Many Polish medical tech firms have already made a name for themselves. Recently, WSE-listed Infoscan filed with the Food and Drug Administration to have their sleep apnea monitors certified for sale in the US market. Another listed company, Medicalgorithmics, the producer of portable ECG devices, has announced Q1 profit of PLN 2 million and Q1 revenue of PLN 41.4 million (a 280 percent increase y/y). Following in the footsteps of Polish HealthTech success stories, an astounding number of new start-ups are being formed every year. Here’s a lineup of some of the most innovative and promising start-ups WBJ talked to at the InfoShare conference in May. They all made it to the final shortlist in the 2017 Digital Healthcare Hackathon organized by InfoShare and Interizon and some of them are already gaining traction.
The Kraków-based start-up emerged victorious in both start-up competitions and scooped the top prize at the Digital Healthcare competition (€17,500) as well as another €20,000 in the main start-up competition. Launched by Jacek Mikosz, Tomasz Mikosz and Michał Czyż, the start-up created a smart inhaler top for asthma patients called FindAir ONE. It is put on a regular asthma inhaler and linked by Bluetooth to a smartphone. The app on the smartphone records each application of the meds and correlates the data with the location, weather, allergens and air quality at the moment of application to be able to later warn the user if he finds himself in a place that could potentially be dangerous. Also, the inhaler informs the patient when they’re running low on meds or if they’ve forgotten to take their inhaler or their back-up inhaler with them. Now the team is working on an even more complex system of implementing cognitive data. It will be able to look for similarities between patients and make predictions based on shared features: for instance if patient A with allergies to certain types of pollen and similar intensity of attacks has problems in a given place at a given time, chances are that patient B with similar issues could also be more susceptible to an asthma attack under the same conditions. Thanks to the data compiled by the system, it will be able to warn them and prevent potentially life-threatening attacks.
The runner-up and the recipient of a €12,500 prize at the Digital Healthcare Hackathon hails from Poznań. The firm has developed an electronic stethoscope integrated with a thermometer, intended for home use. It can record heart and lung sounds as well as measure temperature and then send the data via Bluetooth to a phone. “Pediatricians say that 90 percent of visits are unnecessary or consultations could be done over the phone, with healthy children being brought to a clinic and unnecessarily exposed to contagions. Our device allows parents to stay at home and still get the doctor consultation they need,” said Wojciech Radomski, CEO and co-founder of StethoMe. The start-up already has a validated prototype and is working on developing more functionalities, including AI algorithms that will analyze the data to make diagnosis of illnesses such as pneumonia more accurate. The cutting-edge device will be controlled with hand gestures rather than traditional buttons.
After years of research, a group of medical specialists and engineers from Kraków formed a company that has created a range of medical simulators for training doctors specializing in cardiology. MST already holds an European patent for the technology they developed of CT-backed imagery and has managed to enter the US market with its tech. “There are three companies in the world doing what we do, but our competition ‘draws’ the heart by using computer graphics (synthetic heart model), which is far from real. We use a 3D dataset obtained from computed tomography (CT) scanning of a real patient to make the simulation as lifelike as possible,” said Kamil Kipiel from MST. The simulator helps teach doctors how to perform invasive heart exams quickly and safely for the patient. The firm took 3rd spot in the competition with a €6,000 prize, is filing for another patent soon and is working on their simulators for micro invasive heart surgery of the mitral valve. Moreover, MST was selected as a one of the finalists of MIT Enterprise Forum Poland and will attend the boot camp at MIT in Boston.
This Wrocław-based company produces simulators for laparoscopic surgery. They help doctors develop their manual skills and technique, which are very difficult in laparoscopic surgery. “The first objective that we set ourselves was to create a low-price laparoscopic trainer/simulator, so that students and surgeons could train in their homes on professional equipment,” said Mateusz Juszczak, CEO and president of Laparo. The firm has been selling its products for only six months now and has already found clients in 22 countries, including Chile, Ecuador and Oman. It has developed a range of devices: Laparo Analytic, Laparo Aspire and Laparo Advance. The smallest simulators are priced PLN1,500-2,700 and are intended primarily for medical students. The largest ones, introduced a couple of months ago, cost around €10,000 and are designed for hospitals.
The company was created by Polish entrepreneurs at Munich University of Technology. It uses smartwatches as health monitors. The algorithms developed by Qolware (where Qol stands for Quality of Life) collect data from the watch’s sensors, including a mic and gyroscope etc. to detect and even predict medical emergencies, e.g. in cases of an epileptic episode. “When a person wearing the smartwatch with our app passes out or falls, they do not need to press any buttons to call for help. Our app will automatically recognize the danger the person is in and alert medical services or a caregiver,” said Aleksandra Patz from Qolware. The firm collaborates with the Epilepsy Center in Munich, as well as with hardware suppliers, such as LG, Samsung and Huawei. The app also has functions that help elderly and Alzheimer patients, e.g. by reminding them to take meds at specific times and alerting their caregivers when the person has left the so-called “safe zone.”
Warsaw start-up DeepDoc uses image recognition algorithms to detect mood disorders. The app targets the young generation, who use Instagram to post their everyday photos. It analyzes the posted photos to predict possible cases of depression and then the built-in chatbox offers Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy exercises to help the person deal with mood disorders. Naturally, the user has to give their consent to be analyzed. “Research shows that there is a higher penetration of mood disorders among young people, even by 6 percentage points: about 10 percent of the entire population is affected by a mood disorder, while as much as 16-20 percent of young people will at some point in their life experience a depressive episode,” said Piotr Podlaś, CEO of DeepDoc. Poland spends app. PLN 2 billion on dealing with depression, while only PLN 700 million is the cost of treatment. The rest is the loss caused by lower productivity, Podlaś added.
The company, located in the Tri-City area, uses Deep Learning to analyze images recorded by a camera locked inside a small pill that, after being swallowed, travels through the entire digestive tract recording images. Capsule endoscopy is much less invasive than regular endoscopy. However, the downside is the long time it takes to analyze the material and thus the cost of the diagnosis is much higher. CTA’s goal is to cut the cost of the analysis and replace traditonal invasive methods. “Currently, these films are analyzed by doctors over a course of many hours, with significant portions of the material often being skipped. We automated the process to take less than an hour,” said Mateusz Marmołowski, founder and CEO of CTA. The start-up has already found its first clients in the US market.
The Katowice-based CardioCube is building a device and system that allows doctors to monitor post-op cardiac patients to avoid complications. “Up to 30 percent of heart failure patients go back to the hospital within a month of leaving,” said Oskar Kiwic, CEO of CardioCube. The firm devised a cube that is used to record patient responses to a series of follow-up questions. “In the US, this was normally done over the phone back in the 1990s and later with tables,” explains Kiwic. Based on the responses, the cube uses AI to make predictions and alert the patient and the doctor of any potential complications before they even occur. “The goal behind the project is as much to help patients avoid lengthy hospital stays, as it is to cut heart failure re-admission costs by 25 percent.”
- Aurora Project
Aurora was developed by another Tri-City company called Break Box Lab. It’s basically a lab in a box. It allows doctors to test the susceptibility of the bacteria to antibiotics to select the most appropriate drug for the infection. “Doctors prescribe antibiotics based on their intuition and experience. If you want to be 100 percent sure that you’re taking the right antibiotic, you need to go to a hospital or a specialist clinic and do a rather expensive test. We’re cutting the cost of such a test from PLN 50 to PLN 8,” said Jakub Wysocki, business project manager at Break Box Lab. You just take a swab and put the stick into the vial and pour it into the machine. The results are ready in six hours rather than several days as is the case with traditional lab tests.
The firm represents the city of Łódź in the lineup. The firm has built a robotic pharmacy that consists of two machines: one which unpacks meds and uses image recognition to sort them. The other one prepares single doses of the right type of meds on request. It not only lowers the costs of running hospital pharmacies, but also eliminates mistakes. “One out of ten patients receives the wrong meds, the wrong dosage or at the wrong time,” said Jakub Musiałek, CEO of UnitDoseOne. The number of US hospitals that employ robotic pharmacies is estimated at 7 percent, while 98 percent prepare single doses for their patients. The company employs 12 engineers, specializing in software, robot design and mechanics. It took second place in the main InfoShare Start-up Contest.