We take a look at this week’s biggest developments, research and investment news from the world of Health Tech.
Push Doctor, which lets you book a video consultation with a doctor and manage other aspects of your health digitally, has raised $26.1 million in Series B funding, bringing the firm’s total funding to over $37.5 million. In addition to offering access to its network of thousands of GPs, all of whom work in the UK’s National Health Service, Push Doctor can also issue prescriptions, make doctor-led referrals to other health providers and specialists, and do things like help you manage repeat prescriptions. “No one before Push Doctor has provided consumers with access to a single digital health platform that combines responsive medicine and chronic condition management as well as fitness and nutritional conditioning,” Push Doctor’s co-founder and CEO Eren Ozagir said.
When you think about tech giants playing in healthcare, you think of Google with its Verily, Apple with its HealthKit and ResearchKit, and Amazon with its potential entry into the pharmacy market. But the name you may hear about least – Facebook – may actually be the company influencing healthcare and most, and consequently the best positioned to support the patient-centred future that so many imagine. On the surface, Facebook seems to be doing remarkably little in health; their most notable effort has arguably been providing the opportunity to list your organ donor status, an initiative which produced an immediate lift in organ donor registrations. Facebook is where patients with rare conditions, and their families, often go to connect with others in similar situations – typically via private groups. Families reportedly self-organise into private groups based on the specific mutation, and share experiences and learnings.
Three tech start-ups have been selected by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to help tackle pressing health issues facing the National Health Service. Academics and an NHS chief executive were among the judges selecting the winning companies, which will be given a £56,000 grant from Pfizer. The 12 month programme will see the tech firms guided by the pharma firm and other partners with the ambitious goal of getting them into the NHS and available to patients within the year. The winners include Cera, Echo and GiveVision who “stood out with their ability to demonstrate how their technology could deliver real benefits across our health system today” said Pfizer UK medical director Dr Berkeley Phillips.
The new app will offer information, help and support to people in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire to help them avoid suicide. The Stay Alive app was created by the charity Grassroots Suicide Prevention, and will now be available in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire after it was licensed to 2gether NHS Foundation Trust. Sally Ashton, Clinical Continuous Improvement Lead for the Trust, explained why the Trust was has invested in licensing the app: “The app has received positive feedback in the areas it has already been used, and we believe it offers an excellent source of advice and information for people who may have thoughts of suicide as well as those who support and care for them. The content is completely free and is available online and offline, so is always there for the user, whenever they are feeling vulnerable.” The app can be accessed through Apple Store, Google Play and be downloaded as a pdf.
A university spin-out is raising finance for the market launch of its ‘unique’ optical technology for the rapid screening of eye diseases. Based in Manchester, the firm is ready to commercialise the RapiDA instrument, which provides a fast test that can detect early-stage Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – often before any obvious biological changes can be detected with imaging devices. AMD is a medical condition which may result in blurred or no vision, and can affect vision in low light levels such as night driving. MuMac chief executive Dennis Camilleri says the investment will allow its three founders to scale-up the RapiDA and start trading with opticians on the high street as well as hospital clinics within weeks, and hopes it should result in a number of other instruments being created for a range of eye tests. Camilleri said: “People are now living longer and AMD is right up there in causing vision impairment in certain age groups, with around 2.5 million sufferers in the UK alone.”
The world’s first clinical trial of 3D printed bionic hands for child amputees, backed by SBRI Healthcare, has recently started in Bristol. Not only does it have the potential to rapidly improve waiting times, but also reduce the cost of traditional solutions. Currently, the only prosthetic hands available to children on the NHS are hooks and cosmetics. It takes an amputee at least 12 weeks to receive a custom-fit prosthetic and can cost up to £80,000. Using cutting edge 3D printing technology, Open Bionics can build a bespoke hand in less than five days, and the cost can be massively reduced to about £5,000. Earlier this year, the team at Open Bionics won a million-dollar prize at the AI and Robotics for Good Awards in Dubai. The global award recognise the very best innovations in artificial intelligence and robotics.
Roche has taken its worldwide collaboration with my Sugr to the next level by acquiring the Australian digital health business. The company has set itself apart by trying to balance fun graphics with the fundamental information needed for the arduous task of managing a chronic condition with the goal “to make diabetes suck less”. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. mySugr’s logbook app guides users to enter information of meals, exercise, glucose levels and mood, which then automates tracking through connected devices and estimates HbA1c statistics. It also uses “a diabetes monster” avatar to alert users when they make poor food choices based on their glucose levels, and lets users print or email their log to their physician so they can check out their health between appointments. The pharma and diagnostics company said in a news release that mySugr will become an integral part of Roche’s new patient-centred digital health services platform in diabetes care, and will help bolster Roche’s position in diabetes management.
One in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime, but the damage from too much sun exposure doesn’t usually appear until years later. However, now there’s a new high-tech way to monitor the potentially hazardous health effects of being in the sun, in real time. Tatiana Cruz, junior lifeguard-in-training, spends a lot of time in the sun and is doing what she can to protect herself. The 16-year-old says she’s worried about getting skin cancer so she’s trying a high-tech wearable called My UV Patch to help monitor her sun exposure. Users scan the patch with a smartphone app and receive sun safety tips based on the results. “This is a way to tell them when to re-apply, that there is sun damage that is going on, even if you don’t see it,” dermatologist Dr. Gene Rubinstein said. L’Oreal’s La Roche-Posay introduced the patch in 2016 and says it can be worn for three days at a time, even while swimming.
Founded in 2014, company Kry officially launched in Sweden in 2015 and represents the country’s first digital medicine centre. Users across the country can access the app via smartphone, tablet or web, where they pick a time and date for an appointment, whilst describing their symptoms on the app. After, Kry-employed healthcare professionals host a 15-minute, $35 (250 Swedish Krona) video consultation with patients to deal with common conditions, removing the need to visit a primary care physician. With the new funding, the company plans to deepen its penetration in current markets and expand into new areas, with the ultimate goal of providing access to everyone in Europe. “Kry brings tremendous efficiencies and cost savings to the healthcare system while providing much needed access to timely healthcare for consumers,” Accel Partner de Rycker said in a statement. “We are thrilled to back Johannes and the KRY team, who have already achieved impressive growth in Sweden, Norway and Spain in a short period of time.”