Recognising that artificial intelligence has the potential to be transformational for both delivering better healthcare to patients and improving pharma industry R&D productivity, former UK science minister and serial entrepreneur Lord Drayson is taking a clinician-led approach to developing regulatory approved digital therapeutic products by tapping into UK National Health Service (NHS) resources.
On the 70th anniversary of the creation of the NHS, Sensyne Health, formerly known as Drayson Health, an Oxford, UK-based AI-focused healthcare technology company founded in 2014, signed a memorandum of understanding with the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust to combine access to anonymized patient data with clinical AI technology and unveiled an intention to seek a public listing for the company.
“We believe our differentiator is that everything we do starts with clinicians identifying serious unmet medical needs and working with them to develop tools to help them. We use our clinical AI to analyze anonymized patient data which the NHS has helped generate to accelerate the development of new treatments and pharma products that come from that better understanding of those needs,” Drayson toldScrip.
While the specific details of the deal remain under wraps, the arrangement with the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust builds on the five-year strategic research agreement the company established with the University of Oxford and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust last year. Under the terms of the Oxford deal, the university and the Foundation Trust together received £5m of equity as part of a £10m series C round led by Woodford Investment Management. To date, the company has secured some £41m in funding.
The Oxford deal, underpinned by the university’s academic research excellence, engineering expertise and the Trust’s clinical validation, has already created three clinically validated software applications – SEND, GDm-Health and Edge -- that are being commercialized by the company. The South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust has, since September 2017, been using the SEND tool to monitor and collate vital signs observations for the primary purpose of replacing paper charting at the bedside and has now decided to work more closely with Sensyne.
“An important component of our business model is that it provides a return through both equity and royalties to the NHS trusts. We haven’t disclosed the specific terms of the South Warwickshire deal – how much equity and how much royalty they will get – but it is similar in principle to the one we signed with Oxford,” Drayson added.
Sensyne intends to sign similar deals with up to a handful of NHS Foundation Trusts. “We are talking to other Trusts and we are looking to build collaborations across a number of them to work together to create a resource which both becomes representative of the demographic make up of the UK as a whole but is also large enough to have sufficient data in it to look at even the rarest diseases,” he added.
In addition to providing tools for clinicians, Sensyne is also looking to work with life science companies and is already in discussions with about half a dozen leading pharma companies about working together in four key therapeutic areas: hypertension, immunological diseases including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and respiratory disease.
“We are looking to establish research collaborations, starting out with modest projects looking at particular series of clinical questions that are relevant to the pharmaceutical companies’ development pipelines. For example, if they are planning an important clinical trial then looking at RWE data and analyzing it is an insurance policy making sure nothing is being missed in the trial design. To be able to do that we will act as a virtual CRO getting the computer to help them think about their clinical development strategies but also help them think about target discovery, identifying types of patients, responder groups in their clinical programs,“ he noted.
With all the concerns around personal data safety, Drayson is keen to stress that Sensyne’s approach is to develop tools that curate the NHS data ethically and efficiently to enable researchers to study the underlying data and make discoveries from them. “We are only doing this analysis for the purposes of improving patient outcomes or medical research. We don’t use the data to do anything else. We want to be a docking station between pharma and the NHS providing an important research resource,” he added.
Indeed, ensuring transparency in what Sensyne does is one of the main drivers for it seeking a public listing. “We have not disclosed what are IPO plans are yet but the reasons for us to go public at this stage is to be able to provide the transparency and corporate governance of being a public company for our NHS Trust partners who will have equity and tradeable stock in the company,” he concluded.