Looking to provide patients with complex, chronic diseases quicker access to costly medications, University Hospitals launched Specialty Pharmacy in 2016.
It has become the first enterprise of UH Ventures, a new arm of the system that aims to develop business models leveraging existing capabilities and develop new revenue for the organization.
And the new effort, formed last year, is hoping to help propel the work of Specialty Pharmacy.
“(Specialty Pharmacy) was an existing program, but had not really blossomed to really increase its velocity, and Ventures helps to enable that realization,” said Eric H. Beck, who joined UH Ventures as its president in late January.
Beck — a seasoned health care executive who most recently served at the University of North Texas Health Science Center — will work with UH leaders to accelerate system growth through new businesses and to expand a pipeline of initiatives in line with UH’s strategy.
UH Ventures aims to build upon and encourage the entrepreneurial culture and spirit of University Hospitals, said Dr. Jeff Peters, chief operating officer at UH.
Supporting innovation, new revenue and the commercialization of discoveries is nothing new among health care entities.
“I wouldn’t say we’re on the leading edge, but we’re not on the trailing edge, either,” Peters said. “It’s an emerging concept within large, integrated health care systems.”
Cleveland Clinic Innovations has for years worked to turn medical breakthrough inventions into products and companies. Last year, the Clinic also launched a second arm to support that work: Cleveland Clinic Ventures, which will work in tandem with Innovations to offer a renewed and added focus to the efforts to spin off companies and raise funds.
Beck said that UH Ventures is unique for its multidimensional approach, focused on three key points: to optimize, maximize and potentially capitalize pieces of UH business; to create relationships with industry large and small; and to create a mechanism to develop new technologies and companies within the organization.
Traditional ventures functions in some hospitals can be narrowly defined as an investment fund, may focus exclusively on joint ventures and new co-creation or might center around an innovation strategy, Beck said.
“It’s a little bit more intentional and a little bit more thoughtful, while at the same time, it’s a bit more open-ended in terms of how we’re positioning it,” he said.
UH has “very successful” experience in drug development through Harrington Discovery Institute and wanted to expand it into other arenas, Peters said.
“Harrington Discovery Institute is a very robust public-private partnership for pharmaceutical development,” Peters said.
“There are other spaces for health care technology and business development, like software, hardware, services, delivery knowledge, device development. There are many other spaces for health care application of new businesses or new startups.”
The idea of UH Ventures has been on UH’s radar for a few years. Its predecessor came at least two years ago in the form of an innovation unit and a chief innovation officer, Peters said. UH Ventures effectively absorbs and builds upon that model.
UH has done some of the work of UH Ventures in the past in other areas, but this is the first time the efforts are brought together and focused under one entity.
“How do we increase the velocity of our assets, core competencies in the organization to position the enterprise for the next chapter?” Beck said.
His background includes working as a clinician in an academic health center, building systems of care in the for-profit and non-profit spaces and working within large publicly traded organizations with aims similar to those of UH Ventures.
Beck’s responsibilities at UH Ventures include identifying and evaluating new opportunities through acquisition, joint ventures and other arrangements, while managing a portfolio of assets to maximize growth.
“We think that the creation of this organization strengthens our ability to navigate the waters of the health care industry of the future, number one,” Peters said. “Number two, to serve the needs of the patients and community of Northeast Ohio and beyond. And number three, to help make Cleveland and Northeast Ohio (a) more vibrant ecosystem for health care innovation and discovery.”