The $250 million venture fund is the latest in a series of initiatives by Cigna to invest heavily in data, analytics and digital healthcare.

Health insurer Cigna Corp. is opening its wallet and applying some serious cash to healthcare companies with promising emerging technologies.

Cigna is committing $250 million in working capital to a new business—Cigna Ventures—to invest in “promising startups and growth-stage companies that are unlocking new growth possibilities in healthcare.”

The areas of investment include digital healthcare and retail, data and analytics and care and delivery management. “The venture fund will enable us to drive innovation beyond our existing core business operations, and incubate new ideas, opportunities and relationships that have the potential for long-term business growth and to help our customers,” says Cigna senior vice president and global lead, strategy and business development at Tom Richards.

Cigna already has substantial investments in early-stage digital healthcare companies including in telehealth. In August, Cigna was among three other investors such as Health Velocity Capital and Health Care Service Corp. to put $50 million into telehealth services provider MDLive Inc.

The areas of investment include digital healthcare and retail, data and analytics and care and delivery management.

MDLive has more than 1,800 board-certified doctors and licensed therapists in all 50 states that provide virtual medical, behavioral and dermatological care, the company says. Cigna or MDLive hasn’t discussed how big Cigna’s investment is in the company.

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Cigna also has provided funds for Omada Health, a San Francisco digital behavioral medicine company and Prognos, a New York City-based artificial intelligence company, among others. Cigna Ventures was created to help Cigna identify, assess and sponsor early-stage innovation ideas that warrant deeper exploration through focused pilot and test-and-learn activities with the goal of realizing meaningful business value, Cigna says.

“The fund builds on Cigna’s existing venture activity, including collaboration with five venture capital partners and an equal number of existing direct investments,” the company says.

The $250 million venture fund is the latest in a series of initiatives to invest heavily in data, analytics and digital healthcare.

While it waits for final approval of its planned $67 billion purchase of pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts Holding Co., Cigna Corp. is bringing in a new chief data officer to help figure out the health insurer’s future approach to big data and analytics.

In early September Cigna, based in Bloomfield, Connecticut, hired Gina Papush to fill the newly created role of global chief data and analytics officer. In her new role, Papush will oversee Cigna’s enterprise data and analytics program and staff, which includes such specialty areas as decision analytics, data science, machine learning, predictive modeling and business intelligence.

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