Technology

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

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Dan Vahdat, CEO and Co-Founder of Huma.

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LONDON – The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a shift towards digital health services and investors are keen to capitalize on the trend by making big stakes in space.

In the UK, London-based Huma announced Wednesday that it had raised $ 130 million in an investment round led by Bayer and Hitachi’s corporate venture arms. The cash injection was also supported by Samsung, Sony and Unilever mutual funds.

The Huma software, founded in 2011 as Medopad, enables clinicians to remotely monitor patients via a mobile app. It also uses a number of wearables and other devices to collect data on things like heart rate and oxygen saturation. The startup claims it is able to detect worsening patients’ health and decide whether or not to go to the hospital.

The company works with the UK National Health Service and governments in Germany and the United Arab Emirates. Dan Vahdat, CEO and co-founder of Huma, said the company offered its services to the NHS on a pro bono basis during the Covid-19 crisis.

“Last year we committed to caring for Covid patients free of charge,” Vahdat told CNBC in an interview. “We thought that was the right thing to do. We are very fortunate to have long-term, visionary investors to support us.”

Huma claims to have doubled the capacity or reach in some of the hospitals it works with in the UK by allowing clinicians to see twice as many patients as they normally would thanks to its “Hospital at Home” service. It is also said to have succeeded in reducing hospital admissions by a third.

According to results released by the National Health Service’s innovation arm, NHSX, doctors in London were able to care for an average of 20 patients per hour with Huma, up from 12 patients per hour for employees who do not use the company’s technology. Using Huma also saved about 3 minutes less time that doctors would normally spend with patients.

In Germany, the company signed a contract with the government to buy pulse oximeters – which measure oxygen saturation – from Amazon. Huma insists that the work in support of governments’ pandemic responses is not for profit and that it has signed procurement agreements with health officials to help cover the costs.

Huma’s most recent round of funding gives the company the opportunity to raise an additional $ 70 million at a later date. Should it choose to do so, it would bring its valuation above $ 1 billion and give it “unicorn” status, said a person familiar with the matter who preferred to remain anonymous as the information failed were released to CNBC.

This is the latest sign of investor confidence in the fast-growing digital healthcare industry. Last month, Swedish telemedicine startup Kry announced it had raised $ 300 million in a round to value the company at $ 2 billion.

A clinician uses the digital platform of the British healthcare start-up Huma.

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“The industry has already moved towards digital as a whole – the pandemic has accelerated it,” Vahdat said.

Huma, which employs 125 people according to LinkedIn, is still heavily loss making. Vahdat says it is prioritizing growth for now.

“For us as a company, our vision is how we can most effectively influence the lives of people around the world so everyone can live longer and fuller lives,” he said. “We believe that if we can achieve that vision, the money will take care of itself.”

According to a report from Companies House, Huma lost £ 11.6m ($ 16.4m) in 2019 on sales of £ 5.4m. However, sales grew more than 3,600% from the £ 146,000 reported in 2018. The group’s 2020 annual financial statements should be presented by September.

Although the company raised a sizable amount of money, Vahdat said the company still had most of the money in the bank from its last round in 2019. The company’s recent capital injection is aimed at building partnerships with companies like Bayer and expanding into markets like the US, Asia and the Middle East.

“We’re doing bigger projects with multinationals and governments,” said Vahdat. “Having a great track record helps us give them the confidence and potentially a better and more effective long-term partnership with some of our partners.”

Goldman Sachs acted as lead placement agent for Huma on the deal, while HSBC and Nomura acted as joint placement agents. Nomura is now also a shareholder in the company, said Huma.

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Katherine Clark