HELSINKI — Nightingale Health this week rolled out a consumer-facing blood testing service with the aim of giving people access to data to help them better manage their health.
The Finnish biotechnology firm also announced plans to raise up to €80 million ($89 million) in the coming year to support its growth, as well as partnerships with firms in Japan around deploying the new service there.
Nightingale Health made the announcements at Slush, an annual startup and technology eventheld here this week. CEO Teemu Suna said in an interview that the firm has been building its consumer application, called My Nightingale, for years, with the goal of promoting the firm's concept of "health creation."
"It's very significant, because this is what we wanted to build from the very beginning," Suna said of the launch. "This is health creation, enabling everyone to take better care of themselves," he said. "For us, it's a mass-scale biotech product."
According to Suna, My Nightingale offers consumers blood-based health tracking . The company relies on its core technology platform, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, to interrogate blood samples obtained from users at so-called Nightingale Nests, company customer service locations. Nightingale Health in 2017 obtained the CE-IVD mark for the test, which measures 220 metabolic biomarkers in blood that are correlated with chronic diseases. Tests are run in the firm's accredited laboratory in Finland.
The My Nightingale service combines user blood profiles with other health indicators to make predictions related to two chronic illnesses — type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease — and the firm claims it can estimate users' risk of developing these diseases up to a decade in advance.
My Nightingale also provides other health indicators to users, including insulin sensitivity, signs of inflammation, and presence of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. As these indicators are considered to be tied to a person's lifestyle, such as diet, exercise, sleep, and stress, they can be used by consumers to gauge their own health and make changes based on evolving results.
The app has an initial retail price of €79 and includes the blood test results and scientific health insights, Suna said. The firm charged per sample analyzed, and service upgrades will be available to customers free of additional charge. Currently, it is only available in Helsinki, but the company aims to open sites in North America and Asia in 2020, starting with urban centers.
"We will start in big cities, as people can access the Nests better there," Suna said. "We have very strong strategic partners in Japan and in the US," he said. "It's very likely we will do something in those countries."
Suna added that tests will be run either by the firm or with partner labs in those countries, and that Nightingale Health will seek additional regulatory clearance where needed.
The company will also be working to expand the list of indications covered by its app. "The app keeps on updating all the time, so whenever there are more scientific findings, we aim to translate the findings through the app for people," said Suna. Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, are on the company's radar, for example. Another indication of interest is aging.
"These are very interesting indications but it's an ongoing process," Suna noted. "The more we analyze things, the more there are findings, and our aim is to make these accessible to people."
Suna cofounded Nightingale in 2013 and My Nightingale is the firm's first consumer application. The company has extensive experience, however, working with partners on different health studies. Last year, for example, it announced a partnership with Oxford University researchers to study 150,000 participants in a study to track diseases in Hispanic populations. Also last year, Nightingale Health partnered with the UK Biobank to profile metabolomic markers in 500,000 samples.
While Finland will be the initial market for My Nightingale, it may soon become available to Japanese users. Nightingale Health earlier this month announced partnerships with Kirin and Mitsui to launch the service in the East Asian country, as well as to create new wellness products for the Japanese market. As part of the deal, Kirin and Mitsui both obtained minority stakes in Nightingale Health.
Kirin is a multinational food and beverage company headquartered in Tokyo, with pharmaceutical and biochemical subsidiaries. Mitsui, also based in Tokyo, is a multinational trading, investment, and services firm with an interest in healthcare services.
According to Suna, as part of the partnerships with Kirin and Mitsui, the My Nightingale app will be made available in Japan by the end of 2020.
"The mutual interest is to have the insight to health that Nightingale can provide," said Suna. "We can go to the Japanese market and tailor My Nightingale for the Japanese market, and very quickly we can move this forward," he said.
Nightingale Health also announced at Slush that it is raising another private placement round valued between €50 million and €80 million. According to Suna, the advisor on the round is Carnegie Investment Bank, a Stockholm, Sweden-based financial services group.
Last year, the company took a €20 million loan from the European Investment Bank, which will be used to further accelerate the research and development of Nightingale’s blood analysis technology, facilitating better prediction and prevention for chronic diseases.
"The capital raising is ongoing, and there is a lot of interest," Suna said. "Now that we have the product ready, it's time to enter the market and with that money, we can do that faster," he said. The company's ambitions are global in scope, especially since the launch of My Nightingale. Suna said that in the future, the company would like to see its service available more widely.
"If you want to do something in health biotech and make a product for the mass market, the journey is very long," Suna noted. "We started with scientific validation, regulation, after that, moved into software development and apps. It's been a long journey, and that's why the [My Nightingale] launch is such a massive thing for us."