The excitement around eHealth innovations was palpable throughout San Francisco this week as the annual JP Morgan healthcare conference flooded the city.  JP Morgan itself offered panels and presentations from industry leaders and emerging companies, while simultaneously occurring conferences, speaker programs, and networking events throughout San Francisco featured discussions on the changing face of healthcare in today’s world of increasing digitization, economic transformation and regulatory oversight.

Major deal announcements were also triggered by the “Superbowl of Healthcare” buzz this week, including scores of new eHealth initiatives and start-ups.  We’ve highlighted a few of the big deals of the week below.

Complex Cross-Disciplinary Approaches: Roche and Foundation Medicine Announce New Partnership

In an approximately $1.2 billion deal, Roche agreed to acquire a majority stake in cancer diagnostic maker Foundation Medicine.  The companies simultaneously entered into a series of commercial arrangements in which Foundation’s tumor analysis and cancer genetics capabilities will be incorporated into Roche’s clinical development platform.  The companies will also collaborate to co-develop novel cancer diagnostics as well as to educate physicians about genetic informatics-based cancer care. 

The Roche-Foundation deal provides a robust example of the expanding areas of collaborative opportunity between diverse, cross-disciplinary healthcare stakeholders, and the broadening range of features that be incorporated in such partnerships.  As we see increased collaborative arrangements among technologically varied players, creative and careful deal structuring will become even more crucial for successfully executing on advancements in eHealth.  In some cases, traditional M&A and licensing approaches may be too top-down or narrow to maximize innovation and value; combined deal structures may be better.  Stay tuned as we will have a forthcoming post on the novel challenges, opportunities and strategies dealmakers will face in the age of increasingly multi-disciplinary life sciences and eHealth transactions.

Drug Developers Pair Up with Direct-to-Consumer Genetics Provider

Pfizer also announced an “omic”-based data collaboration with direct-to-consumer genetics provider 23andMe to analyze the genetic roots of lupus.  The deal follows a similar genetic analysis arrangement that 23andMe and Genentech revealed earlier this month, which will include whole genome sequencing of Parkinson’s patients in 23andMe’s user base.  Announcements of both the Pfizer and Genentech agreements with 23andMe have openly addressed patient consent and data ownership questions – issues that will become central to emerging biodata-based collaborations.  These deal points echo conversations throughout San Francisco this week on the best approaches for designing and employing new models of data-driven research, development and care.

Venture Capital on the Rise in eHealth

On the venture side, deals of all sizes emerged this week.  Novartis and mobile tech giant Qualcomm announced they will establish a $100 million venture fund to invest in startups developing “beyond the pill” technologies.  This news comes shortly after both Rock Health and StartUp Health named Qualcomm as one of the biggest investors in mobile health technologies of 2014 — a year that marked an overall “obliterating” record of venture capital flow in the eHealth field.

eHealth Start-Ups Announce Fresh Funding

From the startup perspective, this week provided an optimistic snapshot of the funding boom for new eHealth companies.  Among the startups announcing capital raises include: Kit Check, an “Internet of Things” innovator of RFID-based systems for tracking and refilling hospital kits, announced the closing of its $12M Series B round led by Kaiser Permanente Ventures (full disclosure: Covington advised Kit Check on this deal); 10X Genomics, which is developing a long-range genomics analysis platform, said it raised $55.5 million in Series B financing; Augmedix announced a $16 million Series A round to further develop its technology that uses Google Glass to create efficiencies in physician review of medical records; MediSafe revealed a $6 million Series A investment to expand its mobile medication management solution; and announced a $20 million Series B deal to help it develop software that monitors patient mental health using smartphone and big data inputs.

Reflecting on the Week

As the goings on at and surrounding JP Morgan wind down, we note the remarkable diversity of deals, players, technologies showcased this week – a diversity that the term “eHealth” (or digital health or mobile health or a handful of other monikers) does not and cannot fully capture.  It’s impossible have one word to encapsulate the broad range of existing and future innovations that will drive the advancement of human health by employing IT, data and mobile technologies, but we look forward to seeing how the industry takes shape over the coming year.  Please check back for our updates, news and analysis in the wake of JPM and beyond.