In February 2020, MassBio launched a new mentoring program, MassCONNECT.DH, to support the growth and success of digital health startups in Massachusetts. To gain insight into the journey of the MassCONNECT.DH grads, we sat down with Jeff Bemowski, CEO, & Justice Amoh, CTO, Clairways to discuss their experience, how they are helping to drive the convergence between digital health and the life sciences, and the Massachusetts digital health cluster.
Why did you choose to apply for MassCONNECT.DH?
MassCONNECT.DH offered us the opportunity to receive mentorship and guidance from a dozen industry experts knowledgeable in our area. As a startup, it’s critical that we learn from those who have experience with the challenges we’re tackling, rather than trying to figure everything out on our own. We are constantly looking for guidance and having the support of our MassCONNECT.DH mentors has been a huge benefit to Clairways.
Additionally, as a startup, it’s important for Clairways to have a broad network, so that we can make the connections necessary to drive our business forward. We are rapidly progressing towards FDA clearance, and we are actively raising angel funding and reaching out to potential customers. With the combined networks of our mentor group, it has become much easier for us to get to the conversations we need to have, with investors, customers, and others.
How does your product improve patient outcomes?
1 in 8 people lives with a chronic respiratory disease, and many more are experiencing respiratory symptoms of COVID-19. But unfortunately, today it is extremely difficult to objectively capture important respiratory signs like coughing, wheezing, crackles, and lung function. Clairways is addressing this unmet need by providing a continuous and burden-free respiratory monitoring service built around our small wearable smart sensor.
Our technology will improve patient outcomes by aiding pharma companies in bringing new and better respiratory therapeutics to market, by providing doctors with currently unobtainable respiratory analytics to inform their care decisions, and by empowering patients and their caregivers to easily track and manage respiratory signs.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a digital health company? How did MassCONNECT.DH seek to address those?
As a digital health startup aiming to initially serve pharma companies, one of the biggest challenges we face is connecting with potential customers to ensure we understand and are addressing their unmet needs. If we fail to build the right solution for our customers, and aren’t delivering something of value, perfect execution is pointless. Because of this, we have been extremely focused on making sure we speak with people at pharma companies to get their input.
However, it can be challenging making the connections needed to setup these important conversations. Having our MassCONNECT.DH mentors leverage their networks to help us identify the right people to speak with and to provide introductions has been incredibly helpful. From the connections they’ve facilitated, we’ve gained valuable customer insights that have informed our development and will ensure we deliver what our customers need.
How has the Massachusetts ecosystem supported your efforts as a digital health company? What separates Massachusetts from other burgeoning digital health clusters across the United States?
Massachusetts is the perfect place for Clairways. We need to be close to pharma companies, our customers, and 18 of the top 20 pharma companies have a presence in Massachusetts. Additionally, Massachusetts has a drug development pipeline of over 2,000 drug candidates.
There’s also an incredible density of Massachusetts life science startups that we’ve found to be surprisingly collaborative. There is a culture of support. We know that if we reach out to another startup, they’ll be willing to share their experience and offer their advice. We are all working towards the same mission of improving patient lives, and we want to see each other succeed.
Finally, MassCONNECT.DH has helped us realize the value of the Massachusetts ecosystem by connecting us with strong regulatory, reimbursement, and other support.
You can read the first blog in this series, here.
To learn more about MassCONNECT.DH and the MassCONNECT program, contact Rachele Ryan or visit: https://www.massbio.org/innovation-services/massconnect/.
About the Authors:
Jeff Bemowski, CEO, is experienced in finance, management consulting, and digital health. In finance, Jeff structured over $500 million in bonds for government agencies. As a management consultant at PwC, Jeff advised large financial institutions. And at Endotronix, a Series C funded medical device company, Jeff worked in product management. He has an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Justice Amoh, CTO of Clairways, has a PhD in machine learning and embedded systems from Dartmouth. He is an expert in stochastic modelling of physiological signals, with a focus on deep neural network models for detecting the onset of symptoms in respiratory diseases. In addition, he previously worked on Amazon.com’s Machine Learning team, where he contributed to the Amazon Alexa system. He is experienced coordinating large, multi-disciplinary support teams of biomedical engineers, computer scientists and clinicians.