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Scouting Report-Sidekick Health: Integrating DTx and Clinical Treatment for Chronic Care

The Driver:

Sidekick Health recently raised $55 million in series B funding led by London-based Venture Capital firm Novator Ventures, with additional participation from Wellington Partners, Asabys Partners, Frumtak Ventures, and a US-based partner that has yet to be revealed. Sidekick Health is an Iceland-based digital care platform focused on managing chronic diseases. Sidekick develops personalized digital therapeutics to encourage lifestyle and chronic disease management in a game-like format. During the COVID pandemic, Sidekick collaborated with the Icelandic government by providing remote triaging, remote monitoring, and management of COVID infections. The funds from the Series B funding will be used to develop additional treatments, further expand the platform to other countries, strengthen existing partnerships, and create new partnerships with stakeholders in the healthcare industry.

Key Takeaways:

  • 90% of the nation’s $4.1 trillion in healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions according to the CDC.

  • Nearly half (approximately 45%, or 133 million) of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, and the number is growing.

  • The DTx platform has helped 40,000+ patients globally at this stage, with its products currently available in six languages.

  • A recent Frontiers in Public Health article found digital interventions can effectively improve the management of pain, fatigue, stress, and increase overall health-related quality of life.

The Story:

The Iceland-based startup Sidekick Health was founded by CEO and Co-founder Dr. Tryggvi Thorgeirsson and Dr. Saemundur Oddsson in 2014. The two doctors worked for years treating patients with lifestyle-related illnesses. They noticed that 68% of all deaths were related to lifestyle-related illnesses. This led them to pursue innovative ways to prevent chronic illnesses as well develop treatments for those already suffering from the diseases. The solution they came up with was to create a platform that combines behavioral economics with games, and make it scalable across multiple therapeutic areas. The product they created became the digital therapeutic platform called Sidekick. Sidekick’s go-to-market model is business-to-business (B2B) meaning it is designed to work with health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Currently, Sidekick has partnerships with U.S-based health insurer Anthem to provide “digital first” care programs and pharmaceutical companies Bayer and Pfizer to develop a combination therapy using molecular drugs and digital therapy. With the funds from the fundraising round “Sidekick plans to double [the size of its] team from 120 to 240 team members across our four office locations.”

The Differentiators:

One thing that sets Sidekick apart from many of its competitors is its “integrated combination therapeutics consisting of a molecular drug and a digital therapeutic.” As noted in a recent TechCrunch article Sidekick’s approach used “digital therapeutics plus pills…that is designed to support healthcare outcomes by applying personalized behavioral lifestyle nudges, alongside clinical treatments like drugs, to augment, extend and support patient care for a range of chronic diseases and conditions”. As pointed out by Fierce Healthcare, “the digital platform features the Sidekick Health app for the patient, a care portal for HCPs to remotely monitor patients with communication and support, and what the company calls the DTx studio, where a team of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and clinical experts create the portfolio of therapeutics.” In addition, “Sidekick works closely with pharmas …in creating auxiliary DTx programs to complement traditional drug treatments. There is also a strong connection with patient advocacy organizations to ensure the recommended treatment follows those groups’ guidelines.

The application itself is free to use, however members will need a code for specialized features such as the Rheumatoid Arthritis program. Sidekick develops programs for a number of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and smoking cessation. According to the company they “are building toward a portfolio of over 40 medical-grade digital therapeutics by 2026, and currently have 18 in Research & Development, with a total of 14 commercial partnerships secured so far”. They also have collaborations with other companies to bring new treatments and programs to their platform.

The Big Picture:

Sidekick Health’s solution shows that there is potential for digital health solutions to extend the life of traditional therapies as well as create new, innovative, efficient therapies that can enable more people to access personalized DTx and lifestyle management programs. The Sidekick platform will add to the growing number of DTx resources, expanding the reach of digital health. Insurance providers can work together with Sidekick to create other app-based therapies targeting chronic diseases. Since Sidekick will also be working with pharma companies, they will be able to create combination therapeutics as a way to increase adherence and effectiveness of treatments. The Sidekick app aims to improve the efficiency of digital therapeutics by adding a game-like element to health management which effectiveness has been proven and can be less costly to develop than traditional pharmaceuticals. The success of Sidekick’s solution is dependent on evidence-based evaluation on the effectiveness of these treatments. Research has been shown to support the idea that digital lifestyle programs can improve individual health outcomes. If evidence shows that Sidekick’s digital programs are effective, then more countries may adopt this type of treatment.


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