Scientific advances have throughout history contributed to the improvement of our health by providing a better understanding of diseases. Some see the opportunities in these advances and dare to challenge the current systems in order to translate their visions into innovative products and services. Minds of Malady follow this process and not only promote research, projects and startups with innovative ideas and great potential to save lives, but also celebrate the people behind them.
The diagnosis of a rare disease can be a difficult process that can take several years due to lack of scientific knowledge and quality information. In fact, patients with rare diseases visit an average of 7.3 physicians before receiving an accurate diagnosis. There are over 7,000 different types of rare diseases and disorders, with more being discovered every day, affecting more than 10% of the population. Over 80% of rare diseases are of genetic origin, and although as much as 95% of these have no approved drug treatment, a quick and accurate diagnosis is important to better manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
The Cambridge, UK-based startup Congenica has developed a pioneering clinical genomics analytics platform, called Sapientia. The platform, a genetic interpretation software, screen whole genome sequence data to identify gene mutations and highlight those that are associated with inherited and acquired genetic disorders, enabling clinicians to provide a fast and accurate clinical diagnosis. And as a clinician identifies a mutation associated with a disease or disorders, this information is stored within the Sapientia software along with the clinician’s expert opinions, helping other clinicians when diagnosing their own patients with similar conditions. This creates a powerful virtuous circle: the more information is collected, the more likely a faster diagnosis for future patients.
Whole genome analysis has the potential to transform diagnosis of rare genetic diseases, but until now, the volume and complexity of the data and the lack of sophisticated tools to analyze and interpret the information have limited its role in the clinic. Congenica, and their powerful Sapientia software addresses this problem, and is able to identify, interpret, and pinpoint a single gene change that is responsible for a patient’s disease. The innovative technology will revolutionize how we diagnose rare diseases, and by incorporating multiple international databases and published literature together in a single user interface, clinicians benefit from prior diagnostic annotations by other clinical experts. This speeds up patient diagnosis, which may take only minutes rather than years, in addition to improving quality of information available both to clinicians and patients. It will also provide new insights for future screening and treatment of all genetic diseases, advancing our understanding of rare disorders and improve the performance of therapeutic research and development.
Congenica is a spin-out from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and was earlier in 2016 selected as one of Europe’s top 25 digital health companies at the Healthtech Summit in Lausanne. The startup has previously raised over £3 million from Cambridge Innovation Capital and Amadeus Capital Partners, in addition to being awarded £300,000 from Innovate UK. They recently won the ‘Best Implementation of Digital Healthcare’ at the OBN Awards, as well as the NHS Innovation Competition, organized by the NHS Innovation Hub Health Enterprise East.
The dramatic increase in average life expectancy during the 20th century ranks as one of society’s greatest achievements. Longer lives brings opportunities, both on an individual level and for society as a whole, but is heavily dependent on one factor: health. As a person ages, the immune system weakens, organs begin to deteriorate and the body becomes susceptible to a variety of diseases. Examples of these so-called age-related diseases include cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Of the approximately 150,000 people who die each day across the globe, about two thirds die of age-related causes. In industrialized nations, this number can reach as high as 90%.
The Oxford, UK-based startup OxStem is designing stem cell drugs to treat currently untreatable age-related conditions, and aim to switch on the body’s natural regeneration and repair systems. Current stem cell treatments mostly focus on injection of cells into the body and are available only in hospitals that can harvest, isolate and multiply stem cells. OxStem on the other hand plans to reprogram stem and stem-like progenitor cells that already exist in the body with no need for cell transplantation procedures.
OxStem is acting as a parent holding company, which will spin-out and fund the development of a series of daughter companies, or “Stems”, that each will focus on a large unmet therapeutic need within different organ systems. Currently, the startup is targeting seven therapies which will spin-out as each research programs progresses beyond the proof-of-concept stage. Their most advanced programs are OxStem Oncology, OxStem Cardio, OxStem Neuro and OxStem Ocular, focusing on applying the stem cell technology to develop therapies for therapy-resistant cancers, cardiac failure, neurodegenerative diseases, and macular degeneration.
The increase in life expectancy, caused by the transition from high to low mortality and fertility, has meant a shift in the leading causes of disease and death. From a gradual decrease in infectious and acute diseases, we have witnessed an emerging importance of degenerative diseases. Currently, there are few treatment options and a high unmet medical need. OxStem is developing a disruptive approach that could potentially treat a wide range of untreatable age-related conditions. Millions around the world live with dementia, cancer, macular degeneration, and other age-related diseases, and OxStem give these patient groups new hope and potentially improved quality of life. In addition, the novel delivery compared to current stem cell treatments also mean a possible increase in access, and if reasonably priced, even to low-resource settings.
OxStem was recently selected as the winners of the Best Biotech Startup of 2016 at the OBN Awards, an annual event celebrating innovation and achievement across the UK life sciences. Earlier in 2016, the startup also announced they had raised close to $25 million, and established strategic partnerships with world class biotech companies. The round was led by Human Longevity, their CEO J. Craig Venter, along with the team of Bob Duggan and Mahkam Zanganeh, Oxford Sciences Innovation and a number of international individuals. The funding will primarily be used for the development of preclinical small molecule drug candidates.
Depression affects an estimated 350 million people worldwide and mental health account for 10% of the global burden of disease. Poor mental health cause considerable distress to individuals and their families, and it is estimated that lost economic output will total $16 trillion in the next twenty years. Access to effective and evidence-based treatments and support is inconsistent and often poor, and the traditional approaches, based on face-to-face treatments, struggle to meet the overwhelming need. Developing new digital solutions could both expand access and improve health outcomes at a much lower cost across the globe.
The Netherlands-based startup Karify has developed a digital mental health platform that support the face-to-face meetings with online exercises, and helps healthcare providers and patients communicate online. The care provider signs up for a Karify account and pay per staff member, while the patient use the app for free. The app give the opportunity to ask questions directly to care providers, and work on treatment exercises anywhere the patient is to speed up their recovery. The patient can keep a diary, grade their wellbeing on a daily basis, more easily gain insight into their own treatment process and progress, making it more transparent, engaging and easier.
Karify has a vision to change how psychological care is provided. They have developed a virtual extension of the practice, enabling the care providers to set up treatments tailored specifically for their patients. They can monitor their patients’ progress, give them feedback and support, better distribute their resources where it is needed the most. While it is unlikely that the technology will replace face-to-face services, it presents a unique opportunity to personalize mental health care, making it more cost-effective and accessible from anywhere at any time. And as the adoption of technology, such as smartphones, keeps growing across the globe, Karify’s innovative solution could help increase access and awareness in low- or middle-income countries.
Joris Moolenaar and Frank Kraaijeveld founded Karify, which today is used by 300 healthcare organizations, including 6 of the 10 largest mental healthcare institutions in the Netherlands. The startup has been supported by Holland Venture and Dolfin Capital, and was in 2016 presented as one of the most promising digital companies at the Healthtech Summit in Lausanne, which focus on showcasing the top 20 medtech and digital health companies in Europe.
With age, the aortic valve calcifies and stiffens, making it less elastic. Calcified aortic stenosis (CAS) is the most common form of valve disease, and affects between 5-10% of the population aged 65 and over. In fact, because of the aging global population, CAS has become a major public health concern. Currently, the only medical response is a valve replacement surgery, but between 20-30% of affected patients are not eligible. In addition, there are numerous complications associated with the treatment, with up to 7% of patients dying during surgery and close to 50% within 3 years.
The Paris, France-based startup Cardiawave is developing a noninvasive approach to repair the aortic valve using ultrasound, without requiring surgery. The innovative device delivers a precise and focused ultrasound beam to soften the tissue, restore elasticity and enable the aortic valve to fully open again. The technology is both an imaging and therapeutic device which is applied directly on the patient’s chest to perform the remote and reparative effect on the aortic valve.
Current treatment options represent a significant cost to public health systems, with overall costs associated with aortic valve disease exceeding $50 billion in Western countries. Cardiawave’s innovative technology could significantly reduce these costs, while increasing access for patients who are not eligible to current treatments. And in contrast to current invasive methods that replace the valve, the treatment developed by Cardiawave repair the native valves, and can be used as preventative medicine to slow the progression of CAS. The disruptive and noninvasive treatment will decrease morbidity rates, risks and complications associated with current treatment options, and improve quality of life for millions of people around the world.
Cardiawave is a spin-off from the French-based Langevin Institute (CNRS/INSERM), the world leader in ultrasound imaging and therapy, and is now located in the ESPCI incubator in Paris. The startup has previously won several awards and contests, including the 2014 and 2015 Worldwide Innovation Contest (CMI), 2014 French National Contest for Innovative Technology Companies, as well as 2015 Fondation pour l’Innovation Thérapeutique Béatrice Denys.
There are approximately 8,000 different types of rare diseases, and it is estimated that over 350 million people worldwide suffer from a rare disease. Yet, 95 percent of rare diseases have not one single FDA approved treatment. In fact, rare diseases is a large medical challenge and a serious public health problem. There is a lack of financial and market incentives to cure rare diseases, and only 326 new drugs were approved by the FDA and brought to market for rare diseases during the first 25 years of the Orphan Drug Act.
The Cambridge, UK-based startup Healx is determined to find new therapeutic solutions for patients with rare diseases by repurposing approved treatments. They combine advanced machine learning and computational biology techniques, together with scientific literature analysis, to identify novel drug application for rare diseases. The startup works closely with patient groups and charities to get a deep understanding of the cause of the disease, and use that information to generate drug candidates with a high probability of success. The most promising candidates are then tested experimentally and prepared for further clinical development, and the startup aim to complete its repurposing studies within six months.
Studies into rare medical conditions have failed to receive adequate funding, and repurposing already approved drugs could deliver new treatments at a fraction of the cost and in a much shorter timeframe. While new drugs usually take several years to get approved and cost billions, Healx’s innovative technology could cut that to months and at a fraction of the cost. Their close work with patients, and their passion to discover new treatments for these patients with few or in many cases no options, is inspirational and something that is seriously lacking in the industry. Healx show how precision medicine can change healthcare, while giving entire patient groups treatments that can significantly increase their quality of life.
Healx has previously been awarded ‘Cambridge Graduate Startup of the Year 2016’ and ‘Life Science Business of the Year 2015’. The startup recently announced they had secured £1.5 million in Series A round from Amadeus Capital, a global technology investor, and renowned healthcare entrepreneur Jonathan Milner. With this investment, Healx hope to expand their technology platform and accelerate their drug review process to find treatments for more devastating diseases.
The Netherlands-based startup Med Angel is determined to help store medication at a safe temperature. They have developed a device and an app that continuously monitors the temperature of your medication and alerts you if it gets critical. Using the app, the user selected the medication they are using, and choose an operating mode; whether it is in storage at home, with them on travel, or with them every day. The Med Angel device is then put in the same container as the medication to measure the temperature, and will connect and synchronize with the phone every time they are nearby.
As the burden of chronic diseases rapidly increase worldwide, we are more and more reliant on having medicines with us at all times. Many medications for chronic diseases are especially sensitive to temperature changes, and not knowing whether it is effective or not can be stressful for many patients. Med Angel has identified this problem and developed a relatively simple, yet very innovative, digital solution that can give peace of mind to millions of patients who are reliant on their drugs in their everyday lives to stay alive. It can be used in refrigerators when storing medications, in luggage during travel, or make sure it has not been overheated on you during the summer. It prevents wastage and the need to throw away medication, but most importantly, the technology make sure that the medication has not lost its efficacy, and that it is safe for patients to use.
Med Angel has been part of Rockstart’s digital health accelerator, a 180-day intensive program focused on helping build, validate and scale digital health startups. The startup is also developing a second product, Med Angel Pro, an automated monitoring refrigerator focusing on clinics.
The London-based startup xRapid has developed a mobile health solution that provide automatic diagnosis of malaria through a smartphone app. The camera on the phone, connected to the microscope, take a picture of the sample, and the app uses an algorithm to detect the presence of malaria parasites in red blood cells. The startup has led several clinical studies and trials in different countries in order to assess the performance of the app, and results have shown the test to be 98.2% accurate, with a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 95% on all five types of Plasmodium that cause malaria.
The innovative diagnostic platform includes an iPhone, the xRapid mobile app and either a compound or field microscope. The test equipment and technology is portable and can cope with harsh climates and hot temperatures, making it suitable for healthcare professionals and aid workers in remote areas with limited resources. xRapid works as a pay-as-you-test service, and once the hardware is purchased, the users are able to top up their account with the amount of diagnostic tests they plan to use.
By using digital imaging technology and artificial intelligence, xRapid has developed an innovative platform that can diagnose malaria faster, cheaper and more accurately than conventional methods. It is much more accurate than Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs), and much faster than microscopy which is considered the gold standard for malaria diagnosis. And it is cheaper, faster and much easier to use than PCR, which is far from efficient in endemic regions. xRapid sidesteps the issues with currently available methods, and its portable nature mean it can be stored and taken anywhere, and require very little training, which is crucial in rural and low-resource settings.
Although the pay-as-you-go business model seem unpractical in regions where the burden of malaria remain heavily concentrated, the technology could help address and reach the global targets set by the WHO. Half of the global population is at risk of malaria, and xRapid not only help improve the lives of those affected, but could also play a major role in preventative public health strategies. While there certainly are questions regarding protocol and use of smartphones near blood samples, the retention of information that smartphone technology allows makes for a powerful disease-mapping tool that can contribute towards predicting future outbreaks.
Earlier this year, xRapid was voted as the audience winner at the Pistoia Alliance’s Mini Start Up Challenge in London, an event designed to recognize innovative solutions to solving life science problems. They have also been selected as one of the finalists of the OBN Awards in the Best Implementation of Digital Healthcare, set to celebrate innovation and achievement in the UK life sciences. While the startup currently is solely focused on malaria, they also aim to use the technology to detect tuberculosis, gonorrhea and blood cancers.
Approximately 75,000 patients live with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) worldwide, a devastating progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. Thanks to improvements in diagnosis and patient care there has been a significant increase in survival rates the last 2-3 decades. However, there is still no cure, and the median age of survival is approximately 37 years of age.
The hallmark of CF lungs is that they excrete thick and sticky mucus, which clog the airways and make it difficult to breathe. The genetic mutation that result in CF cause a structural change in a regulatory protein in the lung, called SPLUNC1. This makes the epithelial sodium channel hyperabsorbative, upsetting the fluid regulation in the lungs and drying out the mucus.
The North Carolina-based startup Spyryx Biosciences is developing novel therapeutics for severe lung diseases with a special focus on CF. The startup is based on research by Dr Robert Tarran at UNC-Chapel Hill, who discovered a peptide derived from the SPLUNC1 protein that may stop the epithelial sodium channel from getting overactivated, normalizing the excretion of mucus in the lungs. Their lead clinical candidate, SPX-101, is an inhaled peptide replacement therapy that is currently completing Phase 1 safety study. The product has demonstrated robust results in preclinical studies by dramatically increasing survival in animal models, and could improve lung function in all CF patients.
There has been significant progress made in developing treatments for CF in recent years, but the most effective drug currently on the market only works in a small subset of patients. And although the drug demonstrates how impactful precision medicine can be, it highlights the huge opportunity of Spyryx and their drug candidate that could be effective regardless of mutation. The startup has the potential to transform CF treatment, ultimately improving CF care, quality of life and increasing median age of survival.
In 2015, Spyryx Biosciences announced they had secured $18 million in a Series A venture capital financing from Canaan Partners, Hatteras Venture Partners and 5AM Ventures. The startup has also received an award of an undisclosed amount from Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics Inc. to support the development of the peptides.
The New Zealand-based startup Thought-Wired is determined to give people unable to communicate a voice. They have developed a device called nous, a brain-sensing technology that do not require any movement or speech. The device is a lightweight headband that detect the user’s brain activity and translates them into signals. Their software is then able to interpret those signals and turn them into actions. This let users learn how to control their thought patterns, enabling them to select words and images on a computer screen or smartphone. For example, the system starts with simple actions like choosing between ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and progresses into choosing what they want to eat or what TV channel to watch. The startup envision that it could progress into allowing users to answer emails, use social media and even interact with the physical world by for example turning lights off or on.
Number of different technologies on the market target people who have a severe disability in hope of assisting them communicate. While these are highly innovative solutions, they still require some form of physical ability, whether it is through eye gaze trackers or infrared cameras, to communicate. However, many people do not have reliable physical abilities to use these solutions. Thought-Wired’s nous on the other hand do not require any physical ability at all, potentially increasing access to new communication tools for millions around the world. Many people who is unable to communicate feel frustrated, angry and depressed due to the isolation, and in trials the device has shown to dramatically improve quality of life for users. It give people with disabilities an opportunity to communicate with their surroundings, be heard, not only feel included in a conversation but in society. Not to mention the effect it could have on family, friends and caregivers. The startup is already delivering their vision of a world where everyone can communicate regardless of disabilities.
Thought-Wired has successfully trialed the first version of nous, and is ready to commercially launch the device in early 2017. The device will be available through a subscription model and cost $199 per month. Previously the startup has been part of the Akina Launchpad accelerator, focusing on ideas that could have a big impact on social or environmental problems, and they were the 2016 overall winners of The Everywhere Initiative by Visa. In September 2016, Thought-Wired raised funds via the New Zealand crowdfunding platform PledgeMe, and raised well over their target of $200,000.
In 2012, nearly 1.4 million people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, making it the third most common cancer in the world. Despite being one of the most preventable cancers, with screening programs designed for early detection and polyp removal, far too many do not comply with public health recommendations. There is a desperate need for a simple, non-invasive test that can be used to identify patients who have colon cancer, or are at risk of developing cancer due to pre-cancerous polyps.
Metabiomics, an early-stage diagnostics company, is developing a non-invasive screening test for earlier and more accurate detection of colon polyps and colorectal cancer based on human microbiome analysis. Their stool sampling kits take advantage of how sensitive the microbiome is to change in the presence of adenomas and adenocarcinomas in the GI tract. The key to the startup’s innovation is their patented MultiTag DNA sequencing technology, which combined with computational biology techniques is able to detect how colon polyps and colorectal cancer has disrupted the microbiome.
Current tests to identify colorectal cancer, or pre-cancerous polyps, are far from optimal. Colonoscopy is accurate, but is both invasive and expensive. Fecal occult stool testing is simple, but compliance rates are low and not accurate for pre-cancerous polyps. The new test by Metabiomics could revolutionize the industry, delivering the benefits of low-cost, non-invasiveness and high accuracy of detecting both pre-cancerous polyps and cancer. The test has all the features needed to increase compliance, significantly lower the incidence of one of the most difficult to treat cancers, changing the lives of millions worldwide.
Metabiomics was largely self-financed by its co-founders in the beginning, but has raised over $10 million to develop and market the innovative technology. They are bringing the test to market as a CLIA laboratory-developed test, and use their own CLIA certified laboratory for the clinical validation study and initial market penetration. Late 2015, the company announced the collaboration with UK-based Origin Sciences, and a distribution agreement of their novel OriCol gastrointestinal sampling technology.
Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm, and the number is increasing. Prematurity is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5, with almost 1 million children dyeing each year due to complication. As a result, preterm babies need to be constantly monitored. Measuring respiration and heart rate is dependent on electrodes and wires, preventing skin-to-skin contact with parents. And every two to five days nurses have to replace the patches on the baby’s body, which can be both stressful and painful.
The Netherlands-based startup Bambi Medical is determined to change how we monitor preterm babies. They have developed Bambi-Belt, a soft and skin-friendly device, which provide a comfortable and non-intrusive wireless monitoring. The belt is attached around the baby’s chest, and the sensors inside the belt gather signals from the baby’s skin. An amplifier with an algorithm translates the signals into respiration, heart rate and full ECG pattern, and sends it over to a receiving unit that display the information.
Current method of monitoring babies involves an array of wires and electrodes, a part from being painful to remove, also prevent babies from getting enough skin-to-skin contact with parents. This so-called ‘kangarooing’ is extremely important for the infants’ recovery and development. The innovative solution of Bambi Medical strengthen the bond between the parents and their baby, increasing the speed of recovery, aids in the baby’s brain development, and reduces the length of the hospital stay. Ultimately, the startup estimates that the Bambi-Belt can reduce healthcare costs by over $1 billion per year. In addition, the belts could have application outside the neonatal intensive care unit. Bigger children in ICU’s are also dependent on wires and electrodes. Although their skin is not as fragile as in babies, the wires significantly reduce mobility and worsen the hospital stay experience, making it far more scary than necessary.
Bambi Medical has been part of the HighTechXL Accelerator program and recently presented their innovative solution in front of an audience full of investors. The startup has received much attention, and seven out of ten hospitals in Netherlands are saying they want the product. They have also just started a crowdfunding campaign on Leapfunder.com and have signed an agreement with Philips Healthcare, enabling them to show the signal of Bambi-Belt on their monitoring devices.
More than 100 years ago William B. Coley used bacterial toxins to goad the immune system into recognizing cancer cells as foreign to mount an immune response to kill them. Today, immunotherapy is rapidly evolving from therapies that nonspecifically stimulate the immune system to more targeted ones that activate individual components of the immune system, revolutionizing cancer care. However, these therapies are based on large molecules that limits the interaction and uptake by the tumor, and failing to penetrate tissue to reach their target cells severely reduce the overall efficiency of the treatment.
The Connecticut-based startup Kleo Pharmaceuticals is focused on developing a new class of targeted immunotherapies. They are developing small molecules, Antibody Recruiting Molecules (ARMs) and Synthetic Antibody Mimics (SyAMs), with a much lower molecular weight than current therapeutic antibodies. ARMs are ‘two-headed’ chemical structures designed to have one head interact with disease-relevant molecular target, while the other head interacts directly with antibodies present in a person’s bloodstream. SyAMs are synthetic molecules that possess both the targeting and effector cell activating functions of antibodies. Both drugs recruit the immune system to target and kill disease-specific cells.
Kleo Pharmaceuticals was founded on the research of David A. Spiegel, a professor of Chemistry and Pharmacology at Yale University. The groundbreaking technology represent a great advancement in the field of immunotherapy, being easier to produce, more tractable to engineer, and non-immunogenic. The molecules are more than hundred times lighter than their biological counterparts, potentially infiltrating tissue more efficiently, making them safer and more effective than large proteins. Although very early, the technology could translate into cheaper, more efficient therapies with fewer side effects for a wide range of cancer types and indications.
Last year, Kleo was awarded the inaugural $50K Innovation Prize sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim and Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund as recognition of their work in developing their small molecules. The startup recently announced the completion of its Series A funding, led by Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Company, which will support the development of the ARMs and SyAMs.
The New Zealand-based startup oDocs Eye Care is determined to revolutionize eye health, and focuses on developing affordable smartphone based technology for primary eye care. Their two products, the oDocs visioClip and oDocs visioScope easily transform your smartphone into an anterior segment and retinal camera. The visioClip is an adapter that examines the front of the eye and can be used to diagnose diseases like conjunctivitis and corneal infections. The $225 USD adapter offer the same magnification as a slit lamp microscope worth $15,000. The visioScope adapter is an alternative to an ophthalmoscope and retinal camera, and helps identify common conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma.
The startup has also developed an accompanying mobile app featuring electronic medical records, a wide range of vision tests and the ability to store and acquire images. Using the app, medical workers can assess color vision, astigmatism, visual acuity and relative pupillary light reflex, making the diagnostic process much simpler.
The innovative adaptors dramatically decrease cost of a professional eye examination. This is particularly significant in developing countries that have struggled with both high costs and low accessibility of eye health services. The portable nature mean that medical workers can take it with them when visiting bed-bound patients or doing a medical field trip. 80% of global visual impairments are according to the WHO preventable, and many of these cases are unfortunately found in the developing world. The low-cost, easy-to-use adaptors by oDocs clip into place in seconds, giving hope of early detection and prevention of eye diseases to millions around the world. And maybe most inspiring, part of the startup’s net profits will go towards preventing blindness in developing nations, distributing products for areas that need them.
Earlier this year, oDocs presented their eye-care solution at the Talent Unleashed and won the award for best social impact startup. Previously they have also won the Health Informatics New Zealand Clinicians’ Challenge and the New Zealand Innovators Awards 2015 People’s Choice Award. The platform has already reached people all over the world, both in developed and developing countries, and the startup is now looking to raise a $500,000 seed round to prepare shipping of its products.
Too many people still face a cancer diagnosis, and far too many die from the disease. While much work remains, decreasing death rates and increasing numbers of survivors are important indicators of the progress we are making in both diagnosing and treating cancer. The increase in patients and their post-treatment care poses new challenges for the healthcare system. The recovery process takes time and patients are often monitored for 5-10 years, either by specialists or basic healthcare providers. Finding new solutions that systematically monitor large number of patients, their symptoms and recovery progress, could both make make care more efficient and optimize clinical outcomes.
The Finnish startup Noona Healthcare is determined to improve the quality of cancer patient care, and has developed a mobile service that allow patients to track and report their wellbeing. The cloud-based service, accessed through mobile, tablet or PC, enable patients to report their treatment and illness-related symptoms direct to their clinic. Knowing the patient’s medical history, the system asks for more details on the type, duration and location of symptoms. It even distinguish between severe and less serious symptoms, recognizing when the patient need acute medical attention. And if immediate action is not required, it gives advice on self-treatment and monitoring.
The innovative system, developed together with Helsinki University Central Hospital (HUCH) Cancer Center, give cancer clinics new opportunities to improve efficiency. Noona categorizes patients based on their treatment needs, helping clinics to reallocate resources, focusing on the patients who have the most acute situation. In addition, the solution save time and resources as more patient contact is handled electronically, potentially improving doctor-patient relationship. Currently, patients have had to call the oncology department by phone to discuss their symptoms, which can be difficult and time-consuming with hundreds of patients.
Many cancer patients feel they have been left on their own when cancer treatment ends. Noona offer a new channel for patients to stay in touch with their care personnel, providing patients with support and a sense of security and peace of mind. In addition, the symptom data given by patients ensure that the treatment process is personalized, potentially optimizing clinical outcomes. And the data provided by millions of cancer patients could provide doctors, researchers and treatment developers with unique opportunities and insights to overcome cancer.
Noona has attracted much attention and was awarded Best Health Innovation 2016 in Finland, and was evaluated by the Healthtech Summit, one of the leading European digital health events, as one of the 20 most promising digital health companies in Europe. The startup has previously presented their innovative solution on the main stage of Health 2.0 Conference in Silicon Valley, and has been funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Most deaths occur within the first two days after onset, while those who survive this period often progress well. It is well documented that participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program enhance recovery, reduce mortality and read, but only one third of patients participate in such programs. Adherence to these programs is also a huge problem with only about one third maintaining attendance after 6 months. Although complex, the main barriers to participation and adherence is high cost and long distance to the hospital, and developing innovative solutions could help provide rehab to all eligible patients.
The Marina Del Rey, CA-based startup Moving Analytics help cardiac centers implement remote cardiac rehabilitation programs delivered through patients’ mobile devices. They have digitized MULTIFIT, a home-based chronic disease management program developed by Stanford University and Kaiser Permanente, which has been validated in over 70,000 patients. The app, called Movn, guide patients through supervised exercises, monitors their vitals and provide educational materials, in order for them to reach daily rehab goals. It can also help remind patients about medications and follow-up appointments, and the startup has developed a web-portal that enable care providers to track patient progress and specifically administer care plans.
The innovative product help hospitals seamlessly offer a more convenient and affordable rehabilitation to patients that currently have been unable to attend any cardiac rehab programs. The increased access engage and empower patients to take control of their own health, potentially reducing both 5-year mortality and readmission rates by half. The digital solution give patients a direct link to their care team where they can report symptoms and receive follow up phone calls, ultimately improving doctor-patient relationship. It also means that the care team gain insight into patient behavior and can proactively intervene when appropriate, enabling hospitals to focus their resources where they are needed the most.
Moving Analytics is working with multiple hospitals, including Keck School of Medicine, Trinity Health, NYU Langone and VA Atlanta. Earlier this year they raised $1.1 million in a round led by Launchpad Digital Health, an accelerator where the startup was enrolled, with additional contributions from HealthX Ventures. The startup has also gone through the Texas Medical Center’s TMCx accelerator program.
Numerous conditions are caused by chronic inflammation, but patients have few options and in desperate need of better, longer-lasting treatments that offer relief. Although there has been significant progress in research, few novel drugs have come to market. Targeting mechanisms that modulate inflammation has historically been difficult because pathways that modulate inflammation act broadly. Using agents to dampen local inflammation has therefore had serious side effects and toxicity.
The Boston-based startup Alivio Therapeutics is developing a novel technology for the targeted treatment of inflammatory disorders. The technology is based on an innovative hydrogel material that is specifically designed to adhere to and deliver drugs to inflamed tissue based on the degree of inflammation. The more inflammation, the more drug is released at the site, leaving healthy tissue alone. The startup has already done testing in a mouse model of ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that cause inflammation in the digestive tract, and the results published in Science Translational Medicine showed a significant reduction in inflammation.
The innovative technology has the potential to overcome major challenges in the treatment of inflammatory disorders, enabling the development of new, disease-modifying therapies. Its unique properties could help maximize treatment efficacy while minimizing the risks of side effects and toxicity. More importantly, Alivio’s novel drug delivery platform could change the everyday lives of millions of people worldwide living with inflammatory disorders. In USA alone, there are over 1.5 million people living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two of the most common inflammatory disorders. These can be both painful and emotionally burdensome, and annually there are over 2 million ambulatory care visits and 200 000 hospitalizations. Finding better treatment options could significantly improve quality of life, while reducing associated costs and strain on the healthcare system, highlighting the huge opportunity of Alivio and their technology.
Alivio Therapeutics was launched by PureTech Health in May 2016 and is already backed by an impressive team. The startup was co-founded by MIT professor Robert Langer together with Jeff Karp, an associate professor of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Scientists Michael Brenner, Ulrich von Andrian, and Ralph Weissleder, all affiliated with Harvard Medical School, are on the startup’s scientific advisory board, while Ivana Magovcevic-Liebisch, senior vice president and head of global business development at Teva Pharmaceuticals, is on the company’s board of directors.