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Saturday, September 18, 2021

This start-up doubled the reach of some UK hospitals during Covid — and investors are taking note


Huma’s CEO and co-founder, Dan Vahdat.

Huma’s formal name is Huma’s

LONDON: The coronavirus pandemic has hastened the shift toward digital health services, and investors are looking to capitalise on the trend by placing large bets in the space.

In the United Kingdom, Huma, based in London, announced on Wednesday that it had raised $130 million in an investment round led by the corporate venture arms of Bayer and Hitachi. The cash injection was also backed by investment funds from Samsung, Sony, and Unilever.

Huma’s software, originally known as Medopad, allows clinicians to remotely monitor patients via a mobile app. It also makes use of a variety of wearables and other devices to collect data such as heart rate and oxygen saturation. The startup claims to be able to detect deterioration in patients’ health status and determine whether or not they should be admitted to the hospital.

The company collaborates with the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, as well as governments in Germany and the United Arab Emirates. Huma’s CEO and co-founder, Dan Vahdat, stated that the company provided pro bono services to the NHS during the Covid-19 crisis.

“We made a commitment last year to look after Covid patients on a pro bono basis,” Vahdat said in an interview. “That seemed like the right thing to do to us. We are extremely fortunate to have long-term, visionary investors who will support us in this endeavour.”

Huma claims to have doubled the capacity, or reach, of some of the hospitals with which it collaborates in the United Kingdom by allowing clinicians to see twice as many patients as they would otherwise due to its “hospital at home” service. It also claims to have reduced hospital admissions by one-third.

According to findings published by NHSX, doctors in London who used Huma were able to support an average of 20 patients per hour, up from 12 patients per hour for staff who did not use the company’s technology. The use of Huma also reduced the amount of time clinicians would normally have to spend with patients by about 3 minutes.

In Germany, the company has reached an agreement with the government to purchase pulse-oximeters (which measure oxygen saturation) from Amazon. Huma maintains that the work it is doing to support governments’ pandemic responses is non-profit, and that it has signed procurement agreements with public health authorities to cover its costs.

Huma’s most recent financing round gives the company the option to raise an additional $70 million at a later date. If it chooses to do so, its valuation will cross the $1 billion mark, granting it “unicorn” status, according to a person familiar with the matter who preferred to remain anonymous because the information has not been made public.

It’s the latest indication of investor confidence in the rapidly expanding digital health industry. Kry, a Swedish telemedicine start-up, announced last month that it had raised $300 million in a round valued at $2 billion.

A clinician makes use of the digital platform of Huma, a British health start-up.

Huma’s formal name is Huma’s

“The industry was already moving toward digital in general — the pandemic has accelerated it,” Vahdat explained.

According to LinkedIn, Huma, which has 125 employees, is still losing money. Vahdat claims to be prioritising growth for the time being.

“Our vision as a company is to impact the lives of people all over the world in the most effective way possible so that everyone can live longer, fuller lives,” he said. “If we can achieve that vision, we believe the money will take care of itself.”

According to a Companies House filing, Huma lost £11.6 million ($16.4 million) on revenues of £5.4 million in 2019. However, turnover increased by more than 3,600% from the £146,000 reported in 2018. The group’s 2020 financial statements are due in September.

Despite the fact that the company has raised a significant amount of money, Vahdat stated that the majority of the money left over from its previous round in 2019 was still in the bank. The latest capital infusion is intended to strengthen the company’s partnerships with companies such as Bayer and to expand in markets such as the United States, Asia, and the Middle East.

“We’re working on bigger projects with multinational corporations and governments,” Vahdat said. “Having a large balance sheet gives us the confidence to potentially have a better, more impactful long-term partnership with some of our partners.”

According to the company, Goldman Sachs served as the lead placement agent for Huma in the transaction, while HSBC and Nomura served as joint placement agents. Nomura has also become a shareholder in the company, according to Huma.

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