Healthy Investing

There’s a lot of talk about “brain fitness” recently, but a broader sector seems to be emerging: consumer-driven health, or preventative health, or even Health 2.0, as it’s being called. Physic Ventures, a firm about which I wrote last week, is specializing in the area; a number of other firms like Mohr Davidow and Technology Partners are also paying attention and looking at related deals. The idea is to focus not on green tea companies — companies with products that make you feel good — but on startups rooted in science, startups that doctors can get behind.

Brain-strengthening game maker Lumos Labs falls into this camp. Lumos, which just garnered $3 million in funding, led by FirstMark Capital (f.k.a. Pequot Ventures) and Norwest Ventures, has as its chief scientific officer a former Stanford neuroscience student who has studied brain plasticity at length. So would a personal aesthetic device in the skin care area, if dermatologists found it credible, or, less theoretically, Novomer, a startup launched by Cornell professor Geoffrey Coates that makes biodegradable plastics from CO2 and that will ultimately be used to package food. (The company has raised $3 million so far from Physic, Flagship Ventures and DSM Venturing, the corporate venturing unit of Royal DSM N.V.. Considering it a consumer-driven health play rather than a green one might seem a stretch, but biodegradable plastics are good for everyone, and frankly, if Physic’s mandate were too narrowly focused, it would probably run out of interesting deals to fund.)

A couple of other advantages to this burgeoning sector: it’s certainly not overfunded, as it could easily be argued that Web and clean tech startups are. And it can give biotech and IT investors a reason to work together after a long history of toiling away in separate silos.