As the market for Health Tech wearables and mobile apps moves out of infancy, the majority of products focus on broad metabolic measures such as heart rate, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Applications designed to monitor specific diseases or medical conditions in these early days of portable technological developments typically focus on the most common, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiac problems.
Aparito, a U.K. startup wearable and mobile app firm is taking the reverse tack from the norm; they’re looking to make progress on rare diseases. According to Aparito, there are between 6,000 and 7,000 rare diseases. The company’s dual technology approach is to focus on patient — and when appropriate, parent — involvement to provide tools that monitor signal symptoms for a specific disease. They then create a convenient mobile platform for the patient to record relevant data. The mobile app is use to record patient visits, medication adherence, patient reported outcomes, and significant events in the course or treatment of the disease.
The first rare condition taken on by Aparito is Niemann-Pick disease. Niemann-Pick is a genetic disease that occurs in greater frequency in certain ethnic groups and locations. There are four varieties of Niemann-Pick disease, but they all involve a loss of ability to metabolize specific fats, causing them to accumulate in the body. The disease variations either prevent production of materials in the body needed to break down the fats or prevent the movement of material; in either case the disease can have significant effects and is often fatal in infants. One of the signal symptoms of Niemann-Pick disease is difficulty walking.
Aparito’s initial work with Niemann-Pick test groups was to develop a wearable wristband that measures the level of ease for a patient while walking. The data are transmitted via Bluetooth to a smartphone app where the data is stored. This gives physicians information over an extended time, rather than just during a one-time test at the doctor’s office. Patients or parents are also taught the importance of using the mobile app to record the information about office visits, medication, outcomes, and any relevant events.
The Aparito goal is to take on two new rare diseases each year, over time building an inventory of disease-specific wearables and mobile apps. The company clearly can’t focus on the thousands of rare diseases extant on their own, but they can serve as a model for other companies that could take the same approach to chip away at the large number of diseases and conditions that because of their rarity might otherwise wait years before getting attention.