AZ expands digital health plans with Huma alliance


AstraZeneca has bought a stake in digital health firm Huma Therapeutics in a deal that will see ownership of AZ's AMAZE disease management platform transfer to the UK startup.

The two companies say they plan to launch a series of Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) companion apps for various diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart failure, as well as technology for running decentralised clinical trials.

The move marks an uptick in investment in digital health for AZ, which has been less visible than some of its peers in the big pharma sector in embracing the category. It effectively makes Huma AZ's "extended digital health arm", the startup's chef executive Dan Vahdat told CNBC.

The AMAZE platform, first launched last year, is one example of its activities to date in digital. It is used to manage chronic diseases and support clinical trials, and has already been deployed in asthma and heart failure at US academic centres, including Massachusetts General Hospital.

AMAZE shares data with clinicians on patient health progress, allows healthcare providers and patients to message each other through the app, and provides patients with health alerts and information relevant to their illness such as reminders, air quality notifications, disease education, and medication details.

Transferring the technology to Huma puts AMAZE in the hands of a digital health specialist – first formed in 2011 – that has built a business around a "hospital at home" platform that collects real-world patient data remotely using smartphones, wearables and other devices and also provides tailored care plans for patients.

The deal with AZ is the second for Huma so far this year, coming after it bought iPLATO Healthcare and its myGP app, which has more than 1.8 million active users in the UK across almost 3,000 NHS primary care organisations, in January.

Karan Arora, chief commercial digital officer at AZ, said the agreement is a first for company in the digital health space "as well as in the industry for chronic diseases and SaMDs in support of different treatments."

The aim is to achieve earlier diagnosis and treatment for patients with chronic diseases so they can lead better, more fulfilling lives, she added.

The partners note that 95% of the care of people with chronic health conditions takes place outside clinical settings, making these diseases a prime candidate for digital health approaches.