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April 14, 2022 | News

Tullman’s firm banks on virtual diabetes clinic 9am.health with $16M series A

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Fierce Healthcare

Direct-to-consumer startup 9am.health has landed $16 million in series A funding for its virtual diabetes management clinic, the company announced Wednesday.

The startup, which launched last September, serves patients with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, offering personalized treatment plans, prescription delivery, at-home lab diagnostics and more for a $25-per-month fee.

7wireVentures and Human Capital co-led the round, joined by StartUp Health and Leaps By Bayer as well as existing investors Define Ventures and Founders Fund.

Glen Tullman, managing partner at 7wireVentures and former CEO and founder of digital diabetes company Livongo, will join 9am.health’s board of directors as part of the investment.

Frank Westermann, co-CEO and co-founder of 9am.health, previously started a company for Type 1 diabetes patients called MySugr, which Livongo had expressed interest in acquiring. Since founding MySugr in 2012, Westermann said diabetes care has transformed.

“We had the idea of a digital diabetes clinic 10 years ago, but it wasn’t possible. We weren’t able to prescribe medications virtually, to do at-home phlebotomy or send A1C test kits; we live today in a very different world,” he told Fierce Healthcare. “Diabetes care will always be cumbersome, but we can now create an experience that really helps you stay on course.”

Roche ultimately acquired MySugr in 2017 for $100 million. Westermann stayed onboard until early 2020, and in the months that followed, he saw the pandemic force innovation at a rapid pace.

As a result of those pandemic-induced developments in digital health, “we are able to provide personalized treatment plans and continually adapt those treatment plans based on the lab data we get back,” he said. “And we’re able to make it affordable in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

9am.health’s basic membership plan includes care team support and medication delivery, but patients can tack on extra services based on their needs. Members can order a glucose meter and test strips to measure their blood sugar levels daily at $45 for a three-month supply. For a $15 monthly charge, patients can also schedule appointments with a phlebotomist to come do blood draws at their home to check their A1C levels, a service that 9am.health offers in partnership with Scarlet Health.

Nonmembers can get at-home diabetes and prediabetes screenings, too, with an A1C test kit sent to the patient’s address at a $36 cost.

“Often there’s a lot of shame—you don’t want to go see a doctor and do what you probably should do. This is an anonymous way to understand where you are,” Westermann said.

While 9am.health intends to always be a direct-to-consumer company, the startup has plans to expand into the self-insured employer market this year to provide its services to employees as a covered benefit.

“Step by step, as there are medications that are just not affordable, we need to also be able to deal with insurance,” Westermann said. “It’s a market where we know who a lot of our users are, where users can get their diabetes care covered, and we want to be there for them.”

As a member of 9am.health’s board, Tullman can offer his expertise as the company dives into the employer market. Tullman’s new company Transcarent, which launched in March 2021, helps connect self-insured employers to providers without premiums.

“The 9am.health team has created a new consumer-directed and comprehensive diabetes experience that includes medications, devices, labs, and care, provided by people who understand diabetes, all in one place. The pandemic demonstrated that health consumers are hungry for a new healthcare system that is responsive to their needs, improves care, and does so affordably,” said Tullman in a statement. “The 9am.health leadership team are entrepreneurs who are purpose-driven, passionate and are experienced in translating people’s needs into great experiences, and I’m looking forward to working with the team on their continued expansion.”

San Diego-based 9am.health has raised $20 million to date.