launching in HOU

Digital pharmacy launches in Houston to address access with same-day delivery

A new pharmacy startup has officially launched in Houston. Photo courtesy of Capsule

A health tech company has officially launched locally to serve as a digital pharmacy platform. The company is aiming to simplify the process for customers.

Capsule has launched in Houston to address access-challenged pharmacy deserts as well as allow for discreet delivery of frequently stigmatized medications. The company also prioritizes better communications than standard pharmacy service.

"Capsule's mission has always been to build a pharmacy that works for everyone," says Eric Kinariwala, founder and CEO of Capsule, in a news release. "We believe that the core pharmacy experience is fundamentally broken for the hundreds of millions of Americans who take medication regularly, so we set out to rebuild that experience from the inside out."

Capsule's custom software prevents common issues out-of-stock medications, long wait times, and lack of price transparency, as well as improves communications. Customers can sign up for the service — which includes same-day delivery within all of Harris County and parts of Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, and Montgomery counties — and have their physician send their prescriptions to Capsule. The company accepts all major insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.

One problem that Capsule is attempting to solve is access to pharmaceuticals. According to the release, half of prescriptions in America go unfilled resulting in $300 billion in additional healthcare costs. One factor contributing to this problem is access.

"We know that there is a direct link between proximity to a pharmacy and prescription fill rates," Kinariwala says. "And the consequences of failing to fill vital prescriptions can be dire. Capsule is a part of the solution."

In Houston, pharmacy deserts disproportionately affect minorities. Over 40 percent of Hispanic residents and 70 percent of Black residents live a mile or more away from a pharmacy. According to USA Rx data, Harris County has 1.39 pharmacies per 10,000 residents, which is below the national average of 2.4.

"Capsule's long-term ambition is to create a hub where consumers can access all of their healthcare needs in a single, simple, holistic place," says Kinariwala. "We're doing that in a way that brings together everybody in healthcare versus trying to own all of those things ourselves. Just like you buy a cell phone and choose apps, people will be able to access Capsule's digital pharmacy, as well as a best-in-class curated set of products and services to meet all of their healthcare needs from within a single app."

Eric Kinariwala is the founder and CEO of Capsule. Photo courtesy of Capsule

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Building Houston

 
 

Activate is planting its roots in Houston with a plan to have its first set of fellows next year. Photo via Getty Images

An organization that directs support to scientists developing impactful technology has decided on Houston for its fifth program.

Activate was founded in Berkeley, California, in 2015 to bridge the gap between the federal and public sectors to deploy capital and resources into the innovators creating transformative products. The nonprofit expanded its programs to Boston and New York before launching a virtual fellowship program — Activate Anywhere, which is for scientists 50 or more miles outside one of the three hubs.

"Our mission is to empower scientists to reinvent the world by bringing their research to market," Aimee Rose, executive managing director of Activate, tells InnovationMap. "There's so much technical talent that we educate in this country every year and so many amazing inventions that happen, that combining the two, which is the sort of inventor/entrepreneur, and giving them the support mechanisms they need to get on their feet and be successful, has the potential to unlock an incredible amount of value for the country, for the environment, and to address other social problems."

This year, Activate is planting seeds in Houston to grow a presence locally and have its first set of fellows in 2024. While Activate is industry agnostic, Rose says a big draw from Houston is the ability to impact the future of energy.

"We're super excited about Houston as an emerging ecosystem for the clean energy transition as being the energy capital of the world, as well as all the other emerging players there are across the landscape in Houston," Rose says. "I think we can move the needle in Houston because of our national footprint."

The first order of business, Rose says, is hiring a managing director for Activate Houston. The job, which is posted online, is suited for an individual who has already developed a hardtech business and has experience and connections within Houston's innovation ecosystem.

"We want to customize the program so that it makes the most sense for the community," Rose says about the position. "So, somebody that has the relationships and the knowledge of the ecosystem to be able to do that and somebody that's kind of a mentor at heart."

The program is for early-stage founders — who have raised less than $2 million in funding — working on high-impact technology. Rose explains that Activate has seen a number of microelectronics and new materials companies go through the program, and, while medical innovation is impactful, Activate doesn't focus on pharmaceutical or therapeutic industries since there are existing pathways for those products.

Ultimately, Activate is seeking innovators whose technologies fall through the cracks of existing innovation infrastructure.

"Not every business fits into the venture capital model in terms of what investors would expect to be eventual outcomes, but these these types of businesses can still have significant impact and make the world a better place," Rose says, explaining how Activate is different from an incubator or accelerator. "As opposed as compared to a traditional incubator, this is a very high touch program. You get a living stipend so you can take a big business technical risk without a personal risk. We give you a lot of hands on support and mentoring."

Each of the programs selects 10 fellows that join the program for two years. The fellows receive a living stipend, connections from Activate's robust network of mentors, and access to a curriculum specific to the program.

Since its inception, Activate has supported 104 companies and around 146 entrepreneurs associated with those companies. With the addition of Houston, Activate will be able to back 50 individuals a year.

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