[Freightos in Business Insider] E-commerce giant Alibaba expands its US presence with new programs designed to help small business owners struggling during the coronavirus

The Chinese e-commerce juggernaut announced it is launching three new products to assist American small businesses navigate pandemic-related difficulties, while simultaneously capitalizing on the $ 23.9 trillion B2B market. The resources — which are designed to help with cashflow, shipping and fulfillment, and digital networking — come nearly a year after Alibaba first began courting American small business owners with its first spate of digital tools.

Read more here.

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The coronavirus challenge: Here’s why OurCrowd is launching a $100 million Pandemic Innovation Fund

The new fund will target solutions for COVID-19 and future pandemics, remote working/learning, and social distancing

Today, OurCrowd announces the launch of its Pandemic Innovation Fund. We plan to raise $ 100 million for investment in urgent technological solutions for the medical, business, educational and social needs triggered by global pandemics and other health emergencies.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has validated our vision of a connected digital world poised to solve any crisis through global communication and rapid response.

This worldwide crisis presents the greatest challenge yet faced by digital technology. The pandemic has accelerated the pace of technology adoption across many domains.

“We saw two years of digital transformation in two months,” said Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella.

This new struggle against an invisible threat will result in the creation of new areas of business activity. Some that exist already will expand dramatically: digital medicine; artificial intelligence-powered diagnostics; remote social and business networking; online freight and logistics; one-click cybersecurity and payment systems for small businesses; 3-D printing for vital medical equipment; training for distance learning – just to name a few. Other entirely new industries will appear.

To ensure that we get the world back on track, there is now an urgent need for innovation to help us overcome many of the problems resulting from the crisis. It’s time for tech to move fast and fix things.

Together, we must plan for future pandemics because this story is just beginning. Entrepreneurs are uniquely skilled to provide fast, effective, efficient solutions to some of our greatest challenges. The tech world has the ingenuity, resources, imagination and drive to tackle these new challenges. Our new fund will create the bridge between the innovations needed to face these challenges, and the far-sighted investors able to provide the resources entrepreneurs need to change our world for the better.

The monumental direct impact on humanity will drive reallocation of resources and economic change in many sectors on a scale not seen since the development of the military-industrial complex after the tragedy of World War II.

The new shape of the world economy is already beginning to emerge. The FDA has approved new digital diagnostic tools that will remain in use once the current pandemic has settled. Appstore downloads of the top remote working apps rose from 1.4 million per week in early January to 6.7 million per week in early March. Zoom video users grew by 67% in the same period. In a survey, 75% of IT professionals told Crowdfund Insider that changes were made to fintech firms’ cybersecurity programs to manage the transition to working from home, and even as unemployment soared, demand for cybersecurity professionals rose by 15%. Salesforce predicts the use of AI-driven customer service and chatbots will more than double as employment in call centers falls.

OurCrowd’s Pandemic Innovation Fund will provide the financing to empower a broad range of companies working to develop treatments, vaccinations and cures for COVID-19 and future pandemics as well as those providing solutions to the fundamental changes that have been wrought in the economy and society by this crisis.

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen OurCrowd portfolio companies redeploy their technology to save lives and assist frontline medical staff in coronavirus quarantine wards. We also see AI, robotics, distance learning, cybersecurity, remote monitoring and other companies roll out their technology to meet medical, disease protection, business, logistics, education, communication, fitness and other challenges created by the new norms of social distancing and self-isolation.

The new fund will further empower these existing companies and search for new solutions created by visionary entrepreneurs. Responding to this challenge involves a complete ecosystem of industry, supply-chain and fundamental innovation. As investors, we see a role in supporting those on the front lines while also funding companies poised to address the secular shifts in the economy that will arise in the post-pandemic world.

With $ 1.4 billion of committed funding, investments in 200 portfolio companies and 20 venture funds, and nearly 50,000 individual accredited and institutional investors, family offices, and venture capital partners from over 183 countries, OurCrowd is uniquely positioned to respond quickly and effectively to the technological challenges created by the global coronavirus pandemic.

OurCrowd’s Pandemic Innovation Fund will focus on the following investment sectors:

  • Prevention & Containment – Vaccines, Testing, Personal protection, etc.
  • Treatment & Healing – Therapeutics, Diagnostics, Remote monitoring, Digital health, etc.
  • Continuity & Disruption Mitigation – Remote working, Distance learning, Robotic Process Automation, Home exercise, Cybersecurity, etc.

The Fund will invest in new startups, and join investment rounds in relevant existing companies.

OurCrowd’s portfolio already has more than 20 companies actively working to mitigate the coronavirus crisis and its effects, some of which will be candidates for follow-on investment from the fund. OurCrowd’s existing investments in technologies on the frontlines of coronavirus response include:

  • MigVax – Developing the MigVax-101 COVID-19 oral subunit vaccine for humans based on a proven platform developed over 4 years that was shown to be ahighly effective oral vaccine against IBV (Infectious Bronchitis Virus) in poultry.
  • Sight Diagnostics– Compact complete blood count analyzer that provides lab-grade results with 2 drops of finger prick  blood sample in under 10 minutes.
  • SaNOtize – Approved by Health Canada for multi-center Phase II trial of its Nitric Oxide Releasing Solution (NORSTM) for the prevention and early treatment of COVID-19.
  • Tyto Care – Remote physical exams and monitoring for primary care, chronic care and COVID-19 patients, protecting medical staff and reducing the burden on health systems.
  • MeMed– Provides diagnostic insights to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections and provides solutions to enable early intervention, before the onset of COVID-19 symptoms.
  • TechSee – Remote Visual Assistance powered by Computer Vision AI & AR used by leading brands like Vodafone and Verizon to provide uninterrupted tech support while ensuring safety of employees and customers under social distancing.
  • Kryon– Robotic process automation used to transfer and verify millions of coronavirus test results with individual patient health records in a fraction of the normal time.
  • Intuition Robotics – ElliQ AI-powered intelligent digital companion for the elderly, helping them stay sharp, connected and engaged.
  • Zebra Medical Vision – Zebra-Med’s AI automatically detects and quantifies suspected COVID-19 findings on standard chest CTs, both contrast and non-contrast, and is already integrated in Apollo Hospitals Group in India

Advisors to the Fund, portfolio company experts, and top speakers from around the world will participate in the OurCrowd Pandemic Innovation Conference – an online event on June 22, 2020, broadcast from Jerusalem.

The Fund’s managing partners are:

  • Morris Laster – Healthcare executive with over 30 years’ experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, an expert in the identification, development, management, and financing of biomedical technologies who has founded six companies that have gone public.
  • Morry Blumenfeld – Venture Partner and Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board at OurCrowd, with a distinguished 30+ year career in medical innovation at GE Medical Systems.
  • David Sokolic – OurCrowd Venture Partner, 20+ year career at startups, technology leaders, and VC funds including, Microsoft, Radvision, and Battery Ventures.

OurCrowd’s Pandemic Innovation Fund Partners. L-R:Dr Morry Blumenfeld, Dr Morris Laster, David Sokolic

The fund is open to both accredited private investors (minimum $ 50,000) and institutional investors (minimum $ 1,000,000). For more information, visit the OurCrowd Pandemic Innovation Fund page.

Stay tuned for more news from OurCrowd by subscribing to our weekly Newsletter and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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[Zebra in CTech] Israeli Tech to Help Indian Hospitals Diagnose Coronavirus

Apollo, the largest hospital group in India, will integrate the artificial intelligence technology of Israeli company Zebra Medical Vision to assist Apollo Hospitals doctors with diagnosing coronavirus (Covid-19). Zebra-Med’s solution is based on a machine-learning algorithm that analyzes computed tomography (CT) of suspected Covid-19 patients.

Read more here.

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Verisign says its coronavirus fee waivers have saved businesses millions

 DomainIncite.com: Verisign has decided to extend the temporary fee waiver it introduced in April for another two months, declaring the scheme a success so far. On April 2, the company said it would no longer charge a fee when a registrant restores a domain in the period between expiration and deletion. Many registrars passed this on […] Related…
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[Kryon in CIO] Israeli HMO investments in AI pay off during the coronavirus crisis

As cases of coronavirus began spiking in Israel in March and the government still debated tourist restrictions and lockdowns, hundreds of thousands of clients of the country’s largest HMO, Clalit Health Services, received an alert via text message.

Read more here.

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[Tyto Care in CIO] Israeli HMO investments in AI pay off during the coronavirus crisis

Israel’s HMOs are the backbone of the country’s healthcare, and they have been developing AI systems for years. When COVID-19 hit, the technology was crucial in flattening the curve of new cases.

Read more here.

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[MigVax in Israel21C] 6 coronavirus vaccine developments from Israel to watch

The new startup MigVax was spun out of Migal Galilee Research Institute in Kiryat Shemona, the largest regional R&D center of the Israeli Science and Technology Ministry.

Read more here.

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[MigVax in Israel21C] In the race for a coronavirus vaccine, first doesn’t mean best

However, vaccine development, like drug development, is a long and complicated process. And it doesn’t always succeed, explains industry expert Ron Ellis, editor in chief of Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics and a consultant for Israeli vaccine development company MigVax.

Read more here.

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Boulder Care opioid treatment platform picks up traction during coronavirus

With the regulations around telehealth changing rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic, an opioid treatment platform with a digital component is finally finding a strong market foothold after facing a mountain of regulatory hurdles.

Boulder Care was founded by Stephanie Papes, a former associate at Apple Tree Partners. She first became interested in opioid treatment after facilitating the firm’s financing round with an organization called CleanSlate Addiction Centers, which focused on in-person treatment for opioid and alcohol addiction.

There are several options when it comes to opioid addiction treatment. A common one is replacement therapy via methadone, an opioid, which relieves the symptoms of withdrawal while blocking the high that comes from use of heroine and other narcotic pain relievers. There’s also in-patient treatment, which usually comes with strict rules around the use of drugs and sometimes even legal addictive substances like nicotine, with a very low-tolerance policy for relapses.

In-patient treatment is usually expensive and not often covered by insurance, and asks patients to go cold turkey. Methadone, on the other hand, requires patients to come to a clinic at least once every day. Not only does that make it difficult to live a normal life, but these clinics are often targeted by drug dealers to poach clients.

Boulder Care looks at a different approach that uses a combination of telehealth services and a prescription drug called Buprenorphine (brand name: Suboxone).

Alongside a greater risk of contracting COVID-19, and having a more severe experience of the disease than those without addiction, addicts are also at a greater risk of overdose or continued use of opioids due to social distancing and increased anxiety and stress, two huge contributing factors to addiction, according to an article published by Harvard.

Boulder Care uses telehealth to offer patients a comprehensive recovery plan, including clinician support (for medical and medication needs), a peer coach (who has lived experience with addiction and can help talk through challenges and issues) and a care advocate (who helps with administrative needs around care and insurance coverage).

“It’s not 100% abstinence-only right away,” said Papes. “It’s a journey, and every incremental step and savings for the health system is good for the individual. The work that we do, just by building that trust with our participants, telling them ‘we value you, whether or not you’re using substances, and we’re not going to kick you out of the program for having an unexpected test result on your on your drug test or telling us that you use methamphetamine.’ There are a lot of policies in some of these programs that just continue to put people in harm’s way. So residential facilities will say you can’t be here for your heroin addiction if you’re smoking cigarettes, and they’ll truly discharge you from the program if you smoke. It’s not beneficial for anyone. So, we have this clinical philosophy, it’s really important, and it’s all about unconditional support.”

One of the big challenges for Boulder Care and opioid treatment organizations across the country is the regulatory limits on prescribing Buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist, which means it produces euphoric effects and respiratory depression at low to moderate doses. However, these effects are much weaker than a full opioid agonist like heroine or methadone.

Buprenorphine also greatly weakens the effects of withdrawal, allowing patients to try to stabilize their life and achieve a healthier lifestyle.

Unlike methadone, Buprenorphine can be prescribed by a doctor for use at home, rather than making a trip to a clinic, where patients must be examined and drug tested before they can take their dose. However, there are regulatory limits on doctors around the number of people they can prescribe Buprenorphine to in a given time period, and doctors must also pay to get training and a license to prescribe the drug.

According to Papes, this means 80% of the country who could benefit from a Buprenorphine prescription can’t get it. In fact, a HuffPost analysis showed that even if all the doctors who are licensed to prescribe Buprenorphine did so at the maximum rate in 2012, more than half of Americans suffering from opioid addiction still couldn’t get access to the drug.

Part of the reason that prescribing Buprenorphine has such strict limitations comes down to stigma, with many believing in the long-held misconception that replacing one drug for another isn’t the answer, and that abstinence is simply a challenge of mental willpower, negating the fact that addiction is a disease.

There’s no doubt about the potential efficacy of Buprenorphine. In 1995, France allowed any doctor to prescribe Buprenorphine without special licensing or training. About 10x the number of addicted patients began receiving medication-assisted treatments, cutting overdoses by nearly 80% in four years, according to the Atlantic.

Another requirement around the prescription of Buprenorphine is that the patient had to have at least one in-person visit with the doctor before they could get access to the medication.

That visit could be someone coming into a clinic or facility seeking to change their own life proactively. It could also be at the emergency room when someone is brought in for an overdose.

“It’s very challenging when someone has a tiny window in which they’re feeling like they’re ready for change, and you have to coordinate with another facility in order to get them into your care,” explained Papes.

During this national health emergency, that requirement has been waived, allowing for doctors to prescribe this medication without an in-person meeting with the patient. This is a huge boost for Boulder Care, which runs its business entirely via telehealth.

Since the start of March 2020, the company has seen 130% week-over-week increase in weekly inquiries from potential patients, and new patient enrollments is up 32%. During COVID-19, any patient who is uninsured or under-insured can get services from Boulder for free.

Boulder recently partnered with Premera Blue Cross, an insurance plan in the Pacific Northwest, to provide zero cost share options for virtual substance use disorder treatment, which will give 2.3 million customers access to Boulder Care through at least June 30. Cost shares will be waived for all patients seeking medically necessary telehealth treatment.

Alongside revamping the way patients receive treatment for substance use disorders, Boulder is also looking to change the payment model. Traditionally, the healthcare system remunerates providers based on admissions (and often, readmissions) without focusing on outcomes. Meanwhile, outpatient fee-for-service reimburses for clinical visits and drug-testing, rather than peer recovery coaching, 24/7 text messaging and same-day access, a few of the things that contribute to successful outcomes outside of clinical treatment.

Boulder partners with paying entities for “bundled” services, charging a flat rate per patient without focusing on the volume of procedures. The hope, according to Papes, is to “realign incentives and tie payment to accountability for meaningful outcomes.”

Boulder Care has raised more than $ 10 million with investment from Tusk Venture Partners, who led the Series A, among others.

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