Some big changes are underway for London-based Medopad, a startup that builds software for medical practitioners to monitor patients remotely based on digital biomarkers — measurable indicators of the progression of illnesses, diseases or overall health that are picked up not with blood samples or in-doctor visits but using apps and wearables.
The company is rebranding to Huma and appointing its first chairman, the former U.K. Health Minister Alan Milburn. And alongside that, Huma is announcing the acquisition of two AI startups to expand the scope of its business: the mental health-focused BioBeats, and cardiovascular specialist Tarilian Laser Technologies (TLT).
The financial terms of the deals have not been disclosed, but we understand BioBeats was around a $10 million deal, and TLT includes software assets, a number of patents and a new hardware device that measures blood pressure continuously but in a non-invasive way that is currently awaiting FDA approval.
Both will help Huma expand its biomarker monitoring to new areas of coverage (specifically mental health-related biomarkers, and all of the indicators related to blood pressure), and extend into areas around preventative, proactive human health, alongside monitoring for chronic illnesses, diseases and other conditions.
Huma has built a strong network of partnerships to expand its reach and scope. They include working with Tencent on a trial to measure the progress of Parkinson’s just by monitoring you as you move your fingers (specifically repeat a pinching movement over time) in front of the camera on your smartphone. And with pharmaceutical giant Janssen, it’s working on a way to measure Alzheimer’s based on the sound of your voice. It’s also collaborating closely with leading research hospitals like Kings and Barts in London and Johns Hopkins in the U.S. to develop other biomarker tests.
But when it comes to building some of the early work, it would take years for Huma to build up knowledge and teams that would be on par with what BioBeats and TLT have built: hence the move to acquire.
That’s a pattern that the startup plans to follow.
Huma is currently working on closing a fundraise in the coming weeks and months that’s targeted to be one of the biggest ever in the U.K. health technology sector (the high watermark is Babylon Health, which last year raised $550 million).
The fundraise will be to make more acquisitions, not to run the business itself: Huma still has more money in the bank than it last raised (it announced a $25 million round led by Bayer last November), and has, according to CEO and founder Dan Vahdat, already hit its revenue target for the whole year (and it’s only April).
Part of that strong business funnel is due to the novel coronavirus. Huma announced a COVID-19 tracker at the end of March that aims to help keep hospitals from overflowing. People with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 that are not serious enough to land them in the hospital are instead monitored closely using measurements taken using smartphones, watches and other devices. If their biomarkers indicate that their illness may be taking a turn for the worse, they can subsequently be ordered to come into the hospital before the case becomes a dire one.
At a time when many health systems around the world are being stretched to the breaking point with the influx of coronavirus cases, this is one way to try to triage the traffic, and that’s struck a chord in many places. Huma is due to announce its first official deals for the service in multiple countries in the coming weeks, Vahdat said.
“I’m pleased to work with Huma to help transform the health sector by developing a new understanding of the human body through digital biomarkers,” said Milburn in a statement. “We’re at the very early stages of what could be breakthroughs in how we understand health, diagnose and treat illnesses and Huma could become a true leader in this promising new area for life sciences, innovation partners and healthcare.”