Local company committed to tackling opioid crisis wins San Diego Angel competition

CARI Health's remote medication monotor.
(CARI Health)

CARI Health took $300,000 prize for its remote medication monitor


Carmel Valley entrepreneur Patrik Schmidle is passionate about doing what he can to help fight to the opioid crisis in this country. His healthcare tech company CARI Health is developing a remote medication monitoring device that allows doctors to prescribe medications and receive real-time reporting on medication levels.

In March, CARI Health was the grand prize winner at the San Diego Angel Conference, winning a $300,000 check.

Patrik Schmidle, founder of CARI Health.
(CARI Health)

The Angel Conference is a partnership between a group of angel investors and the University of San Diego School of Business Free Enterprise Institute, aiming to build the innovation ecosystem by backing promising startups like CARI.

CARI Health was also recently recognized as a 2022 Connect Cool Company, an annual capital program designed to match San Diego’s top-performing technology and life sciences startups with quality venture capital. As a Cool Company, Schmidle’s company was highlighted at the first annual Innovation Day event at Petco Park on April 28.

Millions of Americans misuse prescription opioids and, according to the CDC, there were 75,673 overdose deaths in 2021, up from 56,064 the year before.

Schmidle was inspired to start the company after a close family member struggled with opioid addiction. Fortunately, their story had a happy ending, but he knows many are fighting this fight with much less, without a family support system, good health insurance or help of any kind.

“I realized what a profound difference it could make on a patients’ life, for them to get the right help and the right medicine and how devastating it is when you don’t have it,” he said.

Schmidle is a native of Germany and first came to the United States as an exchange student. He stayed to play sports, playing college football and eventually coming to San Diego for graduate school. He’s lived in Carmel Valley for 20 years with his wife Sue, raising three boys and coaching them on Sharks rec soccer, rec basketball and FNA flag football teams.

With his business background, he has held leadership positions in companies of all sizes from start-ups to publicly traded companies. Starting CARI Health back in 2015, he has assembled a team of experts and innovators to tackle the opioid crisis, including an electro-chemist, electrical engineer, software/hardware expert as well as people with experience in treating people with opioid addictions.

CARI has incubated at the Qualcomm Innovation Space at UC San Diego since 2016, becoming a part of the UCSD ecosystem and developing relationships with professors and clinicians—UCSD is the sub-recipient of many of their grants.

He and his team are part of UCSD’s Institute for the Global Entrepreneur (IGE) MedTech program, which Schmidle said is like bootcamp for entrepreneurs. A mentor is assigned who meets with them weekly to help figure out how to get from the vision stage to market and provide feedback as they move forward. “For us, it was a game-changer,” Schmidle said.

At CARI they have pivoted a number of times in designing the remote medication monitor. One iteration was implanted to detect levels of abuse. “We realized patient adoption was going to be a challenge so we pivoted to a wearable device,” Schmidle said.

The latest iteration is about the size of a quarter, similar to the continuous glucose monitor used by diabetics. The patient wears the sensor on their skin and if medication levels fall outside of the desired range, alerts may be sent to clinicians, the patient and family members.

CARI Health applied for the San Diego Angels Conference in late 2021 and had its first presentation in February of this year. Close to 100 companies applied and after a round of pitches, they were narrowed down to the top 24. Investors decide which 12 move to the next round, then the top six to the finals.

As part of the top six CARI was assigned a due diligence team that looked at all aspects of the business for six weeks, ”Every single thing,” Schmidle said.

At the end of the exhaustive due diligence process, the teams put together a report for the investors for the final pitch competition

“We fortunately came out on top, it was very intense,” Schmidle said. “It was validating that this group of very smart individuals looked at close to 100 companies and decided we represented the best potential investment for them. It was the tipping point for us.”

Schmidle said every entrepreneur understands that the hardest check to get is that first one, but thanks to the visibility of winning the grand prize, the momentum has been building including being named a Cool Company and other angels stepping in, getting the company close to filling its seed round. “It’s been interesting, it’s been crazy actually,” he said.

In the startup world, Schmidle said sometimes the human element gets lost but he will never forget his purpose.

That mission was reinforced during the San Diego Angels competition when a young man who was helping with social media told Schmidle that both of his parents were in recovery from opioid addiction. CARI Health really resonated with him and he said if his parents might have had this device, it could have changed his life.

“The reason we’re doing this is to make a difference,” Schmidle said. “It’s not just done for the sake of building a tech company, we’re doing this to change lives for people. That’s what drives me every day.”

To learn more visit carihealth.com