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Axial partners with great founders and inventors. We invest in early-stage life sciences companies such as Appia Bio, Seranova Bio, Delix Therapeutics, Simcha Therapeutics, among others often when they are no more than an idea. We are fanatical about helping the rare inventor who is compelled to build their own enduring business. If you or someone you know has a great idea or company in life sciences, Axial would be excited to get to know you and possibly invest in your vision and company . We are excited to be in business with you - email us at email@example.com
Who leads Virta Health?
Virta waunded in 2014 by Sami Inkinen to transform the lives of patients with type 2 diabetes. Inkinen previously co-founded Trulia and was its COO/President before he started Virta. He also worked at Microsoft and McKinsey and actually studied physics early in his career. However, he is a health fanatic - for example he rowed a boat with his wife from San Francisco to Hawaii in 2014.
Inkinen was winning Ironman competitions when has diagnosed as pre-diabetic in 2011. This motivated him to learn more about the science of type 2 diabetes (T2D), which eventually led him to Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney, two experts in metabolic health. With the consultation of Phinney and Volek, Sami began practicing nutritional ketosis to improve his health and prevent onset of T2D. He and his wife’s row from SF to Hawaii was done to raise awareness for the role of nutrition in health. Finally in 2014, Sami convinced Jeff and Stephen to join Virta to reverse T2D in every patient. Pretty inspiring.
What does Virta Health do?
Virta Health helps patients reverse their T2D with diet and behavioral changes. Instead of taking drugs, patients are put on a program for sustained dietary carbohydrate restriction along with support from a virtual health coach. Low-carbohydrate diabetes have been found to improve symptoms of T2D patients along with those that have obesity and metabolic disease.
When Virta was founded there was a need for long-term studies on the effects of this diet on T2D patients particularly those that are on insulin. The company started this long-term clinical trial in 2015 and this decision has been at the center of the company’s success. In 2019, the company published this work:
After one year on Virta’s program (n=349), 60% of patients achieved T2D reversal: HbA1c < 6.5% while prescribed metformin or no medication at all
Moreover, patients on the Virta program have seen significant improvements in their cardiovascular and metabolic health as measured by liver function, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, among other biomarkers. The company’s portfolio of clinical papers is impressive; Virta is likely the most validated digital health product so far.
Other studies have shown diabetes reversal in around 50% of a patient population after only 10 weeks on the Virta program
What makes Virta Health unique?
What makes Virta unique when compared to other digital health companies is their commitment to relying on clinical evidence to build new products. The company continues to fund studies on the impact of their products to treat diabetes. This shows in their 2018 decision to put 100% of their reimbursement fees up for enterprise customers if Virta doesn’t reduce prescription costs for T2D patients by 70% within a year. Incredibly bold move.
Another major part of Virta is the ease for patients to sign up. Someone with T2D who wants to potentially get off insulin or prevent onset of the disease can go to Virta’s website and begin their own journey. The company handles the payments on the backend and sets the patient onto their own diet and counseling program. This patient flow allows Virta to own the customer relationship. Rather than deal with a physician or insurer, the patient interacts directly with Virta. Over time, this will create an almost insurmountable moat for Virta. The company will introduce other products for T2D patients and move into other metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. Virta might even make its own foray into healthcare insurance. But at the center of its business model is the patient relationship.
With a strong clinical record and unique business model, Virta is building one of the iconic brands in healthcare. Something that is pretty rare. Other brands like Tylenol and Viagra don’t come around too often. This patient focus comes from Sami and the team’s authentic mission to help T2D patients.
Why I like what Virta Health is doing?
By validating the positive impact of replacing carbohydrates with fats for T2D patients, Virta is reversing diabetes one patient at a time. With over 100M with diabetes or at risk to develop the disease in the US and 100Ms more around the world, the company has set off on the mission to reverse T2D in 100M patients by 2025. I wish I was an investor. If anyone has shares to sell, please email me.
You can find Virta Health here.