Asthmapolis raises $5 million from Social Capital

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 4, 2013        

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AsthmapolisMadison, Wisconsin-based Asthmapolis, which offers a FDA-cleared inhaler sensor and app for people with asthma, COPD, or cystic fibrosis, announced that it has raised $5 million in its first round of funding. The investment was led by The Social+Capital Partnership, a relatively new venture fund started by Chamath Palihapitiya, an early executive at Facebook who left to start the investment fund in 2011. Social Capital has also invested in digital health companies like Glooko and Simplee.

Asthmapolis told MobiHealthNews it plans to use the funds to build new sensors that work with the variety of inhaled medications being prescribed today. It will also use the funds to accelerate plans to secure regulatory clearances in countries outside of the US, like Canada and the UK. The new money also will help it with marketing and to ensure that people all along the socioeconomic spectrum who are dealing with a condition like asthma have access to Asthmapolis.

The company’s device is a sensor that sits atop (most) inhalers used by patients who have asthma or COPD. The sensor transmits data to a companion app on the user’s mobile phone every time the inhaler is used. The app can then track the time and location of each medication discharge, which can then be used to help patients and their care givers better understand their asthma triggers. Asthmapolis has a partnership with Qualcomm Life to ensure that people without smartphones can use their inhaler sensors, too, by synching them to the 2net hub when they’re at home.

“Until now we have been really focused on building the product and demonstrating efficacy, which we have done,” Asthmapolis CEO and co-founder David Van Sickle told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “We are in the market, as you know, and now it is time to scale up and meet these populations wherever they are. Asthma isn’t a disease of just a certain demographic or geography — it is a part of every population.”

Van Sickle said that people with asthma have various levels of technology and health literacy, and Asthmapolis does not exist “to build digital health solutions for the upper crust of the socioeconomic spectrum,” he said, “but for everybody, for the whole population.”

“My personal take is that I can care less about the technology,” Van Sickle said. “What we care about is improving outcomes to give people more asthma-free days. If that required us to send them a giant cheese basket from Wisconsin, we would go that route. You can’t go to [a payer managing a] Medicaid population and say: ‘We are only going to help your members who have iPhone 5s’.”

In the past year Asthmapolis has inked deals with a variety of healthcare organizations including Dignity Health in California, Amerigroup in Florida, and the City of Louisville.

“This is where there probably is a creative tension between my own opinion and the industry’s,” Van Sickle said, “but I don’t think patient engagement should be a goal. What the goal should be is more asthma-free days… That whole patient engagement thing I’m hoping it’s just a liminal period we go through. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be involved in their disease — but I am saying that people don’t sell washing machines with the promise that you are going to ‘engage’ in the washing cycle. You want to put your clothes in, set it to wash, and be done.”