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Rock Health, incubator for digital healthcare startups, will expand to Boston this summer

Posted by Scott Kirsner  March 30, 2012 07:34 AM

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Rock Health founder Halle Tecco tells me that she's planning to launch a Boston edition of the well-regarded incubator program for startup teams using technology to tackle healthcare problems. The program will be held on the campus of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and will accept about six startup teams. Each chosen team gets a grant of $20,000, without having to cough up any equity. This year's program will start in June and conclude in August with a "demo day" for investors.

Ed Coburn, director of the health media group at Harvard Med School, helped Tecco expand the program from its San Francisco base to Boston. Already signed on to mentor are local entrepreneurs like Jason Jacobs of RunKeeper, Ben Rubin of Zeo, Erika Pabo of Harvard Med School, Sonny Vu of Misfit Wearables, and Jacob Sattelmair of WellFrame. Former MIT Media Lab director Frank Moss, a co-founder of Infinity Pharmaceuticals, has been a mentor for the San Francisco program and will participate in Boston as well.

Tecco says the program's goal is to bring "radical innovation" to healthcare. The Harvard Med School relationship — and the Longwood location of the program — will give entrepreneurs who participate an opportunity to test their prototypes in partnership with experienced docs and other medical professionals, she says.

Tecco says that Rock Health was the first incubator program exclusively targeting health startups (there are now others, like Blueprint Health and Healthbox.) She launched it after getting her MBA from Harvard Business School, and spending a summer assessing and organizing health-related apps for Apple's iTunes Store. The program is underwritten by sponsors that include Genentech, Nike, and the Mayo Clinic. Among Rock Health's San Francisco alumni are Chronology, a social network for people with Crohn's disease and colitis, and Cellscope, which builds attachments for smartphones that enable medical diagnoses to be done at home or in village clinics. Interestingly, a Cambridge startup called Ginger.io acquired Pipette, a Rock Health alum that uses mobile phones to monitor patients' conditions, earlier in March.

Application info for the Boston program is here.

(Update: A Chicago-based accelerator program, Healthbox, has subsequently announced its plans to expand to Boston. Its program will begin in August.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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