Ever since I started writing about wireless platforms early in the last decade I have been looking for a sugar daddy, someone willing to put big bucks into the space to make what I saw as possible come true.
Well, it has definitely happened. With a second $20 million gift to go alongside $45 million already invested, the sugar daddies of wireless health are here.
Their names are Gary and Mary West (right). They are behind the Gary and Mary West Wireless Health Institute in San Diego. Its mission is "innovating, validating, advocating for and investing in the use of wireless technologies to transform medicine."
Despite its location, the Wests' money did not come from Qualcomm, the wireless chip company based there. Their money came from telemarketing.
First Gary built and sold WATS Telemarketing in Omaha, then his wife launched what is now West Corp., also in Omaha. Each is listed in the Forbes billionaire list, #840, with $1.1 billion. Although the bio says they got $1.6 billion plus 20% of the company when West went private in 2006, maybe that's $1.1 billion each. Or maybe the Great Recession got into their nest egg.
Regardless, the $65 million center is not their life savings, and the foundation is completely non-profit, even though its aim seems to be to launch a hugely profitable industry. Some of that money is going into research being done by GE Healthcare. Other funds are going into independent research.
The Institute is headed by veteran executives from Johnson & Johnson and Cardinal Health. The big brain of the outfit is research director Mehran Mehregany, a veteran MEMS researcher who is still listed on the faculty of Case Western in Cleveland.
I'm sure some might, at this point, ask why the Wests put their money into San Diego, rather than into Omaha or Cleveland. The snarky answer is "have you been to Cleveland?" The real answer may have more to do with Qualcomm, which has delivered a lot of good researchers to the field.
They could put it on the Moon for all I care. What matters is that mHealth now has direction, and leadership, and money tied to a search for solutions rather than mere proprietary advantage, all thanks to a couple of telemarketers who want to do good.
Who says the only good thing to come out of Omaha is Warren Buffett? You won't hear that from me any more.