The Future is Remote: A JLABS Company’s Partnership for Covid-19 Patients

By JLABS
Q&A

“Giving the world more time.” That is the goal of Huma, a global health tech company whose goal is to transform patient care through digital biomarkers and therapeutics. The company, which is also a resident at JLABS @ NYC, hopes to use the data that we as humans individually create to make the leap from reactive to proactive medicine while ensuring we can live our longest, fullest lives.

Huma Logo

With the news of COVID-19, Huma quickly pivoted their existing platforms to help serve patients, physicians, and researchers. They recently announced a collaboration with the University of Cambridge on a remote patient COVID-19 study. Huma’s involvement aims to allow researchers to collect data from the comfort of the patient’s home rather than a visit to a healthcare facility.

We recently sat down with Dan Vahdat, CEO and Founder at Huma, to learn more about this collaboration, his thoughts on the future of remote patient monitoring, and what’s next for Huma.

Q: What inspired you to found Huma?

I was born into a family of doctors and have always been in tune with the happy and sad moments that healthcare may bring to patients. Personally, and as a company, I like to bring a smile to people’s faces and help them live a healthier, fulfilled life. We set out to build something that aims to bring healthcare, delivery of care, and predictive care to patients through simple and inexpensive devices, such as our smart phones. The intersection of connected devices, computing power, and advancements in medicine have allowed us to do what we do today.

Q: What was the significant unmet medical need you saw that led you to create Huma?

Huma got started as a hobby project. As the project evolved, we realized there is a big gap in the amount of data and delivery of care when you are in the hospital versus when you are not in the hospital. In the hospital, you have the benefit of devices, computing power, and physicians looking after you. The same patient then often goes home with little to no support. That was the moment when Huma was born as it is today. Our goal is to provide tools in the absence of a doctor, allowing patients to engage with an app and get clinically relevant insights.

Q: How and why did Huma decide to try and tackle remote monitoring for COVID-19 patients? How challenging was this pivot?

As we all know, COVID-19 came as a big hit to every country and every healthcare system. We had a platform designed to support different diseases, and we felt that the technology we had could be configured to look after patients with COVID-19 remotely. We wanted to bring more intelligence to the patients and clinicians to help them be more proactive and make certain things more accessible. We drove several parallel innovations aimed to enhance remote patient monitoring, including digital biomarkers that measure your resting heart rate and heart rate variability. Additionally, we worked with Johns Hopkins to create a digital risk score whereby allowing a patient to answer questions and enter their vitals, we can tell their likelihood of having potentially severe complications from the disease.

Q: You recently collaborated with the University of Cambridge on a research project to remotely monitor patients, including those with COVID-19. What do you hope the impact will be?

The University of Cambridge has been running the Fenland Study, one of the largest and most extensive studies globally, and has been collecting large-scale participant data for the past 15 years. Our collaboration aims to find participants who may have COVID-19 but not know it because they are asymptomatic. Combining the phenotyping that we can collect through our platform and the other data assets, we have a potential goldmine for discovering new digital biomarkers and risk scores.

Q: The pandemic has accelerated the prevalence and importance of remote patient monitoring. How key do you think it is to continue this momentum beyond the pandemic?

I agree that there has been an acceleration of remote patient monitoring, but I feel there has also been a lot more talk than real implantation. Having said that, it’s significantly higher than last year. I believe it can have an impact to some extent and strengthen the adoption of technology around remote care and digital health. However, I think it may slow down as we go back to normal.

Q: What are the opportunities and challenges for successfully developing digital biomarkers according to you – and what do you feel differentiates your approach from your competitors?

When you do good work and positively impact the world, it doesn’t matter what company creates the solutions. Truthfully, I wish for a world where Huma doesn’t have to develop digital biomarkers because it requires several commitments, patients, and processes. Alternatively, I would love to become a platform that allows other companies to integrate their digital biomarkers. Having said that, I feel we are well positioned because we have access to data that is hard for others to replicate. We also have the platforms to deploy existing digital biomarkers. In that sense, I feel the access and the reach that we can sustainably commercialize along with the data, and the complementary tools we have, allow us to bring the most value out of digital biomarkers.

Q: What advice do you have for other start-ups weathering the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic and our current world have provided enormous opportunities for start-ups. In my opinion, it’s much harder for larger companies to pivot than it is for start-ups. My advice is to always stay open-minded.

 

To find out more about Huma, please visit their website.


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