Recap: MATTER at HLTH 2019

Last week, the MATTER team joined more than 6,000 healthcare innovators in Las Vegas. From discussing the innovation practices of tomorrow with AbbVie and Novo Nordisk to making new connections in the exhibit hall, here are a few of our favorite moments and key takeaways from HLTH 2019.

Exhibit hall

Our startup pavilions fostered meaningful connections between MATTER startups and HLTH attendees

19 MATTER startups joined us in the exhibit hall to showcase their technologies, connect with leaders at top organizations from across the industry and meet 1:1 with potential partners, customers and investors.


Companies included Advocatia, Clara Health, Flare Health, Inference Analytics, Lumere, Medorion, Prepared Health, rMark Bio,, Sense Diagnostics, Sympatic Health, TapCloud, Bright Pink, Care Academy, Healthy Interactions, Level Ex, Method Health and Ondine Biomedical.

Also spotted at HLTH: MATTER members NowPow, Illuminate Health, Redox, Savvy Coop and SonarMD.

Pharma in the Future

MATTER, AbbVie and Novo Nordisk discussed how innovation is driving the life sciences companies of tomorrow.

Big companies are often positioned to make the greatest impact on innovation in healthcare. At the same time, they tend to be slow to adopt the culture and internal practices needed to do so. During Sunday’s partner session, MATTER CEO Steven Collens took the stage with executives from two industry giants — Abbvie and Novo Nordisk — to discuss what these life sciences companies are doing today to build innovation practices that will help them remain relevant in the future.


For Abbvie, ‘doing innovation’ meant getting experiential.

Jeffrey Stewart, president of U.S. commercial operations at AbbVie, shared that the first step to embracing a culture of innovation meant reprogramming executives to step into the shoes of their customers: “We adopted the practice of ‘see, feel and live’. In order to ‘do’ innovation properly, we needed to understand in intimate detail the behaviors of our customers — every step along the way.”

Behind Novo Nordisk’s decision to take innovation ‘beyond the mothership’.

At Novo Nordisk, the key to becoming a life sciences company of tomorrow was to draw on the unique expertise of external innovators. “We asked ourselves: Are we the ones that know everything about electronics? We could either try to build our own,” said Kenneth Strømdahl, senior vice president of device R&D, “or we could partner with someone who is already an expert.”

Kenneth also shared insights behind their decision to launch the Novo Nordisk Innovation Partnering Program: “You can’t shop for these solutions and just pop them into your system — you have to co-develop them. We tried to keep external innovators at an arm’s length but it didn’t work.”


Startups rMark Bio and PhysIQ on shaking things up: Demonstrate value and have patience.

When startups partner with big companies, they’re often changing fundamental business operations. rMark Bio CEO and Co-founder Jason Smith’s key takeaway? “We are coming in to change processes and [as a startup], we move at a different speed than they do. Startups need to exercise patience and learn to work with big companies that move at slower speeds.”

With the growing availability and diversity of health data, there is an increasing need for solutions that help separate signal from noise. Closerlook CEO David Ormesher sat down with startups rMark Bio and PhysIQ to dig into how they’re leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to help healthcare providers and larger companies make better, more informed decisions.

PhysIQ CEO and Co-founder Gary Conkright shared an anecdote from his experience helping physicians make sense of physiological data in clinical trials. “Imagine the driver of a car who only opens their eyes once every five seconds — that’s how traditional clinical trials work: clinicians get snapshots of each patient, but not the full picture.”

Therapy’s Gone Digital

MATTER CEO Steven Collens explored how trailblazing digital therapeutics companies are changing the mental health treatment landscape.

In a later session, MATTER CEO Steven Collens and leaders from Akili Interactive, Happify Health, Headspace and Welldoc tackled the definition of a digital therapeutic, how they differ from other digital health solutions and what challenges lay ahead on this new frontier.

The panel discussed how getting physicians to adopt these tools is crucial. “If you ask an overworked, underpaid doctor to do ONE MORE THING that’s orthogonal to their workflow, they won’t do it. You have to make sure your technology integrates into their existing workflow,” said Dr. Anand Yier, Chief Strategy Officer at WellDoc. “Say that three more times: it has to integrate into physicians’ workflows. Physicians are adopting WellDoc because we’re making it easy to adopt.”

The other hurdle innovators face as they work to bring more digital therapeutics to market? Regulatory pathways are still unclear. “In fact, FDA regulation [for a digital therapeutic] is more like the Wild West,” said Acacia Parks, Chief Scientist at Happify Health. But she encouraged healthcare innovators to stay optimistic, pointing to how other sectors, like music, have evolved. “How this [landscape] will look in 20 years…none of us can comprehend.”

Enjoyed this recap? Check out our recent roundup of the best moments from our recent conversation with Evive’s Prashant Srivastava at Tales from the Trenches™.

Interested in collaborating with us to grow your business? Learn more about becoming a startup member or corporate partner at MATTER.