Axios Pro: Health Tech Deals

September 08, 2022

Axios Pro Exclusive Content

It's Thursday, Health Techies.

🧑🏼‍🔬 Situational awareness: Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes has requested a new trial, saying in a court filing that former lab director Adam Rosendorff — a key prosecution witness — now regrets the role he played in her conviction.

👃🏼1 big thing: Don't sneeze at Allermi

Illustration of a bottle of nasal spray spraying the shape of a dollar sign.
Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Custom nasal spray at the ready, online allergy treatment startup Allermi is looking to penetrate an underserved consumer market with its first round of funding, Erin writes.

Why it matters: Allermi is focused on a relatively untapped segment of the direct-to-consumer arena: personalized prescription allergy treatment.

  • It's riding a wave of investor interest jumpstarted by DTC startups including Hims & Hers and Ro.

Deal details: Allermi inhaled $1.25 million in pre-seed funding led by Lucas Venture Group, CEO Shani Bocian tells Erin exclusively.

What's next: The company is gearing up to raise its seed round in the fall, says Bocian, and has plans to expand into personalized treatments for eczema.

Context: While DTC startups for sexual health, dermatology and hair loss have dominated the digital pharmacy landscape, fewer companies have homed in on prescription allergy treatments — with some notable exceptions. For example:

  • Hybrid care company Thirty Madison, which in February acquired women's telehealth startup Nurx, offers personalized treatments for allergies, hair loss, migraines and digestive issues.
  • Telehealth company Hims & Hers, which SPAC'ed its way to the public markets last year at a $1.6 billion valuation, sells some allergy treatments through its primary care vertical.

The backstory: A lifelong allergy sufferer, Bocian started the company with her father, Robert Bocian, an allergist and adjunct clinical associate professor of pediatrics in immunology and allergy at Stanford.

  • "My dad would bring home a custom treatment protocol for me every month that would quell my symptoms," Bocian says, recalling that patients began calling his sprays "Bocian’s potion."
  • "So when digital health companies started booming, I said, 'let’s take your solution and make it available across the country,'" she adds.

How it works: Users fill out an online medical questionnaire and detail their symptoms, and an allergist designs their nasal spray.

  • Thanks to Allermi's partnership with Albertsons, which provides access to a compounding pharmacy, each spray contains between two and four active ingredients.
  • Similar to other digital pharmacies, Allermi only accepts cash, and its treatments cost $45 per month.
  • Robert Bocian says the company is also working on materials to help coach people in the proper technique to use its spray. "We’re very proud this isn’t a cookie-cutter approach," he says.

Yes, but: San Francisco-based Allermi is only available to California residents for now, though Bocian says it is working on getting licensed in five more states.

What they're saying: Lucas Venture Group general partner Sarah Lucas sees an opportunity for Allermi to become what she describes as a gold standard in allergy treatment.

  • "This isn’t rocket science. It’s very basic," says Lucas. "They have a treatment they know works, so it’s about getting it to the right people and getting them what they need to use it correctly."

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