Alex Philp

Alex Philp is the founder and chief science officer at Upstream Health Systems Inc., a locally based healthcare analytics company which formed last spring.

TOM BAUER, Missoulian

A Missoula entrepreneur has partnered with a former marketing executive for Nike and Starbucks, as well as health industry executives and investors, to form a fast-growing health care technology company with an office on the Hip Strip.

Alex Philp is the founder and chief science officer at Upstream Health Systems Inc., which formed last spring and is in the process of hiring employees and raising capital.

Philp is well-known in Missoula as the founder of GCS Research and several other endeavors. Upstream’s CEO is Jay Henry, a former hospital CEO in Bend, Oregon; the company’s chairman of the board is Scott Bedbury, an advertising executive who was behind Nike’s successful “Just Do It” campaign, which helped launch that company into the world’s top sporting goods brand.

“Upstream Health Systems is a new startup with three branch offices. One is here in Missoula in the GCS building on the Hip Strip,” Philp explained. “We’ve hired seven people in the last two months and we’re hiring three more."

Upstream is an advanced technology company that is dedicated to improving lives by increasing health across communities, neighborhoods and populations, Philp said.

"We are dedicated to this notion of upstream analytics – understanding the causes and conditions of diseases like coronary disease, diabetes and certain neurological diseases, among others, and helping populations prevent diseases from occurring.”

The health analytics industry is a $350 billion field within the entire $3 trillion U.S. health care industry, he added, and it’s growing fast.

The company has offices in Bend and Seattle, but the Missoula office is where the firm’s mathematicians, statisticians, economists and senior developer build and develop software.

“We are focusing on innovative health care systems and private companies, trying to envision how to make entire regions healthier,” Philp explained. “We are looking at the connections between people and place and health. We want to help people go from being patients to smart consumers, and we have a lot of tricks up our sleeve and major announcements, when it comes to new projects and ideas, coming up.”

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The company’s flagship product is called “Navigator,” a software application it sells to health systems, insurance providers and pharmaceutical companies.

“We are very focused on environmental factors,” Philp said. “Where you live matters in terms of lifestyle behavior, exposure to carcinogens and in terms of accessibility to clean foods and water. We build software that allows our clients to take all of these factors together into one application. There are hundreds of variables can be analyzed to see a health trajectory.”

Philp said certain factors contribute to the overall risk a population has of being susceptible to disease. Philp said the notion of geography as a risk factor has been undervalued and underappreciated compared to lifestyle and behavior.

“Approximately 40 to 55 percent of risk is based on your lifestyle behaviors,” he said. “And where you live is approximately 20 to 25 percent. Genetic determinants is 15 percent and actually the health care system is 7 to 10 percent. So where you live, your home, is a much bigger driver combined with behavior. We decided we could literally map all that so people could understand these diseases, these processes. We could work with clients on where we can intervene."

Philp said that the company is a classic spinoff of GCS Research, and was formed after the Missoula Downtown Association facilitated a meeting with an angel investor, Frank Martinez, formerly of Microsoft.

“There is a lot of innovation coming out of Missoula, and the Missoula Downtown Association really deserves credit,” Philp said. “After (Martinez) invested, we got other angels and that led to our second seed round. We have investors coming in potentially from Asia. Our seed round of capital has been very successful."

Philp said the Hip Strip is a perfect location for a tech company.

“We love being downtown,” he said. “We have Le Petit and KettleHouse right here and we have all the fiber-optic cable we could want. The Hip Strip is where, I like to say, you can get your bread, beer and bytes all in one place.”

For more information visit upstreamhealthsystems.com.

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