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Our Story

Digital health will continue to transform both the pharmaceutical industry and the patient experience. Digital health innovation will be vital for individual pharmaceutical companies that wish to remain competitive and adapt to the changing therapeutic landscape. For patients, digital health will transform their experience by increasing access, improving outcomes, decreasing cost, and delivering care in fundamentally new ways.

Naomi Fried, PhD, is an innovation expert and digital health thought leader. Throughout her career, she has worked in leadership positions within both provider organizations and pharma. She has also worked with startups as an executive, advisor, and VC investor. For many years, Naomi has promoted the importance of pharma and digital health startups working together. She has written and spoken about both the opportunities and the challenges that pharma and startups face when building partnerships. Naomi identified this “pharma-startup gap,” which stems from differences in culture, regulations, expectations, timelines, funding, and even “language.” The gap has prevented pharma-startup engagements from reaching their potential and has made pharma hesitant to broadly adopt digital health solutions.

To bridge this gap, Naomi partnered with former pharma executive Laura Gunn, PhD and a team of experts—coming from pharma, startups, digital health, and innovation backgrounds—to build PharmStarsTM. PharmStars is the first and only digital health accelerator for pharma-focused startups. The team provides education and mentoring to startups about what startups need to know about when pitching and partnering with pharma. On the flip side, PharmStars “Executive Ed” program works closely with pharma to enhance its adoption of digital health and innovation.

PharmStars’ mission is to support and accelerate informed and effective startup-pharma engagements in the digital health arena. Such engagement will improve patient outcomes and bringing down costs.

Naomi, Laura, and the PharmStars team publicly launched on June 1, 2021. The first accelerator cohort took place in the fall of 2021. There will be two new cohorts in 2022.

Mission statement

Our mission is to facilitate and accelerate successful partnerships between digital health startups and pharma, leading to greater success for each and faster adoption of digital health to improve patient outcomes.

About PharmStars
(for press releases)

PharmStarsTM is the pharma-focused accelerator for digital health startups. Through our extensive expertise across pharma, startups, digital health, and innovation, we understand the challenges that pharma and startups face when seeking to collaborate. Our PharmaUTM program supports digital health startups and our pharma members in “bridging the gap,” leading to greater success and faster adoption of “beyond the molecule” solutions for patients.

PharmStars Alumni

Press FAQs

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What is PharmStars?

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PharmStars is a global accelerator for digital health startups seeking pharma (including biotech) clients or partners. Our program offers tailored education and personalized mentoring to startups with the aim of achieving greater success when partnering with pharma. Our pharma members enjoy premium access to a select group of promising, groomed digital health startups that align with their digital health strategies.

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How is PharmStars different from other healthcare accelerators?

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  • Specialization: We are the accelerator focused on the needs of digital health startups that want pharma as a client or partner.
  • Curriculum: We are the only accelerator that offers startups a carefully structured, comprehensive pharma curriculum.
  • Mentor network: Our mentoring program is unique. All mentoring is by PharmStars' professional staff, which consists of experienced pharma and digital health experts. Unlike other accelerators, we do not leave the vital coaching of startups to an ad hoc group of volunteer mentors.
  • Non-proprietary: Unlike an accelerator run by a single pharma, we offer membership to multiple pharma companies, enabling startups to simultaneously engage with different firms.
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How does PharmStars work?

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Startups apply online to participate in a cohort focused on a particular theme. Ten startups are selected to participate in PharmaUTM, a 10-week educational and mentoring program that culminates with a private, members-only Showcase Event. Our educated and prepped startups present their refined pitches to pharma members and have one-on-one meetings with them at the Showcase Event.

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What is PharmaU?

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PharmaU is PharmStars’ educational program, developed and led by the PharmStars team. PharmaU consists of three parts:
1) a structured curriculum to teach startups what they need to know about pharma;
2) individualized coaching and mentoring for startups on how to successfully engage pharma; and
3) a series of workshops and seminars for pharma members, known as “Executive Ed,” on how to implement digital health programs and partnerships.

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What is in the curriculum and who teaches it?

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Our classes are interactive and focus on the pharma industry including: pharma’s internal structure and functions, pharma business models, regulatory drivers, pharma-startup deal structures, and current industry trends. The curriculum is taught by PharmStars' expert faculty and occasional external speakers. There is ample opportunity for peer-to-peer sharing and discussion. Our curriculum is both educational and fun.

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What is the Showcase Event?

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Each cohort culminates with the private Showcase Event. All startups pitch to an audience of PharmStars’ pharma members. Private, one-on-one meetings between startups and the members occur at the Showcase Event.

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What type of startups should apply?

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We are accepting digital health startups that want to engage pharma as clients or partners, would benefit from priority access to our pharma members, and recognize the importance of an enhanced understanding of pharma. Digital health startups that are interested in receiving coaching to create clearer value propositions and better pitches to engage pharma are ideal candidates.

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What are the criteria for selecting startup participants?

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We will choose digital health startups to join the accelerator based on:

  • Fit: Have a promising digital health innovation that pharma can use related to the cohort theme.
  • Product stage: Have a developed product or viable prototype that can be immediately adopted by pharma.
  • Need: Have not yet broadly and successfully engaged with pharma and are in a position to benefit from the education and coaching PharmStars offers.
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What benefits can startups expect from the program?

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Startups that participate in PharmStars can benefit in numerous ways. Through PharmaU, participants learn about the pharma ecosystem and how to successfully navigate pharma organizations. Startups also receive personalized mentoring to assist them in articulating a value proposition that resonates with pharma. Startups meet our pharma members during the Showcase Event and may be invited to one-on-one meetings with them. Startups also have the opportunity to be part of a community with other pharma-focused startups.

Still Have Questions?