Ten health care startup companies are kicking off the first week of a four-month training camp in Philadelphia.

 

DreamIt Ventures selected the firms from hundreds of applicants. Each receives up to $50,000 in seed money, along with technical and legal support. The Science Center also offers free office space during the program.

"More than money, more than anything that you need to get your business out there, it is the network," says Rajatesh Gudibande, co-founder of GraphWear Technologies. "The people around you, the positive energy you can get each day ... that's why we are doing DreamIt."

GraphWear uses graphene -- a single atom-thick layer of graphite -- as the core of a wearable sensor capable of measuring blood-sugar levels and dehydration through contact with skin.

Tanner Avery, 22, and his partner are launching Gray Matter Technologies, a line of mouthpieces designed to detect concussions in athletes, in Austin, Texas, but they decided 16 weeks of entrepreneur boot camp in Philadelphia were worth their time.

"There's expertise here that we really can't get anywhere else," said Avery. "It is a collection of really talented people from a really diverse number of fields ... so, really, this is a learning experience above and beyond what we were able to get in college."

Independence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine help fund the DreamIt Health Philadelphia program, which is in its third year. Along with training and access to experts in health and science, the firms make deidentified datasets available to the startups.

"Access to health care data is something that is a real sticking point for all emerging health care companies," says Tom Olanzak, director of innovation with Independence Blue Cross. "It is obviously very hard to get -- it is very protected -- but these companies really need it to prove out their business models."

The program wraps up with a Demo Day, when each company gets to pitch their concepts to an audience of potential investors and customers.

Disclosure: Independence Blue Cross supports WHYY.