Venture capital deal activity in European healthtech has slowed since the pandemic, but the sector continues to be a major draw for investors in the region.
While 2021 represented a peak in investment activity—with €5.2 billion (about $5.6 billion) invested across 906 healthtech startups—nearly €5 billion was still invested last year, according to PitchBook data. Meanwhile, this year, we have already seen 40 European startups in the sector attract €232.6 million in fresh capital.
“Clearly we’re not in 2021 anymore, but innovation in [healthtech] continues to accelerate,” John E. Milad, partner and co-head of healthcare ventures at investment manager Downing, said. “There are enormous problems that need to be addressed which don’t go away just because there’s a downturn. It will be more challenging for startups going forward, but the fundamental need is still there.”
We asked six VCs active in European healthtech to share two startups—one in their portfolio, one not—that they are excited about.
John E. Milad and Nigel Pitchford
Partners and co-heads of healthcare ventures, Downing (London)
Cydar Medical (UK)
Pitchford: “Cydar is a surgical augmented intelligence company that offers real-time imaging to help surgeons plan and execute surgeries in a much more expeditious way. It reduces the time spent in the operating room, the number of surgical mistakes and X-ray exposure for patients.
“The company has already got traction and partnerships in place with companies like Phillips. It has the potential to reduce time and costs of surgery and therefore increases access for patients.”
Milad: “Otivio have developed a medical device for multiple sclerosis that has the potential to really push the needle in an area of huge unmet need. There are almost 3 million people suffering from this disease and there aren’t really any good therapies to address it.
“Otivio’s device was originally intended to treat vascular disease but in a study found that some patients with MS suddenly had relief from what were otherwise debilitating symptoms. They’ve published some promising but not yet fully conclusive clinical data which is suggesting that their device could be really a significant breakthrough therapy.”
Founder and managing partner, Nina Capital (Barcelona)
Zetta Genomics (UK)
“Zetta Genomics has created a data management system developed specifically for the genomic age. Current interrogation and analysis tools are not suitable for genomic data of modern-day’s magnitude. Today, interpretation and analysis pipelines are slow, manual and costly as data is stored in thousands of static, fragmented text files—meaning, current pipelines will not be able to scale to accommodate the exponential potential of genomic medicine.
“Zetta enables rapid access, interpretation and interrogation of genomic data, unlocking the potential to identify disease more accurately, intervene earlier and deliver more effective and less invasive treatments. There is simply no software system like it anywhere in the world—and Zetta’s customers and partners on two continents are taking notice.”
“Daye puts the spotlight on a greatly underserved area of needs and population by reimagining the tampon and working toward a strong vision for a comprehensive vaginal health platform.
“We met the company when they were already raising a Series A round, and this was a stretch for our preseed/seed focus. We at Nina Capital have looked at well over 100 women’s health companies in 2022 alone, and Daye stands out as it is built on a true need and has the right ingredients necessary to create a strong movement and reliable organic growth engine in the future.”
Founder and managing partner, Calm/Storm Ventures (Vienna)
“Mindstep offers personalized cognitive care to help lower the risk of dementia by providing in-app care that includes daily brain stimulation tasks and a tailored guidance for managing identified risk factors while at the same time collecting a breadth of data that can be used to catch the disease at its early stage and develop new drugs to cure it.
“Dementia is a devastating and costly disease that is also likely to become more prevalent as our society ages. Twelve percent of people aged 70 are expected to get it with this number increasing to 22% for those over 80. There is currently no cure for dementia, but its risk factors can be minimized, effectively reducing the probability of the disease occurring. We believe Mindstep is one to look out for this year and beyond: an excellent team that built a great solution for a highly relevant problem.”
“Meela is the Tinder between therapists and patients. It allows female patients to save time and effort, get the right help and ensure quality assurance. On the supply side of the marketplace, therapists can make more money with sticky clients, streamline their capacities and admin tasks and become better at their job through tracking of clinical data.
“Mental healthcare is broken. More than 50% of people starting therapy drop out before session three because of a poor therapist-patient match. Meela’s drop-out rate before session three is 2%. While there are certainly a few competitors in this field, we believe Meela is uniquely positioned to do well in the market. Female founders building a mental health product for women gives them a massive edge on community building and commercials, building upon already 200-plus paying therapists on their platform.”
Investment Manager, AlbionVC (London)
“uMed has the ability to build medical evidence in days, rather than years. It does so by connecting patients and their medical records with research organizations in a privacy-compliant way.
“Longitudinal research can be highly valuable to research organizations, but is very expensive. uMed’s technology enables it at a fraction of the cost as it automates many of the processes and data collection. Beyond longitudinal research, there are many more use cases for uMed’s technology, from market access to unbiased trial recruitment to health outcomes assessments.”
“As one of the most well-funded companies in the decentralized science (DeSci) space, Molecule will certainly be one to watch in terms of how it begins to solve some of the biggest operational challenges in a decentralized approach to research.
“The team have built the first biotech DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) and led the creation of the infrastructure behind the IP-NFT framework, and it will be interesting to see how scientists and patients engage in this research as it grows.
“The Molecule team have an amazing advisory board which will support the problem solving of some of the unanswered questions for DeSci around legal, regulatory hurdles and there is no doubt this a founding team that is passionate about building a new system and infrastructure for research and development.”
Managing partner, Karista (Paris)
Incepto Medical (France)
“Incepto Medical is an AI-based SaaS platform for medical imaging, editing and distributing clinically validated applications based on AI that provides productivity and decision support tools to radiologists.
“Already [a] leader on the French market, Incepto has just raised a Series B to pursue its expansion in European markets. It has very good commercial traction and a unique positioning of imaging applications integrator and distributor.”
“Leuko is a startup developing PointCheck, a connected device that can monitor white blood cells non-invasively. White blood cells [are a] first-line indicator in many situations, ranging from cancer chemotherapy to infections. Its device is a very impressive, small connected portable device to check the blood cells level by imaging the blood flowing though capillaries in fingers.”
Author: Leah Hodgson