Nordic digital therapeutics firm, Sidekick Well being, has closed a $20 million Collection A led by pan-European VC Wellington Companions and healthcare targeted VC Asabys Companions. Current buyers, Novator and Frumtak Ventures, additionally participated within the oversubscribed spherical.
The 2014-founded startup has constructed a gamified digital care platform that targets power and life-style illness administration by way of digital nudges from a helmet-wearing cartoon helper — pushing sufferers towards related info to help extra helpful life-style decisions (e.g. taking common train, or slicing down on smoking), in addition to providing assist with affected person therapy administration, comparable to by way of digital reminders for taking medicine and distant affected person monitoring for clinicians.
Sidekick Well being’s platform addresses a number of therapeutic areas — providing what’s described as ‘evidence-based’, customized gamified digital therapeutics packages for situations together with diabetes, ulcerative colitis and smoking cessation.
This 12 months it’s additionally branched out to supply help for sufferers with COVID-19 — an acute (reasonably than power) situation, albeit one which’s created enormous and urgent challenges for healthcare suppliers.
The pandemic is in fact extra usually driving demand for digital care and distant affected person monitoring as healthcare suppliers search for instruments to assist handle sufferers off-site — offering one other tailwind for Sidekick Well being’s enterprise.
And whereas its gamification strategy may appear extra instantly suited to youthful, app-savvy customers, since launching the platform it says it’s labored with sufferers who’re youngsters all the way in which as much as folks properly over 80 — and now believes there are few limits on who can faucet in to its digital care, assuming it could actually nail designing for straightforward entry. Its software program is designed to be accessible by way of (and combine with) a variety of related units.
“Our market, digital heath basically and our a part of it, which you’ll be able to both name digital care or digital therapeutics, has been quick rising over the previous few years,” says CEO and co-founder Dr Tryggvi Thorgeirsson. “Clearly with the pandemic the entire pattern has simply been accelerated. Which means accelerated adoption by roughly all of the stakeholders out there. And perhaps particularly by payers and suppliers.
“For those who take a look at suppliers — like hospitals, clinicians — they’ve in fact by necessity needed to enhance their use of digital well being instruments as a result of pandemic. So the market was very quick rising already however with the pandemic it has actually accelerated. So our buyer base has been rising fairly sharply now previously six to 12 months.”
Sidekick Well being doesn’t get away buyer numbers however says it’s working with “a number of” of the highest world pharma corporations at this stage. Whereas the platform reaches round 30,000 sufferers throughout totally different therapeutic areas by way of its b2b prospects — with Europe it’s largest market to date.
The brand new funding goes in the direction of “additional progress”, per Thorgeirsson — “each by way of increasing the product but additionally accelerating our progress in each Europe and into the US market”. “We’re investing funds into the expansion as a substitute of aiming for profitability at this level,” he provides.
New situations he says it’s set to broaden into “over the following few months” embody coronary heart failure; oncology (supporting sufferers with several types of most cancers); and a variety of metabolic situations.
Inside two years he says he needs it to have the ability to deal with over 20 several types of power sickness (plus “a couple of acute ones like COVID-19”).
Thorgeirsson additionally notes that people who find themselves coping with power situations usually undergo from a number of situations — so being versatile sufficient to handle sufferers with comorbidity has been a robust focus for the clinician-founded startup.
“Most of our work is in power, lifestyle-related situations… however when COVID-19 hit we noticed that every one of this performance we had constructed for power ailments in our view was fairly becoming for COVID-19 as properly,” he says, explaining that the platform has been used to help coronavirus sufferers with academic movies on signs and “how to deal with the anxieties of being in residence isolation”, in addition to providing a reporting conduit to scientific employees to remotely monitor COVID-19 sufferers.”
“We felt all of those [features] had been related additionally for this acute situation, so right here in our residence nation, Iceland, we provided assist and had been picked up by the nationwide authorities to help with a nationwide program to remotely monitor and help sufferers with COVID-19. So it undoubtedly can apply in sure acute situations as properly,” he provides.
Along with increasing the vary of situations the platform can deal with, the Collection A funding will go on extra scientific analysis geared toward validating its strategy.
Latest analysis it’s printed features a random management trial evaluating full commonplace look after kind 2 diabetes vs the identical full commonplace care plus its platform on prime. (On that examine, Thorgeirsson says the addition of the digital software within the care pathway led to “a really important drop in common blood glucose” which “interprets to about 16% much less threat of demise and about 30% much less threat of great issues like amputation and blindness”.)
“One of many issues we’re going to be utilizing this funding for is to vastly enhance our medical and science operations — so launching a number of research into a number of therapeutic areas,” he tells ProWellTech. “Each situation has totally different elements that we do give attention to. With cardio and metabolic situations it’s issues like enhancing weight management, blood glucose, cardiovascular threat elements. Whereas in others it is likely to be extra specializing in high quality of life or fatigue or nervousness or despair.
“This summer time we did feasibility testing with sufferers with coronary heart failure. And we noticed actually thrilling first indications that we considerably improved one of many principal signs [shortness of breath]. We noticed very important enchancment in these signs… We even had a case the place the distant affected person monitoring of the guts allowed the clinicians to select up a silent ‘coronary heart assault’ — and led to a right away hospitalization of a affected person.
“So basically what I’m enthusiastic about is to see the breadth of the applicability. We began out within the cardiovascular area however over the previous two years have been actually quick increasing right into a bunch of latest situations.”
The startup operates a b2b2c mannequin in partnership with prescription drugs corporations and healthcare suppliers who then supply the software program to sufferers — just lately inking offers with US pharma large pfizer and German large Bayer, with extra touted within the pipeline.
A line on its web site refers back to the added “worth” its platform can ship for its enterprise prospects. Requested what which means in observe Thorgeirsson argues that digital therapeutics presents “a number of worth levers” to pharma companions.
One key level to notice right here is that digital care/therapeutics instruments proceed to face regulatory limitations to being instantly reimbursed by healthcare payers in lots of markets. So such companies usually want to search out various routes to market.
Working with large pharma is one possibility. Though some digital well being startups are, conversely, aiming to extra instantly disrupt the pharmaceutical trade — i.e. by providing a substitute for taking medication (comparable to in areas like sleep problems). Nevertheless Sidekick Well being sees its platform as a therapy complement that may increase conventional drug therapies for a variety of situations. (Whereas, on the flip aspect, it says it believes its chosen b2bc route is the easiest way to get its digital therapeutics in entrance of as many sufferers as attainable.)
“Enhancing affected person outcomes has a direct monetary profit for our pharma prospects,” says Thorgeirsson, discussing the worth proposition Sidekick Well being presents its b2b companions. “When you’ve got a drug that may have value anyplace between $1-$three billion [to bring to market] and if we will then assist enhance the efficacy of therapy for sufferers which might be receiving that remedy by including our digital companion to that drug that has a direct monetary profit by way of aggressive standing for our pharma companions.
“Additionally when our pharma companions focus on reimbursement for his or her drug with payers improved affected person outcomes in fact are key — so it’s the improved affected person outcomes, it’s the improved medicine adherence (we all know that’s an enormous downside; about 300,000 folks die yearly as a consequence of lack of medicine adherence which is one thing that we assist with); after which in fact very attention-grabbing insights from actual world knowledge that we’re in a position to collect as properly.”
The potential for knowledge generated by digital therapeutics for use to increase the lifetime of current drug patents additionally “comes into the dialogue” right here, per Thorgeirsson — after we ask whether or not a part of its ‘worth add’ is the potential to increase the worthwhile shelf-life of current medication by injecting new life into pharmaceutical patents by way of bolting on a novel digital companion.
“That is likely one of the issues that’s extraordinarily thrilling in our area — working rather more carefully with pharmaceutical corporations creating mixtures of molecule plus digital,” he confirms. “In some instances, sure, this could doubtlessly broaden exclusivity or patents. In order that’s completely a extremely attention-grabbing a part of what we see occurring out there.
“This mixture the place the molecule can influence sure areas of the illness and we influence others — and the mixture is extra highly effective than both alone.”
Drug growth and/or discovering new functions for current medicines is one other space the place Sidekick Well being reckons that knowledge derived from its platform will be capable of support pharma outcomes.
“The way in which we see it’s that any new drug that’s being developed, within the not too distant future, almost certainly could have a digital companion once they go to market,” says CMO Gulli Arnason. “[It’s about] getting in early and launching one thing with a pharmaceutical firm that’s augmented by a digital companion — in addition to a extra defensive play, round margins and patents. So these two areas are extraordinarily necessary for pharmaceutical corporations.”
As for the healthcare payer market, that’s “nonetheless maturing” in its response to digital therapeutics, as Thorgeirsson places it. (Once more, although, the coronavirus pandemic is kicking open doorways as societies hurry to undertake digital instruments to scale to satisfy the spike in demand for distant care.)
“What we really feel is necessary is also that present worth levers which aren’t depending on direct reimbursements from payers as a result of we all know that the payer market continues to be maturing — actually attention-grabbing issues occurring there however nonetheless form of creating,” he provides.
On the aggressive panorama, Thorgeirsson argues that Sidekick’s platform-play is comparatively uncommon — and units the enterprise other than digital therapeutics startups with a extra area of interest focus. (One platform competitor he does name-check is France’s Voluntis; a enterprise that’s been engaged on ’embedding connectivity into therapeutics’ for significantly longer, although with much less of a give attention to gamification.)
“There are corporations that focus extra narrowly on sure components — like solely on medicine adherence or solely on one or two particular situations however we now have this totally different strategy the place we imagine it’s completely key to have a platform strategy. And that’s actually each whenever you take a look at the affected person aspect — sufferers might need two or extra situations, they may have weight problems, kind 2 diabetes and smoke, and also you don’t need one answer per situation; you desire a platform that may sort out all of them,” he suggests, including: “Normally we don’t see robust competitors whenever you mix the gamification, the outcomes that we’re exhibiting and the platform strategy.”
The platform strategy aligns Sidekick Well being with the wants of its goal enterprise companions.
“Our enterprise companions have the identical [priorities],” argues Thorgeirsson. “They’ve a portfolio of therapeutic areas that they deal with and so they actually don’t need one vendor per therapeutic space however a platform that may sort out throughout the spectrum. And when it come to the platform breadth we don’t actually see numerous rivals with that dimension of a platform.”
Commenting on the Collection A in a press release, Dr Regina Hodits, managing companion at VC agency Wellington, stated: “At Wellington, we’re all about enhancing healthcare for all stakeholders, sufferers, practitioners, and payors alike. Sidekick’s staff has accomplished a outstanding job of making a product platform with the potential to realize this purpose on a worldwide scale. We’re very excited to help the corporate with their plans for important progress.”
“We’re impressed by the way in which this staff has been in a position to put collectively a know-how platform delivering evidence-based therapeutic packages, which might be efficient, adaptive but additionally priceless for his or her business companions,” added Josep LI. Sanfeliu, managing companion and co-founder of Asabys, in one other supporting assertion.