Osmosis, a health education platform founded by former JHU med school students, acquired by Elsevier

The acquisition comes as the company has seen growing users both on its platform and YouTube channel, and as health education has become more crucial in the pandemic. Here's a look at Osmosis' Baltimore roots.

An illustration of the Osmosis + Elsevier acquisition.

(Image via YouTube), a digital health education platform whose cofounders started the company while they were medical students at Johns Hopkins, was acquired by research publishing and information analytics company Elsevier, the companies announced this week.

With the acquisition, Osmosis will join Elsevier’s global medical education portfolio. Terms were not disclosed. Osmosis specializes in content that is designed to make complex medical concepts approachable and engaging for healthcare professionals and students. Its learning modules are designed to guide users through concepts in easy-to-follow fashion.

Leaders from Osmosis and Elsevier met eight years ago. When Osmosis CEO Shiv Gaglani started medical school, he said, he used resources including Gray’s Anatomy and Netter’s from Elsevier. His father, who is a physician, was also trained using those resources. So it’s something of a full-circle moment that Osmosis is now joining the 140-year-old company.

The companies will continue working on what Gaglani calls Osmosis’ “big, hairy, audacious goal” of educating 1 billion people by 2025.

“They’re a perfect strategic partner for us,” said CEO Shiv Gaglani. “We started getting to know them better, and [cofounder] Ryan [Haynes] and I decided this is best for our vision and best for our team, and it made a lot of sense to pursue this.”

Its colorful, illustrated explainer content is available on its YouTube channel with more than 2.2 million subscribers and 2 million subscribers on its platform. Osmosis also has more than 150 partnerships with institutions, including medical schools, digital health companies and more to offer its platform for education — a number that has grown from 40 at the beginning of 2020. As one benefit of joining a global company, Gaglani said access to sales and marketing resources from Elsivier will further supercharge this growth.


“We’re super excited about taking our product and our content, putting it into that engine,” he said.

The priority on public health and medical education rose during COVID-19, both when it came to training healthcare professionals and improving health literacy. Alongside its existing platforms, the company produced videos and a podcast under the title Raise the Line during the pandemic. In the meantime, it has stood up a custom video creation team of illustrators and script writers called Diffusion Studios.

The company’s user base has also grown. Gaglani noted that when he and Haynes started the company in medical school in 2012, they created a platform for 120 classmates as a project. Now, the users on the platform could fill 18,000 Hopkins lecture halls.

The company’s 70-employee team and brand will remain as part of Elsevier, while Gaglani will be managing director of Osmosis within the company.

“We’re investing in growth,” Gaglani said.

Osmosis has been a distributed team for a few years now, but its roots in Baltimore remain. Among team members based in the city are Research Director Dr. Sean Tackett and Creative Director and Engineer Tanner Marshall, who Gaglani has noted is the “voice” of the content as well as the architect of the processes behind how it’s produced. Investors and advisors including Gerry Hartung, Mark Joseph and Ken Karpay are based in the city. McKeever Conwell II, while in a previous role at TEDCO, was a key advisor and investor, too, Gaglani said. The company is looking to continue tapping into Baltimore’s tech community, and would like to continue hiring in the city.

“We’re thrilled to welcome the Osmosis team to Elsevier and to continue to deliver on our promise of supporting students throughout their learning journey, ultimately improving outcomes across healthcare,” Elizabeth Munn, managing director and GM of global medical education at Elsevier, said in a statement. “Osmosis has created an extraordinary team, winning culture and top-notch portfolio of health education solutions. We’re looking forward to advancing our mission together.”

Elsevier has recently acquired other companies in nursing and health education, including virtual nursing simulation developer Shadow Health, and 3D4 Medical, a 3D anatomy platform using AR/VR.

Companies: Osmosis
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