(l-r) Mike Gibbs and Chris Edson of OurPath

Technology to tackle diabetes

London digital healthcare start-up OurPath is helping tackle type 2 diabetes with its innovative online platform.

OurPath, a London-based digital healthcare start-up helping tackle type 2 diabetes, has raised £500,000 as it looks to roll-out its programme across the UK.

The company was launched by former Cambridge University scientist Mike Gibbs and Oxford University engineer Chris Edson after they spotted a gap in the market for a solution which combines technology with live support and educational content.

One in three people in the UK have pre-diabetes and it is estimated that 70% of these will develop type 2 diabetes if they don’t change their lifestyle. Treating the condition costs the NHS over £9bn each year.

With this in mind, Gibbs, 27, and Edson, 29, who first met at Monitor Deloitte whilst advising the NHS, decided to develop a solution which would help tackle the problem.

Working at the NHS they saw first-hand the huge impact type 2 diabetes has on vast swathes of the population and its horrific consequences.

They knew, too, the billions of pounds the NHS spends every year treating type 2 diabetes — and how much taxpayers’ money could be saved if fewer people got the condition in the first place through effective prevention.  

Chris told BQ: “We started off three years ago when I was working at NHS England. It became really apparent that type 2 diabetes, which wasn’t something I knew a lot about, was devastating the NHS.

“We quickly realised that if you could eradicate type 2 diabetes, which is totally lifestyle based and avoidable, you could basically save the NHS. You would save all of the cuts that are being made.

“I looked at America and realised that the States were using technology to improve the lives of people with diabetes and also helping people avoid getting type 2 diabetes and I thought, why don’t we have this in the NHS?”

So how does the technology work? Chris explains: “We send customers one of our health boxes out which has wireless weighing scales and an activity tracker. We then assign them a mentor who they’re accountable to.

“They help set goals, give correct nutritional guidance and we then put them in a group with people similar to them. The best way I can describe it is, it’s like being in a WhatsApp group with 10 other people with similar goals to you.

“Once this process is complete, they then take our six-week programme which is designed to change lifestyle behaviours. It helps change eating habits, activity and lifestyle, how you deal with stress and even your sleeping habits.

“If you do all of those things correctly and make the changes you have to make, they have a huge impact on diabetes and your risk of developing diabetes.”

It has now been three years since Chris and Mike quit their day jobs and they couldn’t be happier with how the company has grown.

Since the programme launched in June 2016, hundreds of people looking to improve their lifestyle have gone through the programme, resulting in an average weight loss of 5.3kg and a 50% reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes.

As a result, alongside being available to consumers, OurPath has also become the first digital behavioural change programme to manage type 2 diabetes to be commissioned by the NHS, after being accepted onto the Digital Health London NHS accelerator.

If the pilot — which is being rolled out across GP practices in north west London — is successful, the company’s technology is likely to be adopted by the NHS in other parts of the country, with doctors prescribing OurPath for their patients who have type 2 diabetes or might be at risk of it.

Chris added: “We are the first digital company to be commissioned by the NHS for diabetes. That happened a couple of months ago and it was huge for us.

“We’re now growing at a rate of around 20% each week. We launched to consumers towards the end of last year and to date we’ve had around 250 people complete the programme.”

Looking ahead, Chris and Mike are now expecting this rapid growth to continue after securing £500,000 from their latest VC and private angel investment round.

The investment comes from a number of backers, including 500 Startups, an American venture capital firm, Bethnal Green Ventures, an accelerator for start-ups with a social purpose, and private angels.

Chris concluded: “The new funding is all about expanding the team. We hope to take the team up to 10 people, secure new contracts with the NHS and grow our consumer business.

“We have various KPI’s over the next year. The next year is all about securing us and getting a good foothold in the NHS.

“That will be securing a bunch of more contracts and we’d love to become a part of the National Diabetes Prevention programme which is run nationally by the NHS.

“We also want to be recognised by the public as a consumer brand. If you want to change your lifestyle, weightwatchers isn’t the only option.

“You can go to something a little more tech savy which is evidence based and not a fad diet.”