MassBio® Launches Mentoring Program for Digital Health Startups to Strengthen Digital Health Cluster in Massachusetts

Feb 04, 2020

Three startups presented their innovations at the first cycle of MassCONNECT.DH

February 5, 2020 (CAMBRIDGE, MA) — Last week, MassBio® launched a new mentoring program, MassCONNECT.DH, to support the growth and success of digital health startups in Massachusetts. Building on the success of MassBio’s established mentoring program, MassCONNECT®, which has served the needs of early-stage entrepreneurs in the life sciences for over 10 years, MassCONNECT.DH is the first major initiative under MassBio’s digital health umbrella, MassBio.DH.

MassBio.DH is the result of a report MassBio released last year that examined the current state of the digital health industry in Massachusetts, the challenges facing its growth, and the opportunities for Massachusetts to lead. The report found Massachusetts already has the core components of a leading digital health cluster, but that certain areas had to be strengthened for life sciences companies to truly capitalize on the full potential of digital technologies. Among those areas was fostering a strong startup community, similar to what we already have within biotech, which was the catalyst behind MassCONNECT.DH.  

“The pace of scientific innovation over the last few years has been incredible, as companies continue to bring new, breakthrough therapies to patients with major unmet medical needs,” said Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, Chief Operating Officer, MassBio. “Digital health has been a key component to that success, as biopharma companies are using digital technologies to transform patient care and drug discovery and development. However, it was clear from our report that the digital health startup community did not have the same level of support as biopharma entrepreneurs, and we wanted to change that.” 

During the event, the three digital health startups showcased their technologies to a room of seasoned industry experts and potential mentors for early feedback. The applicants chosen for the first of three mentorship rounds of 2020 include:

Celata Bioinnovations

Co-founders: Jon Hu, MBA; Samantha Dale Strasser, PhD

Celata Bioinnovations is bringing better treatments to patients faster by putting biology first.  Celata’s product engine leverages artificial intelligence and multi-omic data to discover patient-specific first-in-class drugs for presently untreatable diseases.


Co-founders: Justice Amoh, PhD; Jeff Bemowski, MBA

Clairways' wearable respiratory monitoring service provides pharma trials with all of the most important respiratory metrics, thereby improving evidence of the effectiveness of new respiratory therapeutics while eliminating burden for trial participants and trial sites.

Root Health

Co-founders: Raj Sharma, MA MBA; Eric Ghildyal

Root Health automates clinical trial enrollment by providing a virtual companion, like Siri, to get patients from Interested to Enrolled faster.

Following last week’s showcase, entrepreneurs will be paired with a team of mentors, based on their individual objectives and needs, for six weeks of hands-on coaching as they seek to develop business plans, launch companies, and raise capital. MassBio carefully selected a group of key opinion leaders in the digital health space to serve as the MassCONNECT.DH advisory committee, helping to shape the program and ensure success, including:

  • Nick Dougherty, Managing Director, MassChallenge HealthTech
  • Naomi Fried, PhD, Founder & CEO, Health Innovation Strategies
  • Robert Gottlieb, Principal, RMG Associates
  • Luba Greenwood, Lecturer, Harvard University
  • John Hallinan, CBO, MassBio
  • Mark Michalski, MD, Founder of MGH & BWH Center for Clinical Data Science
  • Rachele Ryan, Manager of MassCONNECT, Innovation Services, MassBio
  • Leslie Shinobu, MD, PhD, Academic & Industry Translational KOL, formerly VP & Head of CNS Drug Development, Takeda
  • Alex Waldron, Chief Strategy Officer, Pear Therapeutics

The startups will then present in front of potential investors and partners at a closing showcase, which will take place in late March.

“We’re thrilled to expand MassCONNECT and look forward to replicating its success in the digital health space. We know that Massachusetts has all of the ingredients to create a top digital health cluster, while also recognizing that mentorship will play a key role in connecting digital health entrepreneurs to the knowledge and resources they will need to launch successful companies,” said John Hallinan, Chief Business Officer, MassBio. “The convergence of digital health and life sciences will accelerate innovation, and we look forward to working with, and learning from, our inaugural group of startups as they seek to create new digital solutions for biopharma and healthcare.”

Media interested in attending the final showcase can email Jennifer Nason.  

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