If its own startup is any indication — formed successfully during a global pandemic — AlphaLab Health is positioned to succeed at nurturing the emerging companies in its inaugural class.

Seven companies will make up the first class for the business accelerator created by Innovation Works and Allegheny Health Network (AHN) to provide promising health care and life sciences businesses with the resources and support they need to grow.

The companies include several life sciences innovations, and the entrepreneurs behind them will have access to the business mentorship expertise of Innovation Works and AHN’s clinical resources, as well as up to $100,000 in seed investment.

They were selected from among 88 applicants, including 15 from overseas, says Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, chief physician executive for community health and innovation at AHN. The health network’s critical care doctors and experts from a number of domains, including Highmark Health, will help these companies get real-life experience, Cohen says.

“We can reach out and touch people within AHN and elsewhere and get them real-life people who have problems so they can develop their companies based on needs the market shows,” says Cohen. “If you make something that’s really good and people want it, there’s also an insurance company that we’re part of that’s probably going to be interested.”

AlphaLab Health will be housed in space that’s under construction at AHN’s Allegheny General Hospital Suburban Campus in Bellevue. The unique collaboration will also benefit the hospital and its community, Cohen says.

Initially, the first cohort of companies will operate virtually.

They range in technological maturity and business proficiency, from first-time inventors to experienced entrepreneurs. As part of the incubator, they’ll receive educational programming customized for early-stage life science companies and be introduced to investors and collaborators through the Innovation Works network.

They’ll also have access to AGH Suburban’s wet labs and clinicians and decision-makers from AHN and Highmark Health. The incubator is modeled after two others that Innovation Works put together: AlphaLab, a nationally ranked software accelerator, and AlphaLab Gear, which assists early-stage physical product companies.

“We are thrilled to bring our knowledge and expertise to the life sciences sector,” says Rich Lunak, president and CEO of Innovation Works, which has invested more than $100 million into the region’s tech startups. “The companies are shaving off time to market by learning from experts who have clinical, research and lab experience plus valuable access to AHN’s specialized resources. Together, we’re providing a springboard for these emerging companies.”

The AlphaLab project is all about disruption, says Cohen — creating jobs and opportunities through disruptions that startup companies bring by changing systems. He’s excited to see the companies “identify the factors that are impairing patients’ responses and what we can do with them.”

The seven initial companies are:

  • CytoAgents, a clinical stage biotechnology company developing pharmaceutical products for the treatment of life-threatening symptoms associated with Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS), an overreaction of the immune system causing systemic inflammation.
  • Emergence Dental, a research and development-stage dental device company exploring regenerative products made from metallic magnesium alloys, which safely resorb into the body after implantation.
  • Gus Gear, which is developing a wearable Central Line Vest securement device for tunneled central catheters. The vests protect the catheter from exit site to hub and prevent line trauma. 
  • JuneBrain Inc., which is developing a retinal imaging telehealth solution for providers to identify new disease activity outside of a clinic for the more than 500 million individuals worldwide who suffer from retinal and neurological disease. 
  • sovaSage, which is developing a digital health care platform that leverages smartphone, machine learning and patent-pending computer vision technologies to streamline and enhance the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and other chronic conditions managed at home.
  • SpIntellx, a computational and systems pathology company revolutionizing the application of pathology in precision medicine. They use spatial analytics and artificial intelligence to analyze pathology samples and create predictive information for therapeutic strategies and clinical decisions.
  • Sterile Vision, which seeks to accurately track tools inside and outside the operating room via computer vision. Hands-free tracking could reduce lost tools, optimize large tool trays, increase OR efficiency and decrease costs.