| New Delhi |
Published: March 9, 2020 3:54:20 pm
Boston-based Biofourmis, a digital therapeutics company, has modified its artificial intelligence (AI)-based remote monitoring platform to keep a tab on patients suspected or diagnosed with coronavirus (CoVID-19). The simple, AI-driven remote monitoring platform was built in two weeks to help clinicians monitor symptoms among infected patients.
“The software itself is upon prescription like a drug and delivers therapeutic intervention to improve and manage a patient,” Kuldeep Singh Rajput, founder and CEO of Biofourmis, told indianexpress.com over a call from Boston. Digital therapeutics uses software to deliver a therapeutic intervention, like medicine, to prevent, manage or treat a disease. This can work in conjunction with a medicine or can just be a software or an app.
Rajput said the goal was to learn about the disease, as clinicians and researchers are still learning to understand how the coronavirus affects the body. More importantly, the new AI-based system will help understand how the symptoms and disease are progressing in those who are already infected with COVID-19.
Rajput said the programme uses a combination of medical grade wearable and artificial-intelligence technology to fetch data from patients that can be used to help researchers better understand the disease. Biovitals Analytics’s FDA-cleared platform has the ability to capture passive data using wearables onto a mobile app.
The AI-based solution works with Biofourmis’ medical-grade sensor, Everion, which patients wear on the arm. The band, which weighs less than 12 grams, can capture more than 20 physiological signals and once you capture the data, it is sent to the cloud, processed and available to clinicians on a smartphone app or dashboard.
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That clinical-grade wearable, according to Rajput, is different from Apple Watch. These FDA cleared medical-grade wearables can monitor multiple vital signs from patients and allow clinicians to make clinical decisions using the data collected from the patients. However, Apple Watch is not FDA cleared to monitor multiple vital signs like respiration rate, pulse oximetry, your electrodermal activity, classic impedance, cardiac output stroke volume and so on. It’s only FDA cleared to capture one single parameter — diagnose AFib.
“So one of the things with COVID-19 is that nobody has tested it. But we already know is that if you have the symptoms, which essentially include things like fever, cough, respiratory illnesses, the clinical grade sensor along with our analytics is accurately able to pick that up because even in patients which we monitor previously with our FDA-cleared Biovitals platform, we still monitor respiratory illnesses,” he said. Rajput’s Biofourmis has three FDA approvals and its analytics platform has received regulatory approvals in other countries.
Biofourmis is currently working with The University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong’s Department of Health to monitor local cases. Rajput claimed they were also in discussion with multiple other countries including India, South Korea, Italy, Germany and Australia.
“I think the challenge will be…do we have the right infrastructure in place to manage these patients?” He said technically the government could use this to monitor every quarantine patient and visitor entering India, adding that the company has the capability to roll this out immediately if needed. India has reported over 43 cases of the novel coronavirus so far. Globally, the novel coronavirus has killed more than 3,500 people, and infected over 105,000 people.
“In other diseases, we don’t just capture data, process it and give it to clinicians. We actually deliver software-based intervention or therapeutic intervention to the patient, like a digital therapy. But in this case, it was just an initiative for us because multiple people started reaching out to leverage our platform in multiple countries,” he said, adding that within a couple of weeks they were ready to capture the new parameters.
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Born and raised in India, Rajput started Biofourmis as a digital therapeutics company in 2015 in an attempt to predict chronic diseases like heart failure before they happen. Rajput obtained his B Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT-Madras and moved to the US, where he was a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He then moved to Singapore to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience, where Rajput used to build brain implants for those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and epileptic seizures, but dropped out to start Biofourmis with co-founder Wendou Niu.
Simply put, Biofourmis is in the business of making a “digital pill”. Rajput explains: “Our entire business model is how do you combine a known pharmaceutical therapy with a digital solution so that it can synergistically together drive meaningful outcome.”
Biofourmis has multiple partnerships with pharmaceutical firms worldwide, including Novartis. Rajput believes this model is a win-win for both parties as it improves adherence in patients, reduces hospitalisation and ensures patients are on the right optimal dosage and prevent any adverse outcomes.
“Our entire development process is similar to a drug company, rather than a tech company. We go through very standard quality systems, run pilot studies, go through FDA and eventually commercialise a product. And the products are, of course, approved for multiple diseases.” he said.
“We use clinical grade wearable biosensors to collect continuous physiology data from patients,” Rajput said, referring to how Biofourmis uses a lot of data science, advanced machine learning techniques to predict critical events and help the newer precise intervention or an action at the right time eventually improving health outcomes. Biofourmis’ biovitals analytics platform is modular in nature and can be used depending on the therapeutic area, or depending on the case.
Biofourmis is laying the ground for a subscription-based business model for patients a month, where the monitoring duration can be anywhere between three months or six months depending on the use case and the disease. The company is actively working with a number of leading hospitals in the US where it is trying to leverage the digital therapy combining with existing pharma.
Biofourmis is primarily focused on the US market at present, but the plan is to expand in major Asian markets, including China and India in the next 18 to 24 months. Till date, Biofourmis has raised $45 million in venture funding, and its investors include Sequoia Capital, Open Space, etc. The company hopes to raise at least $100 million sometime next year. Rajput said Biofourmis will go public in the next three years. Headquartered in Boston, Biofourmis has offices in Singapore, Bengaluru and Zurich. The company has a team of over 120 people spread across all these offices.
Rajput claimed the company’s flagship AI-based analytics solution accurately predicts cardiac arrest “14 days in advance before actual heart failure”.
“The future of AI in healthcare is really in moving beyond the pill and managing patients using a new class of medicine that continuously capture data with a better user experience for the patients,” he said, adding how artificial intelligence and machine learning can move reactive healthcare systems to more proactive healthcare systems “where you are predicting and preventing serious medical events”.
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