Alphabet’s life science branch Verily is teaming up with digital health startup iRhythm on a new initiative focused on creating screening, diagnosis and management tools for patients with atrial fibrillation.
The collaboration is specifically targeted at alerting patients with asymptomatic or silent atrial fibrillation about their condition. The goal is to develop products that not only identify the symptoms but also help patients manage the condition.
The pair said that iRhythm will be contributing its know-how in AI-based arrhythmia diagnosis, while Verily will bring data analytic technologies.
“We are excited to partner with iRhythm, a pioneer in ambulatory cardiac monitoring, to find innovative ways to deliver more efficient care to patients with atrial fibrillation,” Dr. Jessica Mega, chief medical and scientific officer of Verily, said in a statement. “With the high prevalence of cardiovascular-related health issues, we have an opportunity to not only improve how we diagnose, manage and monitor conditions like atrial fibrillation, but also develop patient-centric solutions that could ultimately prevent serious cardiac events.”
As part of the deal, iRhythm will pay Verily $5 million. Then at different milestones it will pay the life science subsidiary up to $12.75 million.
WHY IT MATTERS
According to the CDC, between 2.7 million and 6.1 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation. The condition is more common with age, impacting roughly 9% of those over the age of 65 years. High blood pressure, obesity, European ancestry and diabetes are all risk factors for the condition, according to the agency. Atrial fibrillation also increases a person’s risk of stroke.
THE LARGER TREND
This news comes a year after Apple unveiled that its Series 4 Apple Watch would have an atrial fibrillation-detecting algorithm and an ECG built in, landing an FDA De Novo designation for the technology.
Still, iRhythm has been involved in the cardiac space for some time now. It’s best known for Zio, its peel-and-stick patch for mobile ECG recordings that has been included in a slew of studies. iRhythm is also one of the few digital health companies to go public. In 2016 the company announced a $107 million IPO.
But iRhythm and Apple aren't the only companies working on detecting heart conditions. Cardiogram makes a smartwatch app that uses deep neural network technology to detect various heard conditions, including atrial fibrillation, sleep apnea and diabetes. Additionally, last October FibriCheck announced that it landed FDA 510(k) clearance for its app, which uses a smartphone camera and artificial intelligence to monitor heart rhythm disorders.
ON THE RECORD
“iRhythm and Verily have a shared mission to create a better standard of care for cardiac patients — making heart health data more actionable so patients can live longer, healthier lives,” Kevin King, president and CEO of iRhythm, said in a statement. “We are pleased to partner with one of the world’s most reputable healthcare technology companies to better serve the millions of people living with [atrial fibrillation] today. Verily’s patient-centric approach to disease management and advanced hardware capabilities will prove critical in providing patients and providers with the tools needed to increase the efficiency of heart healthcare.”