Health

HCA, Eli Lilly, Atrium Health back $55M venture fund to invest in Black-founded and -led health startups

Some heavy hitters in the healthcare and pharma industries—HCA Healthcare, Eli Lilly and the American Hospital Association (AHA)—are backing a new venture fund to invest exclusively in Black-founded and -led healthcare startups.

Nashville, Tennessee-based Jumpstart Health Investors (JHI) raised $55 million for its new Jumpstart Nova venture fund, oversubscribing the initial $30 million goal. The fund will invest exclusively in Black founder-led healthcare companies across health IT, digital health, tech-enabled services, diagnostic devices, biotech, medical device manufacturing and consumer health and wellness, according to a press release.

Jumpstart Nova investors and strategic healthcare partners also include Cardinal Health, Atrium Health, Henry Ford Health System, LHC Group and Meharry Medical College. The fund also launched with partners Bank of America, Pinnacle Financial Partners, FirstBank, Ingram Industries, Truxton Trust and Vanderbilt University.

”The healthcare venture capital industry has missed out for decades on investing in America’s brilliant Black innovators, and this has been a loss for us all. Jumpstartova’s strong start and incredible group of limited partners validate the need to capitalize and support the vital solutions from this untapped talent base,” said Marcus Whitney, founder and managing partner of Jumpstart Nova, in a statement.

Whitney, a pioneer of the first Black-led healthcare investment fund, was inspired to create Jumpstart Nova as a solution to a central gap he saw in the marketplace. Jumpstart Nova is the newest in a family of funds managed by JHI, which he co-founded with Vic Gatto in 2015 in Nashville.

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In 2020, JHI successfully supported the exit of four companies, half of them led by Black founders, Whitney quickly realized the opportunity to bring these innovations to scale, and Jumpstart Nova was born of his efforts to back innovators that are historically underfunded, underresourced and unknown.

“Hospitals and health systems need strong partners to collaborate with to build healthier and more equitable communities. Jumpstart Nova aims to provide talented but too-often overlooked entrepreneurs with the capital they need to advance this important work,” said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the AHA, in a statement.

“The AHA is excited about the investments this fund will make, which we believe can positively affect the double bottom-line of financial and social impact,” he said.

There are nearly 785,000 companies in the U.S. healthcare sector today, and only 35,000 businesses in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector are Black- or African American-owned, according to data provided by Jumpstart Nova. That amounts to less than 5%.

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Jumpstart Nova is working to increase equity in the healthcare venture space by maintaining majority Black-owned general partners, growing the number of Black VC limited partners and VC professionals, generating great returns and investing in Black founders and leaders at the forefront of healthcare innovation, the company said.

The fund’s initial portfolio companies are tackling healthcare issues like equitable access to clinical trials, bringing novel cell and gene therapies to market, helping families with autistic children get the therapeutic support they need and seeking to mitigate the risk of life-threatening food allergy attacks, according to Whitney.

Drugviu is one of Jumpstart Nova’s portfolio companies and developed a virtual platform where patients with autoimmune disease can consolidate their entire health history, participate in clinical research and unlock personalized suggestions to better control their health. 

Another startup in the portfolio is Cellevolve, a novel development and commercialization biotech focused on transforming cell therapy innovations into treatments. Alerje is a Detroit-based, food allergy management innovation startup, committed to increasing the quality of life for millions dealing with life-threatening food allergies. 

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“It is a privilege to support Jumpstart Nova’s investments in Black founded and led companies driving innovation in health care,” said Philip L. Johnson, senior vice president and treasurer for Eli Lilly and Company. “Lilly is committed to advance racial justice, including improving health outcomes and economic opportunity for Black Americans.”

Robin Damschroder, Henry Ford Health System’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said Jumpstart Nova not only provides the funding historically unavailable through traditional venture investment channels, it also connects the health system to a fund manager with a “deep commitment to Black-owned businesses with high potential for success.”

“Innovation is the lifeblood of progress for communities globally. We see many common goals in our mission at Atrium Health and those of Jumpstart Nova,” said Rasu Shrestha, M.D., Atrium Health’s enterprise executive vice president and chief strategy and transformation officer. “A key component of our innovation blueprint is ensuring entrepreneurs of color have ample opportunity to advance core ideas, create new technologies and build sustainable, impactful businesses that will benefit the populations we serve and beyond.”

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