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StartUp Health’s T1D Moonshot Ignites a Call to Action 

StartUp Health’s T1D Moonshot Program brings together entrepreneurs, philanthropists, families, and industry leaders—all intent on developing revolutionary type 1 diabetes discoveries.

StartUp Health’s T1D Moonshot Ignites a Call to Action 

Diabetes research for management, prevention and an eventual cure will not be obtained through government funding alone. The T1D community must embrace more private entities and nonprofit organizations like JDRF, TrialNet, and StartUp Health to accelerate the required resources, education, and scientific advancements.

StartUp Health

Founded in 2011, StartUp Health has built a global community and ecosystem designed to support early-stage health tech companies. Most startups want to scale their businesses quickly, and that requires significant support and capital. StartUp Health supplies support through its platform of coaching, community, and media. 

StartUp Health has empowered nearly 1,000 founders from 500 companies in 30 countries. Additionally, they have the global backing of more than 100 world-class investors, including the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, which currently invests in their Type 1 Diabetes Moonshot Program

At a recent conference, Steve Krein, StartUp Health’s CEO and co-founder, said the Type 1 Diabetes Moonshot is one of the most important moonshots launched in the past decade. “It’s really an open conversation and call to action so that we can inspire and educate and invest in a generation of entrepreneurs and innovators who are working to solve type 1 diabetes – to prevent, manage, and cure it.”

StartUp Health Aspires to Accomplish the Impossible

Type 1 Strong had the opportunity to discuss StartUp Health’s Type 1 Diabetes Moonshot Fellowship Community with Lauren Schafer, Admissions & Ventures Director at StartUp Health.  

StartUp Health’s mission is to solve the most significant health challenges of our time. Its moonshot programs help entrepreneurs, scientists, and visionaries with innovative projects and unprecedented initiatives. They build healthy moonshot communities and have access to a network of entrepreneurs. Schafer works closely with the investment committee to source, review and select founders to join StartUp Health’s portfolio. 

T1D Strong: It must be rewarding to assist startups in achieving their goals. How has your involvement with the T1D moonshot program enlightened your understanding of the disease?

Schafer: You are right. It is incredibly rewarding to support founders looking to make a lasting impact in healthcare. The T1D community has been extra special because all of our founders either are T1D patients themselves or have a close loved one with T1D. T1D is a disease that requires constant (multiple times a day) management and really impacts the lifestyle of the patient; being a part of something that could help even one person manage their T1D is inspiring.

T1D Strong: Besides funding the Moonshots, how do StartUp Health’s coaching programs accelerate the growth of these founding companies?

Schafer: Founders join our global army of Health Transformers and receive a powerful combination of community-driven entrepreneurial coaching and a dedicated media platform that provides unique access to a global network and audience of health innovation customers, investors, partners, and decision-makers.

StartUp Health’s T1D Moonshot

With the generous support of a program-related investment (PRI) from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Startup Health supports the efforts of innovative startups working on the problems around type 1 diabetes (T1D). This particular moonshot goal is to advance T1D treatment with cutting-edge technology and ideas that lean toward prevention, management, and a possible cure. StartUp Health launched the T1D Moonshot in March 2022.

T1D Strong: How was type 1 diabetes chosen to be a moonshot? Since its launch in March 2022, what has been the most exciting development you’ve seen?

Schafer: Globally, more than 18 million people have T1D and people with T1D and their families face many complex challenges navigating the condition. We saw an urgent need for innovation in this space and wanted to use our strength of building communities to bring together founders who could change T1D for the better. The most exciting development has been the community of founders; their collaborative mindsets and willingness to partner together is exactly what is needed to break down silos in the T1D space.

To assist the T1D Moonshot program, StartUp Health assembled the T1D Moonshot Impact Board, consisting of leading clinicians, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists in the diabetes field. Aaron Kowalski, CEO of JDRF, the world’s largest nonprofit funder of T1D research, is one of the founding board members who brings his experience to the board.

T1D Strong: You’ve acquired quite the board of directors for this project! Was the board easy to obtain, given your goal? Who are you most enthusiastic about being on board?

Schafer: We are grateful to have had the support for this Moonshot early on from many of our board members; their commitment to the cause is a big reason why we have been able to launch the Moonshot. The Helmsley Charitable Trust has been a supporter and leader of the board from day one, embodying what it means to be a great partner.

The T1D Moonshot project seeks to improve the care and treatment for the global T1D community by funding transformative advancements in research and technology. StartUp Health created the initiative to support 30+ T1D startups.

T1D Strong: Is three years the length for all moonshot programs? Why three years?

Schafer: Generally, we see after three years of working with StartUp Health, our founders have the tools they need to scale their business. While the program is officially three years, we stay connected to our founders through the entire lifecycle of their business.

The T1D Fellowship Program

T1D Strong: Are the T1D Moonshot and the T1D Fellowship Program identical? How are they different?

Schafer: The T1D Moonshot is the broader term to represent all activities associated with our mission to treat, present and cure T1D. This includes the impact board members, T1D community founders, and the StartUp Health team. The Fellowship is the specific program that the founders participate in for three years, including the coaching, community, and media network.

T1D Strong: How many companies are in the Fellowship program right now? Is there a cut-off date to apply?

Schafer:  We have onboarded 26 companies to date and will have at least 30 by the end of the year. Spaces are limited, so we encourage all founders to apply immediately.

Interested parties can apply for the T1D Fellowship here.

Fueled By Passion

It’s thrilling to see innovation in action. Over 26 companies have already joined the Moonshot Fellowship—and most seemed to have personally vested interest in their companies by either having type 1 diabetes themselves or being driven to find a cure for a loved one.

T1D Strong: Most health moonshots seem driven by entrepreneurs with a vested interest in the projects. Do you find this to be the case?

Schafer: Absolutely. Especially in healthcare, where sales cycles are long, and there are often regulatory hurdles, it is important that founders have a personal “why” and commitment behind what they are building.

T1D Strong: The global T1D burden is increasing despite recent technological advances. Why are aspirations like T1D Moonshot so vital to the T1D community?

Schafer: Oftentimes, founders in healthcare have ideas that are game-changing for the industry. The challenge is how they are connected to partners that can help them achieve their mission – investors, customers, etc. We believe that StartUp Health can serve as the connector to help elevate the T1D community to the stakeholders that will help them scale.

Here are just a few of the growing list of collaborators involved in the T1D Fellowship:

Xplosion Tech

Xplosion Tech co-founders Isis Ashford and Kehlin Swain, engineers with design experience from NASA and Intel, seek to empower children with diabetes through their mobile app that uses photovision analysis to help kids manage their glucose levels.

T1D Strong: What do these companies gain from the Fellowship besides capital?

Schafer: The T1D Fellowship is specifically tailored to help entrepreneurs and innovators build capacity, including through attracting mission-aligned capital to pursue scientific discoveries in the field of Type 1 diabetes. It offers the tools, networks, and visibility needed to transform breakthrough T1D innovation into real and positive impact. The multi-year program is designed to help promising companies focused on T1D innovation to level up at every stage of growth, from research and development to commercialization and scale.

In-Range Animation

Another transformative innovation is In-Range Animation. Co-founded by power couple Neil and Suzie Israel, the two’s website development and design expertise led them to create In-Range through animation. With increased engagement, they hope to fortify provider connections and enhance healthy outcomes for patients.

T1D Strong: Access to insulin and medical technology devices to deliver and monitor levels are unavailable to certain socioeconomic and geographic groups. Are there any current Moonshot companies that address this issue?

Schafer: Many of our T1D community members are focused on underserved populations. A few examples: GO-Pen, Greens, enhance-d, SmartStart Health, Levicure, Hibiscus Health, eddii.

Eddii

Drawing from her personal T1D experience, Eddii co-founder Farhaneh Ahmadi aimed to make diabetes management more engaging. She teamed up with Alonso Lucero to combine gamified real-time glucose monitoring, software-driven conversations, and clinical interventions to deliver a more personalized diabetes management solution. Eddii has received a strategic partnership with Dexcom to enable real-time CGM integration into their app.

Enhance-d

Enhance-d allows individuals with diabetes to discover innovative approaches and methodologies for analyzing their data. The site’s tracking tools help users visualize diabetes data at a glance and then provide guidelines for insulin absorption, nutrition, exercise and real-time blood glucose insight reports sent directly to healthcare professionals. This valuable information traces patterns and trends that can lead to improved treatment strategies.

InsulLoc

InsulLoc offers real-time abdominal evaluations and guided insulin injections powered by AI. InsulLoc aims to make insulin injections painless by improving site location and technique. Bogdan Oancea, CEO and Co-founder, is a Professor of Preventive medicine at Ovidius with over 25 years of experience in diabetology and nutrition.

Undermyfork

The innovative food diary mobile app, Undermyfork, uses CGM sensor data and tracks how specific meals affect users’ time in range. Undermyfork is a Dexcom data partner and has received its CE mark. The app helps people with diabetes understand the implications of what they eat on their blood glucose levels.

Other Moonshot Fellowship businesses include Hibiscus Health, Diatech Diabetes, Levicure, Tribetic, Minutia, Replica Health, Go Pen and Journey Bioscience, to name a few.

T1D Strong: What tech trends in the T1D space are you most excited about?

Schafer: There are many ways to support Type 1 diabetes. A few areas we are most excited about are the miniaturization of CGMs and the invention/testing of new molecules to find a cure once and for all.

T1D Strong: Is the Podcast with David Weingard an ongoing podcast – and how can people access it?

Schafer: StartUp Health has a podcast, “StartUp Health Now.” For more than 200 episodes and 100,000 downloads, our podcast has celebrated the innovators, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs reimagining health and wellness. Several of our episodes have been on T1D topics.

T1D Strong: What is the final vision of what you hope to accomplish through the T1D Moonshot? What do you believe these T1D startups can ultimately gain from their involvement?

Schafer: Our vision would be to treat, prevent and eventually cure Type 1 diabetes. We hope to organize entrepreneurs, innovators, philanthropists, institutions, industry leaders, and families in order to collaborate to develop and scale breakthrough T1D innovation. By joining this program, T1D startups will no longer be alone and will be supported by a strong mission-aligned community.

Applying Moonshot Thinking

With an escalating number of individuals with T1D worldwide, more than 70% do not have their blood sugar levels under control. As we look at the insurmountable problem and burden of type 1 diabetes, it’s easy to become plagued with its challenges.

Moonshot thinking opens our eyes to radical solutions and plants the seed of a long-forgotten cure. And as we invest in pioneering results that make quality care accessible to everyone, we bridge the gap not only for our children but also their children, families, and future generations.

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