26th JANUARY: Startup of the week: ASEPTIKA

For this 'Startup of the week' post, I caught up with Kevin A. Auton, Ph.D, Managing Director at UK startup, Aseptika.

[Disclosure: I have no commercial ties with Aseptika]


1. What is Aseptika?
Aseptika Limited is a small healthcare company developing an integrated suite of self-monitoring devices and services under the brand name of Activ8rlives, which can be used by laypeople and their healthcare service providers to better self-manage long-term health conditions (LTC) helping to deliver more sustainable healthcare at home (hospital-at-home strategy). Our niche is respiratory disease, where we are developing medical devices, online analysis and alerting service, and In vitro diagnostic (IVD) devices for serious conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, COPD, Asthma in an integrated solution for both the consumer/patient and the clinician.

2. Could you explain the essence of Aseptika i.e it's core values?
Our strategy is to develop expert systems which can be used by laypeople/carers/family and their healthcare service providers to empower and better self-manage long-term conditions through self-monitoring at home, reducing the current pressure on hospitals and/or primary care.
The Company’s goal is to provide everyone (including respiratory patients) with the tools, and the understanding of how to apply these to their individual health conditions and concerns, so they can keep healthy and well for most of the time and remain independent at home. Self-management through self-monitoring is the motivation driving what we do.

3. What's the business model you're operating under?
We sell our medical devices direct to consumers (B2C) via Amazon UK and are starting to extend this via other Amazon markets around Europe in 2015, and through other retail/distributor outlets and to the Third Sector for a variety of proof of principle studies (e.g. Youth groups, NHS Trusts, Personal training groups, slimming clubs, corporates). We anticipate fast adoption through Third Sector organisations representing their patient groups. The Activ8rlives App and User Interface is free for users currently and we have 46,000 subscribers. In the future will have additional levels of provision to subscribers that will be provided on a subscription service basis, either directly to the consumer or via Healthcare bodies. We have been a cash positive company from inception as a result of our business model.

Our current activities include clinical trials with partners in NHS Trusts for the Aseptika Sputum test and Activ8rlives self-management solution, soon to include the BuddyWOTCH. The clinical trials are funded from pre-procurement contracts with SBRI Healthcare, funded by NHS England to bring innovation into the NHS.

4. Is there anyone else doing the same as you?
Activ8rlives is unusual in that we are device agnostic, incorporating sensors/monitors ranging from consumer accessories to In Vitro Diagnostics (biological) with a focus on respiratory disease with our potent prognostic test. All data is held together and can be cross analysed in the Cloud to provide forecasts and learning for the user and clinician. So our model incorporates hardware, bioware and software – an unusual model in this vertical market of respiratory healthcare but is seen to a lesser extent in the diabetes management area. We want to bring to respiratory healthcare, what blood glucose monitoring brought to the care of diabetics.

We also see an increase in interest in self-monitoring with consumer-level devices uploading or tethered to PCs, Tablets and Smartphones (usually into Cloud databases). Usually it is “One device, one App” and vertically aligned to a device (e.g. Glucose meter – Diabetes App). Activ8rlives is developed so that users can add in their self-monitoring health data at any point in their lifetime for any and all health scenarios. To see these data viewed across time and across long-term health conditions makes it all the more powerful to spot trends in declining or changed health and wellbeing.

5. Was there one moment which compelled you to begin the journey of working Aseptika?
We realised the value that group support could bring to sustained behaviour change towards greater health and wellbeing after our family decided to work together to lose weight and improve our general fitness.  While there was a great deal of information available, there were few real tools that could be used by a family to support this process of change. Being technologists, we developed some simple tools, checklists and monitoring sheets which eventually became Activ8rlives. 

This has now grown into an integrated suite of products which can be used by laypeople to empower them to become more active, maintain a healthy weight and manage long-term conditions and to stay well. Activ8rlives integrates simple monitoring devices which capture an individual’s range of health parameters.  This information is brought together in the Company’s Cloud-based servers so that it can be viewed to warn of impending ill health and to maintain wellbeing.  This also means that this information is available anywhere and at any time to the user and their clinical teams.

A natural extension of this philosophy is the Company’s development of a home-based test to predict flare-ups in chest infections (in people of all ages) who have long-term respiratory conditions, to reduce hospital admissions and improve healthcare. While this sounds complex, its principles of operation are actually simple: to give people who suffer from frequent chest infections, 5-10 days warning that another exacerbation is about to take place and support from healthcare providers is needed urgently, much in the same way that blood glucose testing is standard practice for some diabetics.  

6. What have reactions to Aseptika been? Do different people perceive it differently?
Very positive, especially for consumers and patient volunteers on our clinical trials.

7. What are the weaknesses of Aseptika and what are you doing to address them?
The greatest challenges are the rate at which procurement of new solutions by healthcare providers progresses.

8. Two years from now, in 2017, what would success for Aseptika look like? What are the barriers to success?
Our combination of prognostic sputum test for a common bacterium causing chest infections with patient-recorded vital signs is unique with utility across many respiratory conditions and this will be CE-marked as a medical device / IVD. Building on our growing respiratory disease self-management focus we are accelerating the development of our medical wearable Smartwatch, called the BuddyWOTCH. This will meet the vital requirement to continuously monitor blood oxygenation levels in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients in the home setting. The BuddyWOTCH also integrates other sensors to measure key vital signs and will automatically send data from the wearer to the Company’s secure Cloud-based servers via cellular and wireless networks. The BuddyWOTCH will be CE-marked as a Class 2 medical device for Home Use.

As important, we are developing the capability, skill-set and infrastructure (including clinical partners) to repeat the prognostic sputum tests with a further 9 respiratory pathogens, gaining time and cost efficiencies from a multitrack process prototyped by bringing our first test to market.

Our ambition is to be the leading supplier of complete solutions in respiratory disease in supporting self-management by millions of patients. There are significant opportunities to commercialise new products and medication via this “activated” community of patients; mining a growing repository of highly annotated but anonymised patient data will yield inventions as yet unconceived. Activ8rlives has the opportunity to be perceived as small, user-friendly, safe and trustworthy brand with sensitive patient data as an independent provider of services, education and innovative medical products.

“Our vision is to achieve for those with respiratory disease, what home blood glucose testing did for home self-management by diabetics.”

Our 5-year vision is to be a technology and services “Partner of Choice” for healthcare providers who support patients with diagnosed respiratory disease and our continued development will significantly increase the chance of market uptake of our innovations. Our solutions will facilitate a true partnership between the patient and clinician over the long-term. This is not a replacement for face-to-face meetings (reviews), but rather, using web-connecting systems to better communicate between and to prepare for face-to-face interactions, which will become increasingly valued by stakeholders as their true cost becomes evident. 90% of patient transactions undertaken by the EU’s healthcare providers are conducted face-to-face. Each percentage reduction in face-to-face interactions saves the NHS (for example) €240m pa and this is not sustainable. The providers of healthcare services will look to us as they manage increasing demand within fixed (decreasing) budgets and we will position the company to support the Healthcare providers that are attempting to innovate in the services they offer.

Market barriers to commercialisation: Approvals for our solution by Medical Regulatory Authorities within the EU and the USA. Marketing cannot commence until this has been achieved. In the UK, approval by NICE requires there to be also evidence of financial benefit and cost effectiveness. We model that the costs of achieving approvals will be x3 that of the original development costs and is the principle purpose for this application and generally these data is both costly and time consuming.

9. What could be done to encourage more people to experiment with new ideas in Digital Health?
Our goal is that it "just works" eliminating the barriers which prevent us from using digital health services. It must be simple, work “straight from the box” and be easy-enough for everyone to use.

10.  If people feel inspired by your journey, and want to do something with technology to improve Global Health, what would your words of wisdom be?
Walk in the shoes of those patients that may benefit from the utilisation of technology to bring better quality care, faster, more conveniently in an integrated, holistic approach and fit for purpose, whilst also collaborating closely with clinical leaders. Both are key stakeholders. For the health economics to work for the payers, the benefit of the innovation must vest into the budget, paying for adoption to take place. By self-monitoring with several simple devices through Activ8rlives, we can stop small problems turning into a situation that requires emergency care in hospital and possibly premature mortality.

Aseptika is on Twitter and click here for the website