By using personalised patient data, Danish startup entrepreneur and CEO Peter Lucas wants to help people with diabetes to live a normal life with his state-of-the art app Hedia.
A real game changer
If anybody knows what is like to live with diabetes, it is Peter. He was diagnosed in 2010 but his first-hand experience of the chronic disease dates back to his childhood.
“I was raised by my dad who suffers from Type 1 diabetes. I have seen him trying to cope with it,” he explains.
“So when I was diagnosed as well, my world collapsed. I cried. I remember speaking to my dad who got upset as he knew it probably was his genes which had been brought on to me.”
Type 1 diabetes is the genetic type of diabetes. It poses a 5% risk to pass it on to your offspring of the same sex if you have the condition. This is what happened to Peter and his father.
“I remember life before diabetes. It was a busy time in my life. I was stressed and I worked a lot. These things can trigger diabetes. I lost weight and I was in a bad mood a lot of the time.”
Peter and his girlfriend Christina, who is a qualified nurse, started to make jokes about him having diabetes as he was constantly going to the toilet as well. One night, the jokes turned into a real concern for Peter’s health and Christina took him to the hospital where she worked to test his blood glycose.
“It was five times as high as it should have been. We called a doctor and he told me on the phone ‘Peter, you’ve got diabetes’.”
Adjusting to life with diabetes
“I never thought it would happen to me. It was the man next door who got a chronical disease, but now I was that man next door,” says Peter.
After the initial shock of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Peter had to start adjusting to his new life with the illness. What instantly sprang into mind was how he had seen his father dealing with it.
Diabetes is highly individual, just like the people suffering from it.-Peter Lucas
“He was living a very strict life. He ate the same food at the same time and took the same doses of insulin every single day. The diabetes was controlling him and not the other way around.
“I knew I didn’t want to live a limited life. I wanted things to remain the same, I wanted to do what I felt like and eat what I fancied. I think this was the biggest issue for me. I was terrified to turn into my father after having tried to find my own identity all throughout my life. And here I was with diabetes, just like him.”
“Insulin has this distinctive smell. It reminds me so much of my father and now I smelt the same.”
A personalised solution
Peter craved to go back to his normal life but he was struggling to find a way to do so. There were no tools on the market to help him control his insulin levels. He tried different apps and monitors, but none was able to give him the freedom he so desperately wanted. They were all of a “one fits all model.”
“Diabetes is highly individual, just like the people suffering from it,” says Peter.
As an odd coincidence, Peter’s girlfriend Christina had, as a part of her Master’s Degree, written her thesis on diabetes. Combined with Peter’s entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen, the couple started looking into developing an app to help people suffering from diabetes.
Together with a software engineer, Peter and Christina designed the app Hedia (an abbreviation for Healthy Diabetics), in early 2016. After some financial twists and turns, they finally received funding from an investor and were able to finally launch the app in February 2017.
“Hedia is like a very advanced calculator which works with Artificial Intelligence and algorithms to give you suggested insulin doses, explains Peter.
“As a diabetic, you see your doctor twice a year. Diabetes is a chronic disease which you have to handle yourself. It is a high degree of self-management involved. Your insulin doses depend on what you eat, what you did last night, what you are going to do today and how stressed you are. You have to do this calculation every time you eat. But Hedia will help you with this and predict how much insulin you need. It picks up your patterns and offers personalised recommendations.
“We know that what we put onto the market are what the diabetes patients out there want and need.”
From the very get-go Peter was aware of the influence a solid IP strategy would have on Hedia’s business plan and presentations to investors. Therefore, he teamed up with Awapatent’s Associate and Legal Counsel, Maria Dam Jensen, and European Patent Attorney, Bianca Bothmann, early on. Together they have developed an IP business plan for Hedia focusing on using intellectual property law as a strategic asset. Hedia currently has a pending European Trademark registration.
Peter is optimistic about the future for Hedia.
“In the next six months, we will integrate our AI, launch an Android version of the app and start our CE approval. We will do marketing and pitches to investors on top of that.”
A noble cause
Peter’s vision is to help people with diabetes to live a normal life. But has Hedia helped him with his own condition?
“I actually use it more than I thought I would. I feel that it is helping me. Hedia reminds me to check my blood glycose an hour and a half after eating – something that I would have forgotten about otherwise. It is like a friendly push to remind you to monitor your blood glycose.”
The team behind Hedia, which besides from Peter includes Christina and a software engineer, has already received positive feedback from users and media.
“A stranger with recently diagnosed diabetes wrote to me the other day saying ‘Thanks to your app, I feel like I can start handling my life again’, says Peter.
“It gave me goose bumps.”