of the pandemic within underserved populations and now continues its mission by supporting startups and founders advancing equitable innovations for the communities in greatest need.”
The UCLA Health TechQuity Accelerator is operated in partnership with UCLA Biodesign, BioscienceLA, a major catalyst for innovation in the life sciences and health in the Greater Los Angeles region, and ScaleHealth, which is an LA-based healthtech incubator that leverages a data-driven technology platform to connect innovative global health care startups with health organizations. The program targets four thematic areas – prevention, diagnosis, treatment and community impact – and supports mission-driven early-stage companies with a firm commitment to improving long-term community health resilience.
Onike Williams, MSN, NP-C, director of program development at UCLA Biodesign, said, “TechQuity is championing an inclusive paradigm of innovation, bringing together the expertise of front-line health care workers and the passion of mission-driven founders with industry and community partners. Through this collective effort, we are poised to make a profound impact on health care inequity, environmental justice, and mental health challenges, charting a course towards a more equitable future.”
The 2023 cohort includes:
- BioAcoustics Lab, developing a prescription digital therapeutic that utilizes a sound frequency-based modality to identify and treat chronic disease.
- ChildNEXUS, empowering families and students who have learning or mental health challenges, offering on-demand support and resources for student success.
- Koala Skincare Inc., developing sustainable smart products for skin cancer prevention in high-risk populations.
- Pair Team, enabling safety net organizations to participate in value-based care programs with wrap-around virtual care teams, community health workers, and technology.
- Rocket Doctor Inc., an AI-driven platform and marketplace matching Medicaid patients with the best clinicians for their needs.
- Sanitas Health, leveraging AI-powered mental health tools for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) community to improve long-term wellness.
- VulvAI, using AI to provide patients who have chronic pelvic pain and recurrent urinary tract infections a personalized road map for navigating care.
- Welfie, a youth mental health platform delivering community-based health education, care coordination and improved quality of care.
Company founders receive personalized mentorship, access to clinical expertise, and product development support throughout the four-month TechQuity program, which ends with a final pitch showcase featuring UCLA Health leaders and community stakeholders.
Accelerator companies are also paired with student interns from local community colleges. The internships are subsidized by BioscienceLA through its BioFutures Internship Program. This is part of a broader educational commitment of UCLA Health, UCLA Biodesign and BioscienceLA to build a diverse life science workforce by providing career-building opportunities for people from historically underrepresented backgrounds.
UCLA Health continues to advance innovative equity-focused health care delivery in all aspects of patient care. The TechQuity Accelerator operates alongside other initiatives – including the Homeless Healthcare Collaborative – led by Dr. Medell Briggs-Malonson, chief of health equity, diversity and inclusion for the UCLA Hospital & Clinic System.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, UCLA Health’s clinical professionals, uniquely positioned to support the fight against the disease, have taken a leading role with federal, state and local public health and government officials. TechQuity continues this mission in addressing a larger subset of community health needs.