In a few weeks, Brazilian programmers, designers, entrepreneurs and doctors will participate in a new program that aims to apply Stanford University Biodesign methodologies to develop health care solutions for the country. The program is result of the relentless work of Robson Capasso, passionate about bringing to Brazil what he’s been learning in Silicon Valley.
BayBrazil: What is the vision for HiPUC?
Robson: The broad idea is to nurture a healthcare technology entrepreneurship ecosystem in Brazil. The initial step is to collaborate with industry, academia, investors and public agencies to help develop the next-generation of Brazilian healthcare innovators.
BayBrazil: Tell us about some of the Biodesign methodologies that can help entrepreneurs to solve some of the health care problems in Brazil.
Robson: Stanford Biodesign provides a structured curriculum for multidisciplinary teams to work on real- world projects based on unmet clinical needs, with the goal of translating the results into real products with market impact, taking into consideration local stakeholders and local healthcare characteristics, and not just the adaptation of a technology that may well work to the North-American or European market, but may prove impractical in resource constrained environments. Actually even in the US cost has gained an ever increasing attention in the development and adoption of new technologies.
BayBrazil: What are the main challenges that health sector entrepreneurs face today in Brazil?
Robson: I will try to avoid the usual culprits here, as BayBrazil readers are already highly insightful about the bureaucratic and financial issues that hinder innovation in general, and try to focus in some issues that impact health specifically. A healthcare start-up requires production of clinical data, early regulatory and possibly intellectual property issues, all steps that tend to be lengthy and expensive, sometimes even in digital health companies. In addition it has longer sales cycles that usually requires a well-trained team. In summary it is more resource and capital intensive, and really requires more patience and focus from the entrepreneur and the investors.
BayBrazil: Why is it so difficult to innovate in Brazil?
Robson: In addition to what I mentioned above, I would say that in particular for health it really “takes a village”. Academia, government, industries and investors need to be active to build a health innovation ecosystem. And regulatory agencies such as Anvisa and Inmetro need to improve efficiency and transparency as well.
BayBrazil: Although nascent, the ecosystem has been formed with Brazilian startups developing creative solutions. Tell us about some of the promising companies (or solutions) you’ve seen.
Robson: I could mention so many great ideas and teams. I know that Fred Aslan is BB Board Member, but Adavium has a really interesting value proposition and a great business model. I like the team profile and the problem being targeted by a company named Dr Cuco who is targeting the huge problem of chronic disease management and medication compliance. I would mention Magnus which has been showing some interesting results, decreasing the time for renal transplant in patients with chronic kidney disease.
BayBrazil: Do you see interest from Silicon Valley investors in Brazilian health startups? How can startups be attractive to them?
Robson: Health care investors in Silicon Valley are a somewhat conservative group, and tend to look into companies that have familiar faces in their C-suite or advisory board. I believe that 500 may have a couple of Digital health companies on their portfolio, and the other example would again be Adavium.
BayBrazil: How is the current economic crisis in Brazil impacting the development of the entrepreneurial health ecosystem?
Robson: The obvious answer is lack of capital and some “brain-drain”, however I believe that after deeper analysis, investors and multinationals will see that Brazil is experiencing rapid increase in population longevity, and not surprisingly, its healthcare costs. Healthcare expenditures per capita exceed other developing countries and will only continue to grow as the population ages and chronic diseases become more prevalent.
BayBrazil: You already work full time at Stanford University. What moves you to add to your pile and work on this new project?
Robson: It is basically a result of two insights that keep haunting me: First, seven years ago I was hired to work at Stanford as an academic surgeon, mostly having in mind clinical and teaching as my focus. However, I was just one more newbie stunned and engaged by the contagious Silicon Valley innovation environment. After working in a couple of projects as a consultant or advisor for healthcare companies, or mentoring Biodesign students I could see that my work could help thousands if not millions of lives instead of helping just one patient at a time, and that insight blew my mind.
Second, Latin America broadly and Brazil in specific has many, many unmet clinical needs that require solutions tailored for our reality, that can be solved by this new generation of less hierarchic, technology driven doctors and engineers.
It took me 3-4 years to find an interested and competent host, select a group of star faculty and mentors, however we will need continued support. This is truly a call for action, and I hope that BayBrazilians who have interest in Health Innovation step forward to be part of it.
Check it out: www.hipuc.com