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CareQuest Innovation Partners and MATTER Launch Second Edition of SMILE Health

CareQuest Innovation Partners, a company focused on validating and scaling solutions that improve the oral health of all, in partnership with MATTER, the premier health care incubator and innovation hub, launched the second edition of SMILE Health — a unique program designed to identify and accelerate early-stage startups working in systemic health. SMILE is an acronym that underscores the innovations the program seeks: Simple, Minimally Invasive, Integrated, Low-barrier, and Equitable.

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“We are seeking innovators with solutions that fill the gaps in traditional oral health care delivery. The goal of SMILE Health is to catalyze change by identifying, selecting, and supporting startups seeking to make oral health care delivery more accessible, equitable, and integrated for all.”

Nationally, 77 million adults do not have dental coverage and 56 million people live in an area with no access to a dentist. Additionally, oral health remains largely separate from the traditional health care delivery system resulting in significant barriers to care. And for those with access, there continue to be deep inequities. Black and Hispanic patients disproportionately experience poor oral health outcomes. There is also interest in having dentistry more integrated with traditional health delivery, such as disease screening, vaccine distribution and more.

The SMILE Health global open call for startups is focused on novel solutions to address these critical needs in oral health. The program seeks solutions that are:

  • developing preventive or minimally invasive care solutions delivered both inside and outside of the dental offices
  • advancing racial, socioeconomic, or geographical equity in oral health care
  • bridging the gap between medical care and dental care to improve health outcomes

“Mind, body and mouth — these are essential components of systemic, whole body health,” said Mariya Filipova, chief innovation officer at CareQuest Innovation Partners. “We are seeking innovators with solutions that fill the gaps in traditional oral health care delivery. The goal of SMILE Health is to catalyze change by identifying, selecting, and supporting startups seeking to make oral health care delivery more accessible, equitable, and integrated for all.”

Filipova continued, “our imperative at CareQuest Innovation Partners is to validate and scale next-generation transformative solutions that improve systemic health through oral health. We are excited to once again provide a unique 12-week program for select participants that delivers business value through mentorship, education, and, most importantly, validation studies with industry leaders that accelerate products and solutions to market.”

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Applications are open from March 13 through May 5. Up to five early-stage startups will be selected to participate in the 12-week program that features access to dedicated mentors; a curated curriculum incorporating subject matter experts in oral health, innovation, and venture capital; and customized validation studies with access to potential customers that will help participants refine key offerings. Participants will receive a $10,000 stipend to support their participation.

“SMILE Health is a highly effective accelerator that provides a tremendous opportunity for innovators to rapidly scope and validate their solutions,” said Steven Collens, CEO of MATTER. “The second year of the program will again focus on cutting-edge solutions in oral health that pair to whole person health. We are delighted to continue to collaborate with CareQuest Innovation Partners on this work.”

Dr. Amreesh Khanna, CEO and founder of OraQ, an AI and machine learning technology company that enables precision patient care customized to dentists, participated in last year’s program and commented on the impactful nature of the program and the powerful network of partners it provided him and his team. “I was surrounded by industry leaders, innovators, collaborators, and mentors from dental groups, payors, dental service organizations, and venture capitalists, all interested in supporting and fostering innovations that will drive more equitable and integrative dental care, improving patient outcomes, and growing business. SMILE Health created an environment allowing health care providers like myself to step out of the normal day-to-day clinical care and take a risk to build something bigger.”

Selected 2023 startup teams will be matched with SMILE Health impact partners. These partners will help to validate solutions by providing resources, access to data, subject matter experts, and feedback. A number of impact partners returning for the 2023 program shared their experiences.

“DentaQuest is dedicated to improving the oral health of all, and one of the most significant ways we can do that is to foster new ideas,” said Kamila Chytil, chief operating officer at DentaQuest, part of Sun Life U.S. “We know that startups benefit from working with established organizations like DentaQuest to help validate solutions — and we benefit from getting a preview of new solutions that maximize access to the care members need. We are proud to again support the SMILE Health program this year.”

The program culminates in a Demo Day in October during which the startups will present their solutions to a group of industry leaders, including potential investors, partners, and clients.

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