In February, Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network held a ribbon-cutting in Bellevue, Pennsylvania, to unveil a home for one of its newest ventures—AlphaLab Health, which the system hopes will spur innovation and improvements to community health.
The 10,000-square-foot innovation hub, a partnership with Pittsburgh-based startup incubator Innovation Works, is housed in a former hospital owned by AHN. It will serve as the home base for startups participating in AlphaLab Health, AHN’s healthcare and life sciences startup accelerator launched in fall 2020.
“It’s a demonstration of what you can do to repurpose these assets that are aged but have great bones,” said Dr. Jeff Cohen, AHN’s chief physician executive for community health and innovation.
The space gives AlphaLab Health startups access to wet and dry labs to develop products, as well as office space and areas to collaborate and meet with other startups. The startups also receive early-stage funding and opportunities to connect with clinicians and test products at AHN.
The project has involved more than two years and $5 million, including renovations and investments in startups and programing—of which AHN and its parent Highmark Health contributed $2 million.
Accelerators and other innovation centers became more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Pam Arlotto, president and CEO of healthcare consultancy Maestro Strategies. While hospitals have been setting up innovation programs for years, the efforts took on a new focus as the healthcare industry eyed consumerism and pushed to create new care models that engage patients at home and outside of the hospital.
They’re expensive projects, usually involving investments in real estate and hiring staff to run the programs.