Funding secured through the EIT Health Investor Network will be used to extend the app to more disease types by 2020.

French startup Wefight raises €1.8m for its virtual companion to combat loneliness in chronic disease patients

By Tammy Lovell
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French startup Wefight has announced it raised €1.8m ($1.98m) to accelerate the development of its virtual companion, which aims to combat loneliness in people with chronic diseases.

The app named ‘Vik’ can answer patients’ questions about their condition, treatment and care pathway. It features services such as smart pill reminders, a notebook to monitor side effects and personalised therapeutic education. 

Vik launched in 2017 and has already been made available to patients with breast cancer, depression, asthma and migraines. Wefight now plans to extend the product to a further 33 disease types by 2020.

The funds were secured through the EIT Health Investor Network, a pan-European network which connects promising health startups with private and institutional investors for financing and co-investment.

WHY IT MATTERS

One third of adults in European Union member states are living with chronic disease, and studies have found that loneliness is high among these patients. Research has shown this can lead to poor disease management, depression, and higher rates of hospital admission for longer periods of time.

“Loneliness in chronic disease is a significant concern as it has a huge impact on those living with such conditions; as well their families, health systems and society as a whole,” said Dr Kurt Höller, director of business creation at EIT Health.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

Tech solutions to reduce feelings of isolation have included using robopets to engage elderly people in nursing homes and social robots to provide emotional support in children’s hospitals.

In Finland, the Digital Service Center Helsinki has created tech-enabled tools to help remotely monitor elderly people in their homes and tackle loneliness. For example, participants can video chat with their peers at lunchtime or take part in virtual exercise classes, religious sessions and cultural events.

Recent research published in JMIR also found that data from Fitbit and smartphone devices could help identify college students living with loneliness.

ON THE RECORD

Benoît Brouard, co-founder and director of Wefight said: “Our team is proud to have convinced investors who share our values ​​and who will bring their expertise to help us increase Vik's social impact.”

“We wanted to meet the needs of patients and address caregivers’ needs. To achieve this, we included patient associations in the development of Vik from the very beginning.”

Höller of EIT Health said: “Artificial intelligence has the potential to meet the needs of patients without adding further burden to already struggling health services, and we are proud to support WeFight in their ambitious vision for their technology.”