OurCrowd, WHO Foundation roll out $200m global health equity fund

Fund to invest in global healthcare initiatives, with emphasis on ‘breakthrough tech,’ equitable access to care

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Tech Israel editor and reporter.

WHO Foundation CEO Anil Soni with OurCrowd founder and CEO Jon Medved, September 2022. (Aurelio Di Muzio)
WHO Foundation CEO Anil Soni with OurCrowd founder and CEO Jon Medved, September 2022. (Aurelio Di Muzio)

The Israeli investment firm OurCrowd has teamed up with the Geneva-headquartered World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation to launch a $200 equity fund that will invest in global health initiatives.

The new $200 million Global Health Equity Fund (GHEF) will invest in “breakthrough technology” that impacts healthcare on a global scale and advances equitable access to care, according to a press announcement.

The launch of the fund was announced on Sunday at a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting in New York City, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) taking place this week. As a unit of the Clinton Foundation, founded by Bill Clinton in 2005, CGI brings together business, government, and philanthropy leaders to focus on areas such as climate initiatives, health equity projects, and inclusive economics ventures.

The fund, according to OurCrowd, was conceived in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deep-rooted healthcare inequalities, like access to initial vaccines and diagnostics highlighted by the 2020 global health emergency.

“COVID-19 was a wake-up call for me as an investor,” said OurCrowd CEO and founder Jon Medved. “The pandemic opened my eyes to health inequity around the world and reinforced the potential of innovative technology to save lives.”

“In every country in the world, too many men, women, and children lack access to adequate healthcare because of income disparities and systemic barriers that perpetuate inequity,” said Anil Soni, CEO of the WHO Foundation, in a statement. The foundation was set up in 2020 as an independent but affiliate organization of the WHO that grants funds and backs health-related initiatives.

“Despite clear models for successfully balancing economic return with equitable access, such as the provision of medicines for HIV and AIDS, the world failed to deliver solutions for COVID-19 to everyone, everywhere. It is imperative that we deploy solutions in response to that failure, including directing investment to innovation and aligning both to equity as a goal from the start,” said Soni.

COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in developing and low-income countries have hit multiple obstacles in recent years, as high-income countries were able to more quickly deploy vaccine campaigns and reach wider immunization levels. The emergence of new variants has sparked global concerns about new infection waves that can undermine the efficacy of the existing jabs.

The GHEF’s investment team will be led by Jon Medved, and OurCrowd Managing Partner Dr. Morris Laster, with support from the WHO Foundation’s Chief Impact Investment Officer Geetha Tharmaratnam.

OurCrowd’s track record of health-related venture investments includes backing for Israeli startup Alpha Tau Medical, the developer of alpha radiation cancer therapy, and BrainQ, the developer of AI-based electromagnetic therapy to reduce disability following a stroke.

“This new fund builds on that success with the explicit orientation of having impact,” said Medved. “The collaboration with the WHO Foundation will allow us to identify even more exciting investments and facilitate the commitment of investors and entrepreneurs to equitable access to the technologies we support.”

Soni said the fund “places equity at the heart” and asks investors and entrepreneurs to think more widely about access to healthcare.

“We are delighted to collaborate with OurCrowd to work towards our shared goal of impact on health equity,” he said.

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