As the COVID-19 pandemic closed hospitals to many non-emergency procedures, the demand for telehealth services and at-home treatments reached new heights. Venture capitalists and other investors have been scrambling to throw their weight behind the development of new software, devices and programs to reach patients in the comfort of their own homes.
It’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Investors’ latest target is Zerigo Health, maker of an FDA-cleared system for self-administering ultraviolet light therapy to treat psoriasis, vitiligo and eczema. The San Diego-based company, known until last October as Clarify Medical, said Thursday that it closed a $43 million funding round led by 7wireVentures.
Other participants in the series B financing include Leaps by Bayer, the Big Pharma’s VC arm, as well as Cigna Ventures, General Catalyst and a handful of other new and existing investors. In addition to leading the funding, 7wireVentures is also sending managing partner Glen Tullman, the former founder and CEO of Livongo and current CEO of Transcarent, to lead Zerigo’s board of directors as executive chairman.
The influx of funds, which follows an $18 million series A in October 2019, will help Zerigo up the availability of its phototherapy system and allow it to reach an even greater percentage of the estimated 40 million people in the U.S. living with chronic skin conditions.
Zerigo’s system pairs a hand-held device with a connected smartphone app. The device emits narrowband UVB light, which penetrates only the outermost layer of skin to both slow the growth of affected skin cells, clearing psoriasis and eczema flare-ups, and stimulate melanocytes, re-pigmenting skin affected by vitiligo.
The patient applies each dose of phototherapy at home, with the exact dosage amount controlled by their physician and transmitted to the device via Zerigo’s cloud-connected app. Patients can also use the app to set up their own treatment schedule, track progress and automatically share any updates with their healthcare providers.
The FDA cleared the Zerigo device and app in May 2017, and the company’s U.S. rollout began in November of that year.
“Legacy methods and therapeutics to treat chronic skin conditions are not only expensive but time-consuming and inconvenient, which often leads to adherence challenges,” Tom Richards, a senior VP and global lead for strategy and business development at Cigna, said in a statement. “By combining cutting-edge technology with human coaching and virtual physician connections, Zerigo Health offers convenient options to treat skin conditions in an individual’s home, making it easier to stick to regimens and drive better outcomes.”
Not only does the at-home system eliminate the need for patients to visit the clinic multiple times a week for treatment sessions, but studies have also shown that the self-administered treatment can be just as successful as in-clinic options.
In a 2019 clinical trial, eight plaque psoriasis patients underwent a treatment regimen using only the Zerigo system. By the end of that 10-week period, two patients had achieved total clearance, and the whole group saw an average 58% reduction in the severity of their psoriasis. After that, the participants spent another three weeks combining the phototherapy treatments with prescribed topical corticosteroids, after which 100% of them achieved total clearance.