Health Care Checkup: Genome Institute gets $25M, Sprint Accelerator adds Mayo Clinic connection

The Health Care Checkup is a weekly rundown of the state’s top health care headlines.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
Human Genome Project display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. | Courtesy of Creative Commons

Checking the Pulse

Wash U Genome Institute gets $25 million

The Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis received a $25 million endowment from James McDonnell III and his wife, Elizabeth Hall McDonnell. McDonnell worked as the director of aerospace company McDonnell Douglas Corp. until its merger with Boeing in 1997. According to Rick Wilson, director of the Genome Institute, the endowment marks the first private donation the institute has received since its creation in 1993.

The Genome Institute was a key contributor to the Human Genome Project, a multi-national effort to map the human genome that concluded successfully in 2003. Since then, the institute has worked on cancer research as well as on Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and autism.

Mayo Clinic part of post-Sprint Accelerator program

Good news continues to pour in for Sprint’s Mobile Health Accelerator. On the heels of the announcement of a partnership with Providence Health & Services comes news that Techstars, which runs the Sprint Accelerator, can now work with the Mayo Clinic among other partners in its post-accelerator graduate program. The new program, called Techstars++, lets accelerator graduates spend two weeks at the location of partners such as Mayo Clinic as a way of firming partnerships and other opportunities. More corporate partners for the Techstars++ program are expected to be announced soon.

Synergetics buys UK company

Synergetics, an O’Fallon-based maker of surgical devices, expanded its reach outside the United States with its purchase of Sterimedix, a British producer of tools used in eye surgery, for $13.5 million. The news came at the same time as Synergetics’ announcement of a year-over-year dip in profit for the quarter, but the acquisition together with a rise in sales have the company optimistic about the year ahead. Synergetics will complete its purchase with annual pay installments from 2015 to 2017, and it has tweaked its credit agreement with Regions Bank to let it borrow $6.5 million to pay toward the deal.

Shots in the Arm

By far the biggest boost for a startup this week went to BacterioScan, a company making a product to detect bacteria in fluids with the help of lasers. The company raised its final numbers on a round of Series A funding from $5 million to $6 million with the help of contributions from Warson Capital Partners, St. Louis Arch Angels and Missouri Technology Corporation. Also lending BacterioScan a financial hand is BioGenerator, a St. Louis-based subsidiary of BioSTL that also provided seed money to the startup last year. BioGenerator did not disclose the amount of its contribution this time, though vice president Dan Broderick will reportedly join BacterioScan’s board as part of the deal.

Quote of the Week

“We call them pry, poke, prod and punish programs.”

Al Lewis, a health consultant, on company wellness programs. The programs, which are often tied to companies’ health insurance plans, are required under federal regulations to be voluntary in nature. However, Lewis says many companies take liberties with their programs, asking intrusive questions about items such as alcohol consumption and future pregnancy plans, mandating annual blood tests and health screenings and offering financial incentives — positive and negative — tied to program participation. What’s more, Lewis says wellness programs don’t deliver on the cost savings the companies develop them for; most programs bring little to no savings at all.

The hands-on approach of wellness programs continues a trend by companies of trying to influence their employees’ health decisions. In some cases, it even affects who companies hire.

Number of the Week: $500 million

The amount of debt Cerner took on in the form of senior notes to “fund future capital projects.” The North Kansas City-based health care IT company already made a big purchase this year with its acquisition of Siemens Health Services, and moves such as this suggest there could be more to come.

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