On the rise: Huma Therapeutics
Healthcare technology company Huma Therapeutics recently announced it had raised $130 million in funding, which it will use to run the largest ever decentralised clinical trials in the world. We take a look how this British startup has risen over the years.
Huma was founded in 2011 under the name Medopad, with the initial aim of creating a range of integrated iPad apps that would enable doctors to have easy access to data regardless of where they are in the hospital building.
This system links every device that generates data to a central platform that also collects patient data, including from medical records and MRI scans. Medopad's apps help doctors use this data in multiple ways, from writing notes using voice recognition to reading an X-ray on an iPad while on the move.
Mobile app innovation
The organisation's first major milestone came in 2013, when it became the first mobile health provider to receive CE certification enabling its solutions to be commercialised in Europe.
Two years later Medopad launched an app specifically designed for the Apple watch, for patients receiving chemotherapy. It was the first app of its kind, providing users with medication reminders, and sharing data with clinicians such as side effects to drugs.
Other innovations have included developing an app to help patients recover from leg ulcers by tracking progress and treatments, and a mobile solution for kidney patients.
Meanwhile Medopad was expanding; in 2018 it signed 15 separate trade deals in China, including one with Tencent Holdings to develop artificial intelligence for research and clinical decision making, particularly to diagnose Parkinson's Disease.
The hospital at home
The company then set its sights on the US and acquired Sherbit, an AI health startup based in Silicon Valley.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Huma partnered with the UK's NHSX to provide remote monitoring for patients at home. To date there are four separate national deals for its ‘"hospital at home" digital wards: in Germany, England, Wales and UAE.
Co-created with clinicians, the platform has helped to double clinical capacity and reduce hospital readmissions by over a third. The service is supporting governments' pandemic responses on a not-for-profit basis.
The technology powering the hospital at home wards is also deployed by research in the US and across Europe, including decentralised clinical trials on illnesses ranging from diabetes to COVID-19. Huma's latest round of funding, led Leaps by Bayer and Hitachi Ventures, will expand this work, supporting the pharmaceutical and research industries to create some of the world's largest decentralised trials, combining predictive algorithms, digital biomarkers and real-world data. There are also plans to grow Huma's digital platform in the US, Asia and the Middle East.
Backed by the UK Government, Huma was recently chosen as one of the UK’s leading health technology companies, as part of the Government’s Department for International Trade (DIT) ‘First 100’. It was also was named Europe's fastest growing healthcare company by the Financial Times, and listed among the Top 25 fastest growing companies across all sectors.
Commenting on the company's future, Dan Vahdat, Founder and CEO, said: "This is a pivotal moment in Huma's development. We have exceptional partners and strategic investors who will support us in our mission to help people worldwide live longer and fuller lives.
"We're already demonstrating how "hospital at home" can transform healthcare, and how decentralised clinical trials can advance research in ways that weren't imaginable even one year ago. Now we want to accelerate the pace of change and continue to innovate for better care and research worldwide.''
NHSX releases new data plans, experts call for transparency
Patients in England will get "greater control" over their health and care data according to new proposals set out by the government.
In a new draft strategy called "Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data", Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock says that more effective use of data will deliver better patient-focused care. "This strategy seeks to put people in control of their own data, while supporting the NHS in creating a modernised system fit for the 21st century which puts patients and staff in pole position."
Under the new plans people will be able to access their medical records from different parts of the health system through different applications, to access test results, medication lists, procedures and care plans.
The strategy, published by NHSX, the government department that sets policies for the use of technology within the NHS, follows delays to the creation of a central database of patient records amid concerns over data sharing and a lack of transparency, with critics saying that only a small proportion of the public were made aware of the plans and the choice to opt out.
Kevin Curran, senior member of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Professor of Cybersecurity at the University of Ulster, says that moving health records online raises concerns. "The move to an online app does seem like a natural progression, however there is a difference between having computerised records within our healthcare IT infrastructure and having those records reside on a public facing server.
"Having records inhouse limits the range and type of access – it's far more difficult for remote hackers" Curran said. "There are techniques that healthcare organisations can use to reduce the risk of future data breaches. One way is to make it ‘opt in’, so patients have the choice to decide whether their medical information is moved to a public facing service so that they can access it.
"However, those who do not opt in or download the app instead should have their records hosted in a non-public-facing cloud service. This way, if a data breach does occur, those who never used the app, or not wanted to, will not have had their details released."
The new strategy has been welcomed by some, with an emphasis on the need for transparency. Adam Steventon, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said: "Health data has played a critical role in the last year – from tracking COVID-19 outbreaks and developing treatments, to getting people booked in for their vaccines. It is critical that the use of data is accelerated if the NHS is to tackle the backlog of care and address the massive health challenges facing the country.
"It is particularly positive that the government has committed to building analytical and data science capability in the NHS and to improving data on social care. To ensure the full potential of data can be realised, the government must ensure transparency on how it will be used and the rights and options people have, as well as engaging with the public and health care professionals to build trust and show people how their data can improve the NHS and save lives."