Sony-backed online health portal launches med tech VC fund, backs artificial heart developer

Pump unit of the extracorporeal ventricular assist device--Courtesy of M3

Sony-backed physician web portal M3 is venturing into med tech venture capital, via new seed investment group M3i.

The Tokyo-based company, of which Sony ($SNE) owns about 40%, just announced its first investment in a release. M3i is backing MedTecHeart, the maker of a next-generation artificial ventricular assist device for an undisclosed sum. The device being developed by the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Tokyo Institute of Technology apparently has a magnetically levitated centrifugal structure that offers superior safety.

"Our strategy is to buy majority stakes in target firms owning advanced technology and patents, and the size of one deal may be around ¥300 million ($2.7M)," M3i CEO Kazuhiro Umeda, told Bloomberg. He said the investment group is interested in backing small players in regenerative medicine, digital health and robotic surgery.

According to the M3i release, "this newly launched seeds rocket business will not only be limited to actualizing an idea and an initial capital investment, but also includes provision of comprehensive support across the entire value chain of launching and developing a new business, such as allocating management resources, advising development strategies for new drugs or devices, clinical trial implementation, and marketing support, all to expedite the growth process to unprecedented rocket speeds."

M3 was founded in 2000. Its online portal is used by more than 3.5 million doctors in China, Japan and the U.S. for research and networking, and also assists with drug maker clinical trials, Bloomberg reports. It reported net sales of ¥47.4 billion ($424 million) in the 9 months ended December 31, 2015, according to a financial statement.

- read the release