Vera Whole Health reels in $50M from healthcare arm of JP Morgan Chase

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Vera Whole Health CEO Ryan Schmid. (Vera Whole Health Photo)

Seattle-based Vera Whole Health has raised $50 million from Morgan Health, the healthcare arm of JP Morgan Chase. The announcement Thursday comes on the heels of a majority-stake acquisition of Vera by a private equity firm in July.

Vera partners with employers to deliver healthcare through an integrated team of primary care physicians, nurses, and health coaches though clinics in close proximity to workspaces.

The company charges a per-month, per-person membership fee, an increasingly popular health care model. The approach simplifies billing and changes incentives in the medical system, with its fee-for-service approach and fragmented communication between specialists and primary care providers.

The investment is Morgan’s first in a coordinated care model of health and will support Vera’s growth in the employer-sponsored healthcare market. Morgan also announced that Vera will also form a partnership with Central Ohio Primary Care, a large physician-owned primary health care group.

“Our goal with this first investment is to build a strong coordinated healthcare model — with outstanding primary care and new ways to help employees navigate a healthcare system that is often very disconnected,” said Dan Mendelson, CEO of Morgan Health, who will join the Vera board of directors.

The investment is Morgan Health’s “first step to begin scaling a coordinated care model,” for its employees and the wider market, according to its news release.

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Nautilus Biotechnology shares surge 50% on news of Amazon investment

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Nautilus Biotechnology co-founder Sujal Patel. (Nautilus Photo)

Shares of Nautilus Biotechnology rose by as much as 50% on Thursday morning after a report revealed that Amazon has taken an equity stake in the newly public Seattle-based company.

Nautilus, started in 2016 by Isilon Systems co-founder Sujal Patel and Institute for Systems Biology alum Parag Mallick, is seeking to accelerate biomedical research and transform drug development by developing a new way to analyze the proteome, the set of proteins in a biological sample.

In a June 30 regulatory filing, Amazon disclosed that it owned 1.46 million shares of Nautilus, worth $14.7 million at the time, as first reported Thursday morning by CNBC.

Nautilus shares climbed from $7.51 to $11.30 on the news before trading in the stock was halted temporarily. The stock was at 8.65 as of publication time, up 15% on the day.

Amazon has launched a variety of healthcare initiatives in recent years, although it’s not clear whether or how its Nautilus investment dovetails with its own plans.

Bezos Expeditions, the VC arm of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, was among the investors in Nautilus prior to the company going public in June through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

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City of Seattle charges Postmates nearly $1M for underpaying more than 1,600 food delivery workers

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(Postmates Photo)

Postmates delivery company will pay nearly $1 million to fund back wages and inadequate contributions to the City of Seattle’s mandated paid sick leave program in a settlement reached with the Office of Labor Standards.

The settlement, under the Paid Sick and Safe Time for Gig Workers Ordinance, covers 1,646 workers and includes $949,815.49 in back wages, interest, and civil penalties for those workers, along with an additional $22,260.40 fine.

The city’s labor standards office began its investigation last fall after numerous workers — who had been working long hours during the pandemic delivery surge — complained that Postmates wasn’t paying the required sick leave nor notifying those same workers about how much paid-leave money was available to them.

Seattle had opened its investigation into the food delivery service before it was purchased by Uber in December 2020.

In a statement issued by the labor standards office, Shawn W. Gray, a Postmates driver, said the company’s couriers should not have been denied the additional pay.

“For years us couriers were missing out on many benefits that we need and that we should have received from the start. Now, thanks to the hard work of people who care at OLS, we have these benefits,” he said.

An Uber spokesman said the company was happy to put the matter to rest.

“While these issues arose before our purchase of Postmates was finalized, we appreciate the Office of Labor Standards’ close coordination with us to correct any outstanding issues,” said Zahid Arab, public affairs manager for Uber, said in a statement.

“We’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that workers on the Postmates’ platform got the paid sick and safe time to which they were entitled, and we look forward to our continued partnership with (Office of Labor Standards).”

Uber also recently had to pay a settlement to the same city agency for similar reasons.

In June, the Office of Labor Standards reached a $3.4 million settlement with Uber to resolve claims for back wages and unpaid sick leave. The money, the labor standard’s office said, will cover unpaid claims from 15,000 local Uber drivers.

Both settlements come under the 2012 regulation that requires Seattle employers to fund sick days for staff at the rate of one day for every 30 calendar days worked. Since its initial approval, the labor standards office has expanded the eligible employees’ group to include gig workers and it added to the list of acceptable reasons to take accrued leave.

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Tadataka Yamada, 1945-2021: Pioneer in drug development led global health at Gates Foundation

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Tadataka “Tachi” Yamada. (Twitter Photo via @TachiYamada)

Tadataka Yamada, a pioneer in drug and vaccine development who helped forge numerous biotech companies and spent six years at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as head of global health, died Wednesday morning of natural causes at his home in Seattle. He was 76.

Endpoints News confirmed Yamada’s death with Seattle venture firm Frazier Healthcare Partners, where Yamada, known as “Tachi,” was a partner.

Yamada was born in Japan and attended boarding school in Andover, Mass., before studying at Stanford and earning an MD at NYU. While he was chair of medicine at the University of Michigan, he was recruited to the company that would become GlaxoSmithKline, rising to head of R&D. He was known there for streamlining drug development and doubling the number of compounds in GSK’s pipeline.

In 2000, GSK sued Nelson Mandela and the South African government over the pricing of HIV medicines, which “shocked and embarrassed” Yamada, spurring him to set up an arm of GSK focused on neglected diseases.

“I proposed to set up a laboratory that focused on malaria and TB, to make medicines without worrying about whether we make money or not,” he told the Journal of Clinical Investigation in a 2012 interview. The Gates Foundation funded much of that work.

Yamada led the Seattle-based Gates Foundation’s global health program from 2006 to 2011, overseeing $9 billion directed at addressing health challenges of the developing world. He left to become chief medical and scientific officer and executive vice president of Tokyo-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

“When I left Japan at age 15 to come to the U.S., I made my father a promise that one day I’d come back to Japan,” he told JCI.  “I felt that what I learned at the foundation — about urgency, innovation, measuring, and partnering — these things would help the pharmaceutical industry. I actually believe that the pharmaceutical industry is the most important industry in the world.”

More recently, as a partner at Frazier, Yamada co-founded a series of companies, including Phathom Pharmaceuticals, Passage Bio, Scout Bio, and Outpost Medicine.

His involvement in Seattle companies included serving as chairman of the board at Athira Pharma, the Bothell, Wash.-based company that’s been embroiled in a recent controversy over image manipulation by its CEO. Yamada was also board chair of vaccine company Icosavax, a University of Washington spinout which he co-founded and which went public last week. Yamada also served as chair of the board of directors at the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

Remembrances and tributes poured in on Thursday morning.

  • “Tachi was a brilliant man, a physician-scientist, and deeply committed to the cause of public health,” said Icosavax CEO Adam Simpson, said in a statement. “I will miss his friendship, his optimism and his dedication, losses that I know are mitigated in some part by the enormous legacy he leaves behind.”
  • “Dr. Tachi Yamada was an extraordinary scientist and leader who used his brilliant mind and kind, good heart to improve the lives of millions of people. His work as board chair at CHAI inspired us all the help more people and save more lives. We’ll miss him so much,” former President Bill Clinton said in a tweet.
  • “Tachi understood well the many challenges that early-stage biotechnology companies often face when developing disruptive technologies, and always reminded us to consider how the treatments we were developing would affect patients and (more broadly) global health. He is a ‘giant among giants’ when it comes to our life sciences industry,” said Thong Q. Le, CEO and senior managing director at Seattle-based Accelerator Life Science Partners, an investment firm where Yamada was senior advisor and board member.
  • “He was a special person who did things to help people. That was his North Star,” his son Takao told the Timmerman Report.
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Bill Gates calls meeting Jeffrey Epstein ‘huge mistake,’ addresses his past conduct at Microsoft

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In a new interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night, Bill Gates called it a “huge mistake” to meet with convicted child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

Citing a New York Times report on French Gates’ alleged concerns over Gates’ relationship with Epstein, Cooper asked Gates to explain the relationship with Epstein, who at the time he met Gates in 2011 had already been convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor.

“I had several dinners with him, hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health through contacts that he had might emerge,” Gates said. “When it looked like that wasn’t a real thing, that relationship ended.

“It was a huge mistake to spend time with him, to give him the credibility of being there,” Gates added. That stance is in line with what the billionaire philanthropist has said previously about the relationship.

PREVIOUSLY: Bill and Melinda French Gates to take two years after divorce to assess partnership at foundation

The Microsoft co-founder and Melinda French Gates announced in May that they were ending their marriage after 27 years. The divorce was finalized on Monday, Cooper stated in the interview.

Epstein was accused of operating a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls. He was found dead in a New York City jail cell in August 2019.

Cooper also asked Gates if he has regrets about his actions in the workplace at Microsoft, as it relates to reports of relationships with co-workers, one of which was confirmed by a Gates spokesperson to have happened 20 years ago.

“Well certainly I think everyone does,” Gates said. “It’s a time of reflection and at this point I need to go forward. My work is very important to me. Within the family we’ll heal as best we can and learn from what’s happened.”

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