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Forbes released its 35th annual world’s billionaire rankings this week, and not even a global pandemic tempered the explosion of new wealth, with a new billionaire roughly ever 17 hours in 2020. Forty of those newcomers made their wealth fighting Covid-19, with Hong Kong’s Li Jianquan and family, owners of Winner Medical, topping the list at $6.8 billion thanks to producing billions of masks and millions of protective overalls and gowns for healthcare workers fighting the virus. Also on the list were vaccine manufacturers Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna at $4.3 billion, and Uğur Şahin, cofounder of BioNTech at $4 billion. 

Seven of the top ten richest healthcare billionaires are based in China, with Jiang Rengshen and family topping the list at $24.4 billion. Jiang is the chairman of vaccine manufacturer Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products. The only U.S.-based billionaire to make the cut was Thomas Frist, Jr. and family the co-founder of hospital chain HCA Healthcare at $15.7 billion. 

We’ll be on the lookout for new billionaires in 2021, as venture capital continues to flood the healthcare industry. Digital health startups raised over $6.7 billion in the first quarter, according to a new report from Rock Health. 

This Startup Raised $40 Million To Build A ‘Mini-Kaiser Permanente’

Firefly Health began as a virtual primary care startup, but has quickly grown to include virtual behavioral health and speciality care. With $40 million in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, the company is now going after the employer-sponsored market. This new offering will be a full health plan benefit along the lines of Oakland, California-based vertically integrated health insurer and services provider Kaiser Permanente. The idea is to get fully-insured small business owners, who are being crushed by rising employee healthcare costs, to switch to a self-insured pooled plan administered by Firefly with the promise of a reduction in their overall healthcare costs. Read about it here.


General Catalyst has raised $600 million for a new health-specific fund, in addition to its two health-focused SPACs. 

Cerner is growing a billion dollar big data business, starting with its $375 million acquisition of Kantar Health. 

Nearly 50% of venture-backed healthcare companies have no women on the board, according to a Deerfield Management report. 

Coronavirus Updates

After an extensive investigation into the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, the European Medicines Agency announced today that there does seem to be a possible link between the vaccine and cases of rare blood clots. Concern over blood clots led several countries to stop administering the vaccine altogether, or limit it to people over the age of 55. The EMA says the rare side effect should be noted, but the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risk. Meanwhile, a U.K. regulatory agency has recommended that people under the age of 30 should get a different Covid-19 vaccine if one is available. Speaking of the U.K. — the B.1.1.7 variant of Covid-19, first discovered in the U.K., is now the dominant variant circulating in the U.S. Read more below. 

Designing For Future Health

Hospital design experts Ryan Hullinger and Sarah Markovitz discuss how health systems should start rethinking physical spaces so they are well-equipped to provide patients with the behavioral health support they need. Read about it here.

Other Coronavirus News

The IRS has now issued 156 million pandemic stimulus payments worth $372 billion. 

The University of Notre Dame has become the latest school to require students and faculty to get a Covid-19 vaccine before returning to campus.

Despite high vaccination rates, Covid-19 cases are still surging in Chile due to relaxed social distancing rules.  

Across Forbes

Guardian Agriculture Raises $10.5 Million For Its Crop-Dusting Drone Service

Climate Activists Smash Barclays HQ Windows

Revenge Of The Winklevii

What Else We are Reading

To Name Unknown Soldiers, Military Mulls Crime-Solving DNA Methods (The New York Times)

The Pandemic is Improving. Why Are You Still So Miserable? (Elemental)

Former Medicare leader Seema Verma joins board of health tech firm Lumeris (STAT)

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