May 17, 2020

Top five disruptive healthcare companies

Digital health
Europe. Genetics
Health Insurance
Catherine Sturman
4 min
disruption (Getty Images)
CNBC has recently compiled the top 50 disruptive companies. With such an array of industries, we take a look at the top five healthcare start-ups and bu...

CNBC has recently compiled the top 50 disruptive companies. With such an array of industries, we take a look at the top five healthcare start-ups and businesses which made the cut.

5. Veritas Genetics

Entering 30th place, Veritas Genetics has sought to empower consumers by providing genome sequencing. Consumers are increasingly looking at ways to better manage their healthcare, and what better way than to understand than by looking at your own DNA.

Established in 2014, the company has secured $45mn in funding, where its leading product, myGenome, enables a user to screen for over a thousand clinical conditions which could impact their health, from diabetes and cancer, to neurological disorders and depression.

Launched by George Church, a leading pioneer in the Human Genome Project, the company is set to go from strength to strength, with influential investors, such as Lilly Asia Ventures and Philab Holdings set to take the company to the next level.

4. Ginkgo Bioworks

Rising up the ladder to secure 21st position on CNBC’s list, Boston-based start-up Ginkgo Bioworks has raised $429mn, with a valuation of $1.4bn.

Renowned for designing and printing DNA through synthetic biology, the company has been founded by a number of MIT scientists, supporting growing markets such as pharmaceuticals and the agricultural sector.

Backed by a multitude of investors, as well as technology mogul Bill Gates, its recent $100mn collaboration with healthcare giant, Bayer, has piqued the interest of investors, particularly surrounding its project to produce a new nitrogen fertiliser under its new joint venture, Joyn Bio.

"We're learning how to rewrite the code of life," commented Frances Arnold, a professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering, and biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. "We're seeing a move toward making things that either chemistry cannot make or can't make efficiently but biology does."

"DNA is code, and you can read and write it in these factories and test how it works. You're going to go to your computer, specify the exact sequence you want, print it, put the DNA into a tube or into an organism and test how it works," added CEO Jason Kelly.

3. Progyny

Gaining 15th position, fertility company, Progyny has raised nearly $100mn in funding and is now valued at $123.1mn.

Launched in 2015, the cmpaby seeks to help first-time parents to conceive, and partners with self-insured companies to support women to finance the cost of various fertility treatments. The company is undergoing exponential growth and has also recently launched a new pharmacy division to support those who need medication to be delivered quickly and efficiently.

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Upon the release of CNBC’s assessment, David Schlanger, CEO of Progyny said: “We are incredibly honoured to be listed for a second year in row. We are growing rapidly as leading employers continue to recognise how they can support their workforces with our innovative fertility benefits solution.”

2. Oscar Health

Inspired to overhaul a fragmented US healthcare system, Mario Schlosser, Joshua Kushner and Kevin Nazemi (no longer with the company) looked at new ways to empower consumers by harnessing data science and technology to deliver exceptional patient care.

Launched in 2012, Oscar Health has raised $165mn this year, which will support its expansion efforts. Overall, it has raised $903.9mn in funding, and has gained a valuation of $3.2bn.

Gaining over $300mn in gross revenues in Q1, the company continues to look at the shift towards partnering health insurers and organisations, in order to provide a complete picture of the healthcare needs of consumers.

Enrolling over 250,000 members in 2018 alone under the Affordable Care Act, the company has projected up to $1bn in gross premium revenue in its bid to drive cost-effective, quality healthcare for consumers.

Partnering with healthcare organisations, such as the Cleveland Clinic, Humana, and AXA, has enabled the company to grow rapidly, where the company aims to expand at a rate of five cities each year, whilst exploring further markets.  

Additionally, Oscar Health has also recently launched Oscar for Business, and over 40% of its users regularly take advantage of its mobile app in order to speak with a medical professional.

1. 23andMe

With $490.7mn in funding, 23andMe has secured the top spot for the most disruptive healthcare company. Reaching number 7, it is valued at $1.8bn, and much like Veritas Genetics, seeks to provide consumers with detailed information in how to better manage their health through analysing user genetics.

Amassing over five million customers globally, over 70% have stated that they remain willing to share results to accelerate the pace of research to develop cures within a number of diseases.

23andMe’s mission to help people access, understand and benefit form the human genome, has enabled it to harness data to revolutionise healthcare and prevent disease.

"Founder Anne Wojcicki  has done the hardest part by pioneering the consumer genetic space pretty much alone," explained Mirza Cifric, co-founder and CEO of Veritas Genetics.

"Now there is an entire new wave of companies, including us, bringing the next generation forward.

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Jun 14, 2021

Long haul Covid, the brain and digital therapies

4 min
Neuroplasticity expert Ashok Gupta tells us about the symptoms of long Covid, how it affects the brain, and digital therapies

It is estimated that around 10% of people who get Covid-19 develop long haul Covid, a debilitating condition that can last many months and cause breathlessness, exhaustion and pain. 

Research is underway to find out who is more likely to get it and how to treat it. Here neuroplasticity expert and owner of Harley Street Solutions in London Ashok Gupta tells us how the condition affects the brain. 

What is long Covid exactly? 

Long Covid is when patients who have experienced Covid-19 go on to have continuing symptoms for weeks and months afterwards. These symptoms can include breathlessness, exhaustion, brain fog, gastric issues, pain, and post-exertional malaise. It is estimated that around 10% of Covid-19 infections may result in developing long haul symptoms, and in the USA, this may be affecting over 3 million people.

How does it affect the brain?
Here at our clinic, we hypothesise that it is due to a malfunction in the unconscious brain, creating a conditioned response that keeps the body in a hyper-aroused state of defensiveness. At the core of this hypothesis is the idea that we are here because our nervous system and immune system have evolved to survive. We are survival machines!

When we encounter something such as Covid-19, the brain perceives it as life threatening, and rightly so. And in the era of the pandemic, with more stress, anxiety and social isolation, our immunity may be compromised, and therefore it may take longer for the immune system to fight off the virus and recover. 

If the brain makes the decision that this is potentially life threatening and we get to the stage where we’re overcoming the virus, a legacy is left in the brain; it keeps over-responding to anything that reminds us of the virus. Even if we’ve fought off the virus, the brain will react in a precautionary way to stimuli reminiscent of the virus. 

The brain may get stuck in that overprotective response, and keeps stimulating our nervous system and our immune system, just in case the virus may still be present.

What symptoms does this cause? 

These signals cause a cascade of symptoms including breathlessness, extreme fatigue, brain fog, loss of taste or smell, headaches, and many others. And these are caused by our own immunes system.

In the case of long-haul Covid, symptoms in the body get detected by a hypersensitive brain which thinks we’re still in danger. The brain then chronically stimulates the immune and nervous systems, and then we have a continuation of a chronic set of symptoms.

This isn’t unique to long-haul Covid. Many patients develop chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes known as “ME”, for example, after the flu, a stomach bug, or respiratory illness. Covid-19 may be a severe trigger of a form of chronic fatigue syndrome or ME.

How does long-haul Covid affect mental health? 
Anxiety is a very common symptom in long haulers. It can be frightening to wonder about what may be happening in your body, and what the prognosis is going to be for one’s long term health. Reaching out for support for mental health is crucial for long-haulers.

How does neuroplasticity treatment work for long-haul COVID patients?
We have been working with patients for two decades with a brain retraining programme using neuroplasticity or “limbic retraining.” 

We believe that through neural rewiring, the brain can be “persuaded” that we are no longer in danger and to come back to homeostasis. But to be very clear, we are not saying it is psychological in any way, but we believe there are novel ways of accessing the unconscious brain. 

We recently worked successfully with a 56-year-old male with long-haul Covid, who prior to contracting Covid-19 in March of 2020 was running half-marathons and cycling, but afterwards he struggled to get off the sofa for months. Within 3 months he’s now back to 100% and  running half marathons again.

At our clinic, we train the patient to be able to recognise those subtle unconscious danger signals on the periphery of consciousness. This, coupled with supportive techniques and the natural hallmarks of good health such as sleep and diet help prepare the patient to respond to perceived threats that might trigger the response. 

The natural state of our brain is to default to protection. The brain prioritises survival and passing on our genes to the next generation, over any other impulse. It cares more about that than you feeling healthy and well. Protective responses are evolutionary, and are the right thing for the brain to do – it’s survival. 

What digital therapies or apps are proving effective at treating long-haul Covid? 
It seems that long haul patients are availing themselves of many online therapies and services, including meditation apps and wellness websites. We have an online neuroplasticity “brain retraining” video course called the “Gupta Program” which hosts 15 interactive videos and many audio exercises. This is proving very popular with long haul patients, and we are currently conducting a trial to test the effectiveness of this therapy. 

What is the danger of leaving long-haul Covid untreated?
The longer it goes untreated, we hypothesise that it may become more entrenched in the brain, and  become chronic in the longer term. Therefore we advise all patients to get help and advice as soon as possible.

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