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Finnish healthtech to build on past growth with funding, partnerships

Digital healthcare is advancing rapidly in Finland and is one of the fastest-growing export segments of its high-tech industry.

Adobe / everythingpossible

New funding, innovations and partnerships are supporting the continued growth of health technology in Finland.

Kaiku Health and Roche, a Swiss multinational healthcare company, are entering into a strategic partnership to leverage digital patient monitoring to improve patient outcomes.

The Helsinki-based software company stated in a press release published earlier this month that the objective of the partnership is to deploy digital tools to enable real-time symptom management, improve patient support and provide personalised cancer care to clinics and patients globally.

“Kaiku Health and Roche share a commitment to make personalised healthcare available for more patients through digital solutions,” saidLauri Sippola, co-founder and chief executive at Kaiku Health.

“Together we have already developed therapy and product-specific modules in cancer immunotherapy and other targeted therapies.”

The two companies are also working toward the goal of developing and offering digital solutions through an ecosystem of partners, reimbursing for digital patient solutions through pathways that are being set up in several countries, and providing clinical evidence of the impact of digital solutions on patient outcomes.

The first evidence-generation study is to be launched by year-end with the objective of assessing the impact on clinical outcomes and resource utilisation in patients receiving systemic cancer care.

“This partnership is a significant step toward delivering digital patient monitoring and management solutions that may help improve outcomes such as symptom burden and quality of life for individuals receiving systemic therapy for cancer,” summed up James Sabry, global head of pharmaceutical partnerships at Roche.

Helsinki-based Meru Health is evaluating the effectiveness of its 12-week mental health programme by monitoring 300 primary-care patients in the US between April 2022 and March 2025. Image: Meru Health

Meru Health on 10 May revealed it has received a two million-US dollar grant by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The Helsinki-based provider of online mental health solutions will use the grant to to evaluate the effectiveness of its app-based mental health programme in a study comprising 300 primary care patients who are experiencing symptoms of depression between April 2022 and March 2025.

“The importance of this study is enormous,” viewed Nicholas Peiper, head of research at Meru Health.

“We are using gold-standard methods to determine the effectiveness of the Meru Health programme. Conducting this study in primary care is also a big step because the majority of people experiencing depression initially seek care with their primary care provider.”

The 12-week, therapist-supported digital intervention has been designed for adults suffering from anxiety, burnout or depression. It consists of evidence-based lessons and therapies, biofeedback practices and daily chat support with licensed clinicians that aims at building habits that enable patients to tackle mental health challenges and prevent relapses.

In the US, the prevalence of depression has increased for the past 15 years, with around 7–10 per cent of the adult population presently affected by it, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). As the availability of evidence-based care has failed to increase in step with the prevalence, many have turned to digital interventions to alleviate their symptoms.

Patients have also struggled to access care for reasons associated with existing screening tools, high provider costs and the negative stigma of depression, told Peiper.

“Digital interventions can play a major role in addressing the crisis, so it’s important to build strong evidence. Our programme attempts to overcome many barriers to care while making sure that even more people get better and stay better long term,” he said.

Researchers in Tampere bring medical imaging to virtual reality

Researchers at Tampere University have created a device that enables physicians to examine medical imaging data in 3D. Image: Hilma Toivonen / Tampere University

Researchers at Tampere University have developed a solution for making medical imaging data three-dimensional and transporting it to virtual reality to enable physicians to examine the data with a virtual-reality headset in diagnosis and procedural planning.

Physicians can also experience touching the surgical site due to the haptic technology incorporated in the solution.

Roope Raisamo, the professor in charge of the project at Tampere University, said physicians are satisfied with the device based on tests conducted during the research project, even though there is still some room for improvement.

“The method we tested has clear advantages for visualising complex anatomical structures,” attestedJorma Järnstedt, specialist in dentomaxillofacial radiology at Tampere University Hospital. “In the future, this method can replace the more traditional two-dimensional computer-assisted surgical planning.”

While the study focused on the head region, the method is also suitable for examining other parts of the body.

The three-dimensional images used in the development were reconstructed from the tomography scans of real and anonymised patients. The ability to rotate a three-dimensional image of a skull, for example, enables physicians to carefully plan and visualise the surgical repair of a cheekbone fracture.

The researchers also developed interaction techniques that enable doctors to mark the locations of incisions in the model. The collaborative project will continue with the aim of finding a solution that allows several physicians to come together in a single virtual reality space to review a patient as they make decisions that require expertise from various medical speciality fields.

“This is important because medicine is increasingly moving towards telemedicine and remote diagnosing and consultation,” noted researcher Pertti Huuskonen.

Health technology is one of the largest and fastest-growing export segments of the high-tech industry. The value of health technology exports is believed to have risen to a new high in 2021, with preliminary statistics suggesting it rose by about five per cent higher from previous years in the first 10 months of the year.

Business Finland has attributed the emergence of the segment to a “unique combination” of high-quality health data and an open society of trust that enables co-operation across the ecosystem.

Healthtech Finland in February adopted new responsibility guidelines to help its members to prepare for the demands and wishes of clients, owners, investors, as well as current and former employees.

“With healthtech companies, responsibility is linked principally to guaranteeing patient safety,” Saara Hassinen, managing director at Healthtech Finland, said in February.

“Compliance only with the legislation is no longer enough, but companies also comply with voluntary instructions and principles of corporate responsibility. Export companies pay attention to responsibility in Finland and abroad.”

Oulu-based healthtech duo secure funding

Cerenion, an Oulu-based startup specialising in measuring brain function, announced an important milestone for its internationalisation effort earlier this year, the completion of a 3.3 million-euro funding round organised by Springvest. The funding enables the startup to expand to new patient groups, such as stroke victims, and broaden its share of the market in the EU and enter the US.

“We are grateful to both our new and our old investors for their confidence in us and our mission to improve brain monitoring of critically ill patients,” commentedJukka Kortelainen, CEO of Cerenion.

The startup has developed a patented bedside technology that reveals the status of the brain using a set of easy parameters without necessitating any changes to patient care.

Cerenion’s patented technology reveals the status of the brain as a set of easy parameters. Image: Cerenion

Finnadvance reported it has secured 1.2 million euros in seed funding from a group of old and new investors led by Athensmed. The Oulu-based developer of organ-on-chip solutions stated that the funding will help to expand the scope of its commercial operations from Europe and South Korea to the US.

Its platforms recreate tissue models with micro-fluidic flow patterning and hydrogel coatings to enable the simulation of tissue and organ function, mechanics and physiological response.

“Our technology allows more human-like preclinical drug testing, fast repurposing of old drugs and, in the long term, development of personalised therapies and medicines,” stated CEO Prateek Singh.

The industry-ready platform has the potential to deliver “remarkable” cost and time savings, according to Kustaa Piha of Athensmed.

By: Aleksi Teivainen