Digital health company Medopad today announced that it’s rebranding to Huma and acquiring two companies — BioBeats and Tarilian Laser Technologies (TLT) — to add support for new biomarkers to its AI-powered patient monitoring platform. When contacted for comment, a Huma spokesperson declined to disclose the purchase price for the two companies.
The acquisitions would appear to be strategic — increasingly, health systems and hospitals are employing AI-enabled telemedical services to triage and treat patients potentially infected with COVID-19. Huma previously leveraged AI to identify signs of chronic diseases like Parkinson’s disease, in partnership with Tencent, but the incorporation of BioBeats’ and TLT’s technologies will enable it to analyze mental and cardiovascular health data. The thinking goes that the more holistic Huma’s platform becomes, the better health outcomes are likely to be.
Through its mobile app BioBase, BioBeats offers an eight-week psychological wellness course comprising coaching topics, exercises, audio sessions, and surveys surfaced by an AI recommender system. Logs and measurements of heart rate from biosensors and a wearable device inform the app’s pace and curriculum, and BioBase supplies insights over time, such as the locations and events that trigger the most stress; weekly and monthly summaries of your emotional well-being; and any progress you’ve made.
As a part of a clinical study, 200 patients per month in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital used BioBase in waiting rooms before undergoing surgery. According to the company, they reported a reduction in physical and mental stress by an average of 23%.
Before pivoting to BioBase, BioBeats developed a consumer app — Hear and Now — that used smartphone camera flashes to illuminate the skin (a technique known as photoplethysmography) and determine relative stress levels from heartbeat readings. It then guided users through a series of eight deep breathing exercises designed to reduce overall “approximate entropy,” a measure of heart rate variability. BioBeats separately teamed up with partner charity CW+ to trial the Breathing Stone, an oval-shaped device with a heart rhythm detection circuit, loudspeaker, LED lights, and wireless antennas that self-guides breathing and meditation with visual and audio cues.
Prior to the acquisition, eight-year-old BioBeats — which is backed by Will Smith and was cofounded by Dr. David Plans, who previously worked with the U.K.’s National Health Service to roll out an app that let users self-report on chronic illness — raised $6.6 million in equity financing. Three million dollars of its war chest came from a venture round in August 2018 led by Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), White Cloud, and IQ Capital
Tarilian Laser Technologies
Hertfordshire, U.K.-based TLT keeps a low profile, but its website reveals that it’s a medical startup developing an optical technology, the TLT Sapphire sensor, that measures blood flow and blood pressure in a non-invasive fashion. It doesn’t require a compression cuff or calibration — simply applying the sensor to the skin is sufficient to get a real-time reading.
The company offers a consumer device in ViCardio, a “beat-to-beat” wearable blood monitor that pairs with a companion app for Android and iOS. According to TLT, the monitor works by propagating an LED pulse wave for 30 seconds through arterial trees beneath the skin and measuring the expansions and contractions of the wave through an optical waveguide. It’s a technique known as optical power modulation, and TLT complements it with algorithms that self-calibrate to plot the data as a graph of continuous blood pressure as well as systolic and diastolic pressure values.
Devices like ViCardio offer superior accuracy compared with traditional “cuffed” blood pressure monitors because they don’t occlude the artery, claims TLT, and because they take a reading per heartbeat as opposed to single readings. Moreover, on the software side, the data they collect can be more easily fed to algorithms that use biometrics to assess disease risk for diabetes, sepsis, and more, as well as the course and outcome of those diseases.
All that said, it’s worth noting that neither the TLT Sapphire sensor nor ViCardio have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Expanding in scope
With BioBeats and TLT under its wing, Huma — which bought out U.S. rival Sherbit, a provider of AI-driven disease detection solutions, in September 2018 — is positioning itself for growth in the nearly $1.8 billion remote patient monitoring market.
Over the past few weeks, in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, companies like Current Health and Twistle have teamed up with the Providence and other health care providers to pilot at-home COVID-19-tracking platforms. Indeed, ABI Research predicts that by 2025, spending on AI in health care and pharmaceuticals will increase by $1.5 billion as a result of the novel coronavirus.
Beyond the pandemic, investors see lots of potential in digital biomarker monitoring for telehealth. In a case in point, Healx raised $56 million to further develop its AI platform that seeks new drug treatments for rare diseases. Elsewhere, Viz.ai recently secured $50 million for AI that detects early signs of stroke, and Verisim Life closed a $5.2 million seed round to create AI-powered biosimulations that can replace animal drug testing.
Huma is conducting a number of clinical trials to stay a step ahead of the competition, including one with existing investor Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Last year, Bayer signed up to access Huma’s extensive hospital reach and analytics to develop AI-powered therapies for those with coronary artery disease.
Huma has over 100 employees across the U.K., North America, and Asia Pacific, and it’s raised over $50 million in venture capital to date. (The company’s previous funding round put it at a pre-money valuation between $200 million to $300 million, a spokesperson told VentureBeat.) Huma plans to spend the bulk of its funds on new clinical studies, R&D projects with clinical and life science bodies, and products and partnerships globally following the appointment of former U.K. health minister Alan Milburn as chairman of its board of directors.