New health innovation unit to be set up in the UK, Joyance Partners expands to Europe, and more news briefs

Also: Philips unveils new agreement with Chipmunk Health; Queen's University Belfast spinout secures funding for new app; EIT Health opens summer schools registration.
By Leontina Postelnicu
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Fibre optic internet for the NHS and a new unit for health innovation. Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has announced this week that fibre optic broadband will be rolled out across all hospitals and GP practices in England in a new bid to improve access to digital services.

"(...) We need clinicians and other healthcare professionals to feel confident they can access fast, reliable broadband so they can provide patients with the best possible care,” the secretary said in a statement.

It has also been revealed this week that the Accelerated Access Collaborative will become the “umbrella organisation” for health innovation in the UK. A new joint NHS England and NHS Improvement unit is now being set up, and it will be led by director of innovation, research and life sciences Dr Sam Roberts, who will take on the chief executive role.

“I want the NHS to be at the forefront of cutting-edge treatments and medical innovations – but often it can take too long for products to get from the bench to the bedside,” added health minister Nicola Blackwood. “The Accelerated Access Collaborative will speed up this process so patients and the NHS can be the first in the world to benefit from the most transformative technologies and treatments as part of our Long Term Plan."

Joyance Partners launches in Europe. VC firm Joyance Partners has appointed a managing director to lead its expansion into the European market. After launching in 2017, the firm has made more than 50 investments relating to emerging science and tech in the health and wellness space.

“The European startup scene is growing rapidly, and it needs funds like Joyance to provide the kind of support and capital necessary at the very early stages,” said Paolo Pio, the new MD for Europe, who was previously head of product and business development at Cisco for Europe and Asia Pacific.

Managing partner Mike Edelhart said they were "eager to bring our unique moment-of-inception investment approach to Europe". 

“We have been gratified that the first year of investment for Joyance US resulted in so many strong, young portfolio companies, some still at the lab stage, pioneering new science that can dramatically improve health and longevity — and with those improvements, expand personal happiness," Edelhart added.

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Philips unveils new deal for its HealthSuite digital platform. Telehealth service provider Chipmunk Health, based in the Netherlands and Canada, will use Philips’ HealthSuite digital platform to roll out its home monitoring solutions, it was announced this week. In the past few months, Philips has revealed similar agreements with various companies, including Ypsomed, Integron, and Alcon.

“Many innovative telehealth start-ups have excellent ideas but don’t have the resources to develop the secure, privacy-protected data infrastructure needed to unify and connect devices and data, and securely transmit, store and analyze patient data,” explained Dale Wiggins, Philips business leader for HealthSuite.

According to Chipmunk Health’s website, their platform is currently being tested in the Limburg province, in the southeastern part of the Netherlands.

“Supporting innovative companies like Chipmunk Health is one of the reasons why we made HealthSuite an open digital platform on which third parties can build their own applications,” Wiggins added. 

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Queen’s University of Belfast spinout receives funding from UK Research and Innovation. Belfast-based Liopa, a spinout of Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland developing lip-reading tech to enable visual speech recognition, has revealed this week that it secured funding to develop a new mobile app, initially to help tracheostomy patients.

Liopa will be working with Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Queen’s University Belfast to develop the Speech Recognition App for the Voice Impaired, which will reportedly integrate with LipRead, the startup’s AI engine for visual speech recognition.

“This is an innovative application of our proven AI-based Visual Speech Recognition (VSR) system LipRead. LipRead analyses and translates lip movements into recognisable words. The technology allows the translation of lip movement to text using a mobile app on a mobile device which will need very little training and is inexpensive,” said Liam McQuillan, Liopa’s CEO and cofounder.

“SRAVI can be deployed on commodity smartphones and tablets, that can be used by multiple patients. Alternative technologies, such as ‘eye-gaze’ systems, require bespoke hardware and are generally much more expensive,” McQuillan added.

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Registration for health innovation summer schools open. EIT Health, a Knowledge and Innovation Community set up by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology in 2008, is running 13 summer schools in Europe on healthy lifestyles, innovation in healthcare and digital transformation this year.

Each of the programmes focus on a specific topic, such as mobility and active ageing and data-driven policy in public health. Students and young professionals have until July to submit their applications, and the summer schools will be organised in the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, France, Portugal and other European countries.

“We are delighted to, once again, offer a number of high-calibre programmes to health interested students and young professionals in Europe as part of our Summer Schools,” said Ursula Mühle, EIT Health director of education.

“Allowing our participants the opportunity to learn about the latest advancements in health innovation, and develop cutting-edge skills, is crucial to the growth of our sector. Our summer school courses are tailor-made and are a crucial building block of the further educational programming provided by EIT Health," Mühle added.

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