Digital health innovation hub debuts in Boston

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BOSTON – A health-care innovation hub that will focus on developing digital technology for use in the delivery of medical services took its first turn in the spotlight Wednesday as Boston and state officials officially opened the center before an attentive throng at the Landmark Center near the Fens.

“This is where we work with the business community to move Boston innovation forward,” Mayor Marty Walsh said at the event, according to posts on Twitter.

“We have all of the elements here in Massachusetts to lead in digital health,” Gov. Charlie Baker said at the afternoon event. He said the state has “core elements” to lead the world in the technology.

“We are at the birth of this incredible opportunity,” Dr. Jeffrey Leiden said at the event, according to a Twitter post. Leiden is the chief executive of Boston-based biotech firm Vertex Pharmaceuticals and leads the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership’s digital health initiative, which will oversee programming for the innovation hub. The partnership is also known as MassCompetes.

Officials also announced the creation of the Massachusetts Innovation Catalyst Fund, which holds almost $26 million from private sources interested in investing in digital health care companies either in Massachusetts or with significant operations in the state, according to a statement from MassChallenge, the startup accelerator that coordinated creation of the innovation hub. An affiliate of Boston-based boutique investment bank Leerink Holdings manages the fund, according to a statement from MassChallenge.

The product of a public-private partnership announced in January, the innovation hub is designed to help startups that target the digital health market, according to Baker’s office. The January announcement cited a Goldman Sachs analysis that pegged the market size at $32 billion over the next decade.

“The sector spans a variety of technologies including electronic health records, consumer wearable devices, care systems, payment management, Big Data analytics and telemedicine among others, and has close connections to the state’s technology and life sciences sectors,” according to Baker’s statement. “Massachusetts is well-positioned for success in digital health as host to world-class healthcare and academic institutions, strong startup culture, significant venture capital investment, a dominant life sciences sector and roughly 250 existing digital health companies.”

MassCompetes is an organization of current and former Boston business leaders created to foster job growth and competitiveness in the Bay State. Members include former Partners HealthCare chairman and advertising executive Jack Connors, Fidelity Investments chief executive Abigail Johnson and Bill Swanson, former head of Raytheon.

“In an effort to bolster the Massachusetts technology sector, we analyzed the opportunities and decided to build on our strengths by focusing on Digital Healthcare,” the group says on its website. Its initiative aims to facilitate financing, early startup activity, networking and support for entrepreneurial faculty and students at local colleges and universities.

General Electric, one of the largest U.S. industrial companies, is relocating its headquarters to Boston from Fairfield, Connecticut, partly because of the city’s fertile environment for digital innovation. The company plans to set up some 600 “digital industrial product managers, designers and developers” focused on various industries, according to company and state officials in January.

The company added that it already has a life sciences division based in the Boston area and plans to focus much of its future business on developing digital technology for use in many sectors. The company’s GEVentures unit invests in startups, including in the health field.