Philip Alton, CEO and Founder of Senti Tech

Philip Alton, CEO and Founder of Senti Tech

Philip Alton, CEO and Founder of Senti Tech

Continuing our P4SY Accelerator Programme Founder interviews, we’ve been talking with Philip
Alton, CEO and Founder of Senti Tech.

QUICK FACTS

CEO: Philip Alton
Programme: P4SY
Sector: Precision Medicine
Location: Sheffield / London

Website: https://senti.care/

Thanks for joining us Phil.

What is the Senti Smart Garment?

It’s an intelligent smart garment medical device created to help people with conditions such as asthma and COPD to have better control over their respiratory illness. It’s worn like a tabard with sensors to capture breath and heart sounds, and this information is processed using machine learning. This information gives users and health professionals essential insights – for example, if medication is having the right effect, whether conditions are under control, and the risk of ‘flare-ups’ – in order to provide tailored advice, medication and treatment for each individual to enable them to stay well at home. Our technology is also about preserving lung health in the future – each respiratory attack can make somebody more susceptible to a future attack – so the value of the Senti Smart Garment is for improved health in the present and supporting quality of life in the future.

How did the idea for the Senti Smart Garment originate?

I’m an emergency medicine doctor, which I think gives me an interesting perspective. I have seen patients in A&E day after day, particularly in winter, similar patients again and again presenting with the same clusters of symptoms. In A&E, we have to assess whether a flare-up is due to a known condition or another underlying health issue – and there is a lot of skill in that. You can’t be complacent about similar cases, and conclusions are reached based on following clinical guidelines and applying clinical judgement and educated instinct. And for those with existing conditions, we need to understand ‘what is wrong? Why isn’t somebody getting better or able to manage their condition? Why aren’t they responding to treatment the way we expect them to?’ There’s a lot of challenges in establishing risk and differentiating patients in an emergency care environment – for patients presenting with breathlessness and chest tightness we’d use a range of activities to gain that critical insight – listening for chest sounds, blood tests and xrays. Working in this environment was the starting point for Senti. But I realised a key aim of innovating should be to keep patients well at home – away from A&E. We’re not about replacing doctors or nurses with technology. I believe that when you do fall ill, that human contact is an integral part of healing. People can reassure and care for people in a way that machines simply  cannot. Our focus is to create a tool to help patients themselves monitor their risk and understand their diagnosis, and know what treatments they need in order to stay well: a tool that has the ability to listen for hours and hours to each person’s breath sounds and objectively assess if their health is getting better or worse. Using our intelligent device we have the potential to detect so much more than using a stethoscope – it’s hard to know if a wheeze is getting worse over a period of time by listening at intervals, a device can provide this insight objectively, to help differentiate chest tightness and breathlessness and make decisions on an effective treatment plan.

How have you worked with potential future users of the Senti Smart Garment?

We are committed to a user-centred design approach, and we know that people with long term chronic respiratory illnesses are all shapes and sizes! So, we’ve worked with user groups to understand usability and how to make the garment size  interchangeable for different users. Our vision is for a tailor-made experience -without the high cost. Early in the process we sketched different garment designs, some we liked (and some not so much!) and took them to a group of people living with COPD for their feedback. It was never our intention to pick one – we wanted to select the good and discard the bad elements from each design. Through this process, we have a final design very different from the original in response to what was important to our users.
We’ve done further building and testing of the garment over the last year – exploring how to put on and take it off, and how physical difficulties (such as breathlessness) can impact how easy this is to achieve. Convenience and ease has been our focus. And we’ve learnt so much. It’s been invaluable to see the reality of using our garment to optimise the experience for future users.

What would you say are your successes on your Senti Tech product development and
business growth journey?

I’d say our successes are a combination of highlights and achievements.
The highlights have been our user testing and working with community respiratory teams to get direct feedback from a user point of view, hear breath and heart sounds and the quality of the audio. For us, feedback and more questions from our user groups are a positive indication that
there is interest in our garment, the impact it could have, and that they want to see this being a success. Development of the Senti Smart Garment has been complex, so we are really proud of our technical achievements. We have a garment that can accurately capture quality breath and
heart sounds using precision sensors, that’s easy to put on (I’d say easier than a T-shirt!) and that gives confidence to our users that their respiratory function is being monitored. I’m personally proud of the Senti team, development has been 100% in-house and they’ve responded to every challenge that we’ve encountered. We secured seed funding in 2021 and were successful in getting a NHSX AI in Health & Care Award and an Innovate UK SMART grant. We’ve established a fantastic partnership with Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, who’ve helped us get the right people in the room for the design process.

What connections / partnerships are you seeking to make for the next stage of your
business growth?

We’d like to engage with NHS community respiratory teams to validate the Senti Smart Garment in more regions – we’ve had great support in Liverpool and Essex but we need to understand the application and value in more regions nationally, in urban and more rural areas. We’re seeking to progress our clinical studies, we have a single site study starting in November
2022. We’re also looking to meet with investors, we were successful in our seed round in 2021 so we’ll be opening a £10M series A round in early 2023.

And finally, can you tell us about your experience of participating in the P4SY
Accelerator Programme?

Our experience has been very positive. We’ve been able to start conversations with the regional supply chain and access manufacturing expertise, through the Medical AMRC, to focus on ethical supply chain management and sourcing, and design for volume manufacture. We are committed to ethical sourcing and looking to connect with businesses to drive the national conversation about this -and share best practice. We’ve benefited from the breadth of support through P4SY (and the flexibility to participate remotely) – conversations with NHS stakeholders, universities and clinical studies teams have helped us consolidate our knowledge and build partnerships for the next-generation development of our device. We’ve enjoyed being part of P4SY!

Grace Gimson, Holly Health

Grace Gimson, Holly Health

Grace Gimson, Holly Health

In the first of our P4SY Accelerator Programme Founder interviews, we’ve been talking with Grace Gimson, CEO and Co-Founder of Holly Health.

QUICK FACTS

CEO: Grace Gimson
Programme: P4SY
Sector: Precision Medicine
Location: Sheffield / London
Employees: < 10
Funding raised: £1.5m
Website: hollyhealth.io

Good to see you Grace. So –

What is Holly Health?

Holly Health is a platform to support people across our populations who have health and wellbeing lifestyle challenges, unfortunately many of whom are experiencing a gradual decline in their mental and physical health.

A lot can be achieved by creating the right infrastructure and support for sustainable changes across physical and mental health behaviours. So many of us (including me) were brought up to equate good health with weight loss – so we instinctively turn to short-term exercise or diet regimes to try to improve things. But, these short term and restrictive approaches very rarely improve our health in the long term – they often work against our biological systems, and create added stress and hopelessness.

Holly Health is a resource to break that pattern and ‘reset’ psychologically – helping people to make small behavioural changes from now, to forever. Holly Health coaches people to understand their relationship with food, their attitudes to nutrition, and emotional factors that affect eating, sleeping, exercising – providing insights into how feelings affect behaviours. Importantly, Holly Health approaches this in a unique and scalable way – using intelligent algorithms to support each person in a highly personalised way, adapting their coaching  throughout.

Who has Holly Health been created for?

We know there are significant numbers of people who feel unsupported with their day-to-day health behaviours. More than half of us do want to improve how we eat, exercise, sleep, and how we manage this sustainably – but where can we get this help? And as a population we are seeing rising chronic disease rates, including type 2 diabetes and mental health challenges.

Not everybody is able to afford a personal trainer, life coach or therapist. Holly Health provides structure and support to the ‘unsupported middle’ – the people who are not health optimisers, and they are not unwell enough to get specialist help. We provide these people with a personalised, compassionate approach, rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ programme.

What would you say are your successes on your Holly Health journey?

I think that’s an interesting question! Success has different meanings to me. As a founder, I’m incredibly proud of our growth and building our team. We have secured £540k in Innovate UK funding, nearly £1 million in investment, created a partnership with Age UK, and this year we have experienced great adoption amongst PCNs and GP practices. We are on track to be live in 100 UK GP practices this year!

I really love to see how many people we’ve been able to support and empower to make changes in their health – how they’ve built the confidence and knowledge in themselves, which will impact their behaviours for life. And how the impact and positive changes our users are seeing is driving adoption in health and care services like the NHS. I also see personal success in breaking down barriers and leading differently than some CEOs before me.

I believe actions speak louder than words, I’m quietly confident – Holly Health is an ego-free space. I believe every person is capable of so much more than they know, so I love working with the team to help them to reach their personal goals and more.

What connections / partnerships are you seeking to make for the next stage of your business growth?

We are looking to develop more partnerships with primary care networks, local authorities and ICSs, with a focus on using innovation and health behaviour change to achieve significant improvements in population health management.

Our personalisation model can provide place- based services and increase scale and reach over larger populations – while remaining affordable. Holly Health costs from 10p per person per year across the population covered. Outside of NHS and public health we are excited to be developing a number of partnerships with universities, wellbeing platform providers, and employer providers.

And finally, can you tell us about your experience of participating in the P4SY Accelerator Programme?

Our experience has been a great one! The value of the programme to Holly Health has been multi-faceted – and it’s been more impactful than many other accelerators. I’ve been impressed by the different mechanisms the team have used to support our scale-up – including flagging up opportunities that would have passed us by, helping us to apply for things we wouldn’t have known about, and providing psychological and peer support through the Female Founders Group.

We have got to know the local market in south and west Yorkshire, connected with local trusts, a university, the local AHSN, an investment community, an NHS research organisation, as well as a primary care network of over 70 GP practices (Primary Care Sheffield). P4SY has opened a lot of genuinely useful doors.