Stefano Borini (CEO & Co-Founder), and Derk Ohler (COO) of Mint Diagnostics
In the lead up to their P4SY Showcase, next in the P4SY Accelerator Programme Founder interviews, the team have been talking with Stefano Borini (CEO & Co-Founder) and Derk Ohler (COO) of Mint Diagnostics
uunGood to meet you both. So –
Can you tell me more about Mint Diagnostics?
Our aim is to make hormone monitoring simple – our key proposition is addressing the information/data gap currently limiting women’s access to healthcare in a precise way.
As co-founder, I started working in wearable sensor systems. I wanted to explore possibilities beyond standard activity tracking and identified salivary testing as a viable alternative to blood testing for frequent monitoring of physiological parameters, using steroid hormones in saliva as an ideal biomarker.
Our starting point has been in elite sports collaboration, working with the English Institute of Sport, to explore how our Hormonix platform could support elite female athletes to perform at their best. Existing training programmes have been limited in their ability to take into account the menstrual cycle due to a lack of quantitative information.
Our technology is able to address this information gap in menstrual cycle hormone variation to improve sporting performance by using saliva testing rather than blood testing for hormone monitoring.
From these foundations, we realised there would be benefits to many areas of women’s health reaching beyond sport. Just think about the benefit to each and every woman having access to quantitative information about their hormones in order to access specific support and increase their own health awareness, for example in perimenopause and menopause.
A big opportunity for impact is in In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). During fertility treatments, women are typically required to have multiple blood tests during an already stressful process. We see our approach as an easier, less invasive and less painful way to monitor hormones during IVF.
As we expand our technology applications from sport into wellbeing and healthcare, we see long-term opportunities, for example, in cancer.
We have a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Brighton supporting cancer patients through their chemotherapy journey by monitoring cortisol (the primary stress hormone). The observed response to chemotherapy treatment can be impacted by high levels of stress, which in principle can be managed by drugs and lifestyle support. Using salivary monitoring, we are facilitating person-centred care to improve outcomes.
Who are your customers?
Our business model is B2B2C – working in the sports sector with coaches, doctors and sports clubs to provide them with an instrument to better understand women’s physiology, enhance performance and promote self-empowerment in amateur and elite athletes.
We’ve been fortunate enough to have collaborated with the English Institute of Sport to co-design our product involving users and understanding their specific requirements. We launched our laboratory service with TEAM GB athletes, and we were able to integrate their feedback into our product development.
We are using the same approach to develop our product for the IVF market – engaging with users early in the process of providing a service to IVF clinics to use salivary rather than blood test monitoring to improve their IVF experience.
We are also partnering with other organisations developing activity tracking apps to integrate our date into their user offer. As we see menopause monitoring as a significant future need, we have started preliminary work on studies to establish key partnerships, and we support the national vision for healthy ageing for a society where people are able to stay healthy for as long as possible as they age.
What would you say are your successes on your scale-up journey?
Definitely the strategic partnerships we’ve built. The English Institute of Sport (EIS) has been the best partner for out start-up journey.
Hormonix has already gained awards recognition this year, with the EIS, being named as winner of the Cutting-Edge Award at the prestigious Sport Industry Awards. And with the EIS we were shortlisted in the Innovation category for the Leaders in Sports Awards 2022.
As well as being trialled by a number of elite athletes from eight different sports, Hormonix was also successfully implemented at Manchester City Women in the 2020/21 season, providing detailed insight into players’ menstrual cycles.
We are also working with one of the largest IVF groups globally, to validate that we are meeting a meaningful and clear need from women having IVF. And that validation work extends to the successful collaboration from our wider team of advisory board world class experts.
We have excellent signs of growth for the company following our last 12 months of activity. We have an established supportive group of investors who are re-investing and we have been successful in being awarded Innovate UK funding.
What connections / partnerships are you seeking to make for the next stage of your business growth?
We are expanding our services in sport and performance and are continuing to build partnerships internationally for commercial expansion. We are looking to be operational in North America in early 2023 and hence we are seeking support to grow, and we are keen to engage with any interested party.
We will also be building on our strategic partnerships in IVF and healthcare.
In early 2023, we’ll be launching our institutional funding round and we are looking to talk to investors who like our story and our vision and want to be a part of that.
And finally, can you tell us about your experience of participating in the P4SY Accelerator Programme?
We’re very happy to have been involved – there have been so many opportunities for introductions, to establish new contacts and identify further funding. It’s been great for opening doors and our team has praised the regulatory guidance provided.
We’d also say the personalised approach to our markets and customers is a positive. It’s about showcasing what we as innovators can offer to meet user needs rather than ‘technology push’.
In terms of catalysing collaborations in South Yorkshire, we think the programme has done its job. It’s been incredibly helpful as an introduction to the region. We weren’t aware of the regional ecosystem before we joined the programme, and it’s been a real eye opener!