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How does venture capital operate in medical innovation?

ABSTRACT While health policy scholars wish to encourage the creation of technologies that bring more value to healthcare, they may not fully understand the mandate of venture capitalists and how they operate. This paper aims to clarify how venture capital operates and to illustrate its influence over the kinds of technologies that make their way into healthcare systems. The paper draws on the international innovation policy scholarship and the lessons our research team learned throughout a 5-year fieldwork conducted in Quebec (Canada). Current policies support the development of technologies that capital investors identify as valuable, and which may not align with important health needs. The level of congruence between a given health technology-based venture and the mandate of venture capital is highly variable, explaining why some types of innovation may never come into existence. While venture capitalists’ mandate and worldview are extraneous to healthcare, they shape health technologies in several, tangible ways. Clinical leaders and health policy scholars could play a more active role in innovation policy. Because certain types of technology are more likely than others to help tackle the intractable problems of healthcare systems, public policies should be equipped to promote those that address the needs of a growing elderly population, support patients who are afflicted by chronic diseases and reduce health disparities.


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