Health Foundry incubator

After an interesting morning at Bristol-Myers Squibb we made our way back to the city center leaving one person behind, which in the end was faster at the meeting point than the whole group, due to prior experience with missing connections.

 

In the afternoon we visited the Health Foundry, which is a collaborative workspace for Digital Health start-ups. The Health Foundry is exactly as one would image a start-up incubator – young, a little chaotic, a touch of hipster and with a powerful and innovative atmosphere. Since its foundation in 2016 the Health Foundry supported more than 125 start-ups from all branches of health technologies and can show a diverse portfolio. The Health Foundry supports start-ups in all stages. One of the recent emerged successful start-ups is DrDoctor, a digital outpatient platform, which is used by hospitals all over the country and facilitates over 4 million doctors’ appointments a year.

We get to hear an insightful talk from a start-up consultant turned clinician Dr. Somauroo about the difficulties of starting a company under the NHS regulations. He practiced under the NHS and has now been involved in supporting over 120 health-tech start-ups with his accelerator called HS. This accelerator works closer with the start-ups than Health Foundry and focuses on late-stage start-ups. The industry of health technology has many challenges that need to be addressed due to its involvement with various stakeholders, ranging from the patients to clinicians to the NHS. The next two talks were held by founders of health tech start-ups.

Hello daisy tackles the problem of loneliness among older people, which can lead to a number of conditions costing several billions a year. A small device aims at creating a private social media platform that connects older people, without the need of being proficient with modern technologies and platforms.

Wellbones tries to circumvent the NHS and go directly to the customer, with the aim of getting NHS support once it can prove its utility with real-world data obtained by their product. Osteoporosis has not been the priority of the NHS funding so far, which is where Wellbones wants to make their impact. Misinformation and outdated “best practices” need to be corrected. The approach is a video-based platform with current information, free content on different aspects of the disease from nutrition to recommended exercises. Additionally a monthly subscription will unlock even more content and access to face-to-face support with professionals.

The start-up environment made for a nice contrast to BMS, the pharmaceutical giant we got to know better in the morning. We went from suits, ties and clean shaven faces to hoodies, shorts, stubbles and proper beards. The talks were less serious and more fun while being at least as well pitched as by the professionals at BMS. From the start-up point of view the biggest barriers to success seem to stem from the slow and fragmented, yet gigantic bureaucratic processes at the NHS. This makes predictions and market analysis rather difficult, with the consequences of struggling for funding. The incubator experts and environment help by tackling some of these points with experienced support, insight and mentoring.

After a very interesting day we are looking forward to our last dinner together and a fun night out. Friday morning we will conclude our study trip with a visit of the Royal Free Hospital. There we will be able to gain strategic insight on the positioning of the Royal Free NHS trust environment. Further talks on the performance and collaborations of the Hospital will be followed by a visit to different sections of the Hospitals.

In the end we would like to thank our supervisors Alfred Angerer, Karin Brunner Schmidt and Eva Hollenstein for organizing the details of our study trip. We enjoyed learning about the British health system from different perspectives and getting closer to our fellow students and supervisors, more than once during extended talks over a few pints.

 

 

 

Squibb not Squid

Today was our 4th visit during our study trip to London. We had the pleasure to have a new member joining us, also known for her busy jet-set life, Dr. Karin Brunner Schmid. Fortunately she left Vienna for London. But actually, we were lucky to have the chance to visit the UK & Irish headquarters of the American pharmaceutical company, Bristol-Myers Squibb (which has nothing to do with a Squid). The employees we were able to meet during our 2h visit were very professional, despite a few technical problems at the beginning, but let’s be honest we are all human :-). They were very proud to share with us the company achievements as well as its mission, which they dedicate their work life to: ‘’the best people helping patients in their fight against serious diseases’’. They were able to share a lot of information about their company. One of them surprised some of us, in other words, they spend 25% of their total revenue of 4.8 billion on R&D, which fights against the stereotype of ‘’greedy Pharma’’.  Additionally, another anecdote which we found impressive, is that it takes around 2 billion USD to develop a new drug until its release to the market.


One of the speakers came from the medical affairs department and he enlightened us with some key information such as another mission of their team is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients over serious diseases. Also, they base their research on end to end development, from the very basic discovery in science to the development and research and finally to the commercial step. Their key focus lies on innovative medicine, which tackles new diseases with high morbidity rates. In order to achieve this, they also co-develop medicine with strategic partnerships such as academic partnerships as well as other big Pharma and biotech companies. In order to blend the experience of yesterday’s visit to NICE and today’s visit, we asked a few questions about the relationship between NICE and Pharma. We found out that 20% of NICE’s work comes from Bristol-Myer Squibb, this number alone represents the relevance of their impressive pipeline for oncology, cardio vascular diseases and fibrosis. They are very fast in creating new products since they have a new one launched every 4 months. The relationship between NICE and the company can be also described as a dynamic tension. Since NICE does not always approve their innovations and this mechanism pushed them to continuously improve and continue to research. Additionally, the toughness of NICE on regards of  product approval is actually being mirrored by other European countries, who follow the recommendations NICE gives to companies based in the UK. Even though some products are approved in other countries before the UK, the company does not see this as a back-leap, since they have a better access to patients in comparison to other European countries.


This high level of complexity, has created a job pool, that gives access to students as wells as professionals from other countries to develop and grow with their career (yes, Kevin, please do send your CV). They spoke highly about their company and it their devotion to the unmet needs of cancer patients, but this counts only for patients in countries where costly treatments are being payed for. Can we continue to go down this path or has the Pharma industry to adapt in the future? We finished our visit with a lovely lunch (for those who remembered to bring their sandwiches.. no names will be disclosed :-))  and headed to our next meeting to the Health Foundry.