Cigna aims to support healthcare start-ups with new corporate venture fund
Presently in the process of acquiring Express Scripts, global health services company Cigna has announced the launch of its new corporate venture fund, Cigna Ventures.
Supporting healthcare start-ups and encouraging innovation across all areas within the industry, the business has committed $250mn of capital to Cigna Ventures to unlock new opportunities which will bring further improvements in care quality, affordability, choice, and greater simplicity to customers and clients.
The new venture fund will be focused on companies across three strategic areas: insights and analytics; digital health and retail; and care delivery/management and enable the business to identify, assess and sponsor early-stage innovation ideas that warrant deeper exploration through focused pilot and test-and-learn activities with the goal of realising meaningful business value.
“Cigna’s commitment to improving the health, well-being and sense of security of the people we serve is at the front and center of everything we do,” explained Tom Richards, Senior Vice President and Global Lead, Strategy And Business Development at Cigna.
“The venture fund will enable us to drive innovation beyond our existing core business operations, and incubate new ideas, opportunities and relationships that have the potential for long-term business growth and to help our customers.”
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The fund builds on Cigna's existing venture activity, including collaboration with five venture capital partners and an equal number of existing direct investments, such as leading the C1 round of financing with digital therapeutics company, Omada Health.
“Our partnership with Cigna has been about so much more than capital,” noted Sean Duffy, co-founder and CEO of Omada.
“The ability to collaborate with, learn from, and integrate deeply with a health services company so dedicated to delivering a 21st-century care experience to its customers and clients has enabled us to accelerate innovation, advance our capabilities and grow our customer base.”
Cigna maintains sales capability in over 30 countries and jurisdictions, and has more than 95mn customer relationships throughout the world.
The move comes as the threat of Amazon, Apple and various players aim to further transform the healthcare industry, and provide further choice for patients in how they manage their care. Healthcare providers such as Humana and UnitedHealth have also launched venture funds, with many others now looking towards the advantages of such an undertaking.
Advances in health "must ensure self-sovereign identity"
The UK government has announced that from September onwards COVID-19 vaccine passports will be necessary to gain entry into places with large crowds, such as nightclubs.
This has reignited the debate between those who believe having proof of vaccinations will enable people to gather in public places and travel safely, and those who view the digital certificates as an attack on personal freedom.
The arguments have increased in intensity since the recent announcement to drop COVID-19 restrictions in England, in a move to reopen the economy that has attracted fierce criticism both domestically and overseas.
Cross-party ministers are set to defy the government’s latest plans to introduce vaccine passports over civil liberties concerns. A number of MPs have already signed the Big Brother Watch declaration against “Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs” in recent months.
However Mark Shaw, CEO of Tento Applied Sciences, says the Big Brother Watch campaign is based on false assumptions. “Big Brother Watch puts forward a compelling argument based around civil liberties, but some of the assumptions they make are simply incorrect” he says.
“For example, the BBW campaign claims that all Covid passes are discriminatory, counterproductive and would lead to British citizens having to share personal health information with anyone in authority, from bouncers to bosses. However, there are already privacy-first digital wallets that give individuals the freedom to store and share anonymised medical documents, work credentials and other types of documentation quickly, simply, and securely.
“I wholeheartedly agree that individuals should not be required to share their own personal health information with unknown third parties or with anyone in authority who demands it" Shaw adds. "But I strongly disagree with the suggestion that ‘events and businesses are either safe to open for everyone, or no one’. It creates a false dichotomy that either everyone is safe, or nobody is safe. If employers or event organisers don’t take action to properly manage workplace or venue safety, then they risk curtailing the safety and freedom of movement for the majority."
The subject of personal health data is under scrutiny in the UK at the moment, following controversial plans for the NHS to share patient data with third parties. These have been put on hold following public criticism.
Meanwhile a new report has found that the majority of the British public is willing to embrace digital healthcare tools such as apps and digital therapies prescribed by a trusted healthcare professional.
Shaw adds: “The vital point to make is this: innovations in health technology must ensure self-sovereign identity. This means the data held about an individual is owned by the individual and stored on their device. And, in the case of medical data, that data can be delivered from healthcare professionals to the device in an encrypted format, and the user chooses how they share their information."