Also: New competition exploring the use of AI and machine learning in the NHS opens today; Irish Life launches app with dacadoo for its clients; Elvie founder would consider moving the business "if it is looking like Brexit will have a negative impact".

Co-op launches health app, Nori Health raises pre-seed funding, and more news briefs

By Leontina Postelnicu
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Co-op returns to the health sector. After acquiring health tech startup Dimec last year, the UK’s Co-op has unveiled a digital pharmacy offering, the first in a series of initiatives expected to be launched by its new Health business. 

The app reportedly links patients to their GP surgeries and allows them to order medication that is then dispensed from their distribution centre in Lea Green, north west England, and delivered to a location chosen by them. Later this year, the firm says that patients will also be able to book and manage GP appointments through the app.

“The pharmacy sector is at the start of a digital revolution, as consumers increasingly look for more flexibility and convenience in accessing their medication,” said Co-op Health managing director Tim Davies. “This app is just the start for our Health business. We know 40% of the financial burden on the NHS is due to preventable diseases, and as we grow our Health business we want to put the emphasis on proactive health care and empower people to take control of their own wellbeing.”

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New funding for AI and machine learning projects. A new Innovate UK Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition that opens today is exploring the use of AI and machine learning in the NHS to support limb radiographs in fracture diagnosis. 

“The competition will comprise 2 phases. In phase 1, applicants will conduct technical feasibility studies on their proposed solution. Up to £100,000 including VAT is available in phase 1, and as many as 5 projects are expected to be funded,” according to Innovate UK.

Projects selected will receive input from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Grampian, the Aberdeen University and Canon Medical Research Europe. More information on how to apply can be found here.

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Nori Health completes chatbot trial, gets pre-seed funding. Amsterdam-based Nori Health, founded in 2017, has raised €600,000 in pre-seed funding from an Angel investor and completed a trial of its chatbot for people with inflammatory bowel disease, carried out in collaboration with the Dutch Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. A second trial of their solution, which is also in the works and will be conducted later this year, will be followed by a live pilot running a ready-for-market version of the solution, the startup said.

“There’s clearly a global need for chronic disease sufferers to have access to more healthcare support than simply medication and surgery – we know lifestyle changes can really make a difference, but it can be very difficult for individuals to know whether they are doing the right thing for their particular body since everyone is different,” said Tineke Markus, chief executive of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. “Nori Health’s personalised digital coach is a very welcome and much needed addition to the marketplace.”

Nori Health chief executive and founder Roeland Pater, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease as a teenager, said he decided “an AI-powered chatbot was the way to help me – and potentially millions of others – identify and change what was making me sick”. 

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Irish Life, dacadoo app collaboration. Life insurance and pension company Irish Life has launched a digital health engagement app called MyLife in partnership with Swiss firm dacadoo for its individual and corporate clients in Ireland.

“We know there are a number of digital health solutions on the market however we believe the MyLife platform developed with dacadoo will succeed thanks to the close connection we have with our customers and the benefits it brings such as the AI health coach and integrated rewards programme,” said David Harney, chief executive of Irish Life. 

In March, dacadoo and the United Arab Emirates’ Daman Health Insurance unveiled a new mobile game encouraging players to log steps and stay active.

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Elvie founder expresses concerns over Brexit. Elvie co-founder and chief executive Tania Boler said in an interview with the Press Association over the weekend that the London-based health tech startup would consider relocating if Brexit threatened London’s position as a global hub for tech talent and investment.

Boler said the UK was among the "best places in the world for startups", but added: “We are nimble and already quite international – if it is looking like Brexit will have a negative impact on the UK, we’d have to consider moving."

In April, Elvie announced that it had raised €37.5 million in Series B funding, thought to be the largest femtech investment to date.