Ireland has a poor track record in attracting clinical trials, but Dublin-based Whyze Health is hoping to change that with its data-based healthcare platform.
At the end of May, Ireland’s first institute dedicated to clinical trials research was launched at the University of Galway. Led by Prof Peter Doran, the Institute for Clinical trials is poised to make the latest clinical research and medicines available to patients in Ireland, potentially improving health outcomes.
“Research is critical to the healthcare ecosystem. Patients who attend hospitals that are research active have better outcomes,” Doran said at the time. “[This is] due to both increased access to early lifesaving treatments and through the culture that pervades when research and inquiry are at the core of the health systems.”
Need for clinical trials
The desire to improve Ireland’s clinical research can be seen in light of the fact that the country attracts far fewer clinical trials than other, similar-sized countries such as Denmark and Finland. This is despite Ireland being a strong hub for biopharma manufacturing in Europe, playing host to most of the world’s top biotech and pharma companies.
One of Ireland’s leading radiation oncologists and co-founder of clinical trials start-up Whyze Health, Prof Frank Sullivan thinks a lack of awareness and digitisation are to blame.
“Patients in Ireland are more preoccupied with gaining access to routine healthcare, and access has been a major problem. It’s no secret that we haven’t scored well in terms of our access to healthcare in this country over the last number of decades,” said Sullivan recently. “And that’s an ongoing problem. So, I think patients, in my experience as a clinician here, are more concerned about that, than perhaps they are aware of the importance of clinical trials.”
Launched in 2021, Whyze Health was co-founded by Sullivan and CEO Frances Abeton to bring technology into the equation in the hopes to solve the dual problems of digitisation and awareness. The platform is aimed at both patients and physicians and uses data to provide individualised insights into health progress as well as access to the latest treatments.
“Whyze Health’s core mission is to improve patient health outcomes by empowering patients’ understanding of their healthcare data and enabling them to choose the best health or research option that achieves the best health outcome,” Abeton told SiliconRepublic.com.
‘Research as care’
In collaboration with US-based Elligo Health Research, the Dublin start-up is tapping into the area of ‘research as care’ where sponsored research helps fill gaps in a market where knowledge of and participation in clinical trials is relatively low and recruitment growth is slow.
As a former CEO of clinical trials tech company Firecrest and investor in healthcare, Abeton has tonnes of experience in the field that she brings to the table at Whyze Health. Her business acumen is complemented by Sullivan’s four decades of research and practice in healthcare, both in Ireland and the US. As well as adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Galway, he is also a founding director of the Prostate Cancer Institute based in the university.
Now, along with chief technology officer Phil Blackwell, they are building a team of multidisciplinary experts to steer Whyze Health towards democratising clinical trials in Ireland, the UK and Europe.
The platform helps patients build a personal health record with greater agency over their data. This data also gives patients – and their healthcare providers – a clearer understanding of their health status and provides an opportunity for pharma and medtechs to increase clinical trials participation.
“Patients are passive consumers of their healthcare and are unaware of the health and research options available. This is further complicated by the fact that medical data exists in silos within most healthcare providers’ institutions,” explained Abeton.
“Whyze Health is building the first ecosystem connecting patients, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies by opening up access to the latest research trials and health outcomes achievable.”
With a team of 15, including full-time employees and contractors, the start-up is now in the process of raising €2.75m to continue product development and expanding its customer base.
So far, the platform has more than 4000 patients on board since it was deployed in the Galway Clinic. Funded by the founders and some key investors to date, Whyze Health has been selected by Enterprise Ireland as a high-potential start-up.
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