Startup Ambre Health to explore link between sleep health and heart health

By Jonah Comstock
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Ambre Health CTO and co-founder Brek Wilkins Ambre Health CTO and co-founder Brek Wilkins

One of the biggest complaints about healthcare, one of the biggest pain points that digital technology promises to solve, is that data sits in silos, so that even if a piece of data could help a patient, it might not be in the hands of the doctor who needs to see it.

Ambre Health, a recently formed startup out of Oklahoma State University (OSU), sees its business opportunity in this space, particularly with regards to the fields of sleep health and cardiovascular health.

"One of the things that happened in sleep is there’s a lot of data they capture but they’re not doing a lot with it," Paul Valentine, CEO of the company and consultant at KCP Advisory, told Babyforyou.net.ua on the sidelines of the mHealth Summit last week. "So they got to the point where to communicate it with other doctors, they’d just turn it into one number, which is the 'AHI', the apnea-hypopnia index. ... It didn’t mean much more than a number but there was an amazing amount of data behind it and beneath it. And I think it's one of these things where sleep medicine had to go there to make it easier for doctors to understand it; but then they kind of almost made sleep so simple that they couldn’t go back from it and say 'Hey, we got all this data, we can do so much more with it than just tell you what the AHI number is.'" 

The data that sleep specialists typically collect in the home sleep testing market includes EKG data, which can also presage cardiovascular co-morbidities, according CTO Brek Wilkins and COO Rupesh Agrawal, Ambre is working on a wearable that can be used for at-home sleep testing, but which will tease out all the data in a software backend and deliver actionable insights to cardiologists -- at first on the population level, but eventually in the realm of individual predictive analytics.

"Our focus now is sleep and cardiovascular disease and the co-morbid relationship between those two," Valentine said. "So we’re trying to start with the population data and then bring that down with the software more ... but we’ve got [to do] more robust clinical trials to get into personalized predictive analytics. You know, the whole concept of looking at an individual and saying ‘What direction are they going from a health standpoint? Are they going toward wellness, are they going toward disease?' Even to the point of predicting acute events -- predicting a heart attack for instance."

Various different departments at OSU are working together on the wearable, which will track EKG, respiration, air flow, effort, SpO2, and position according to Wilkins. But he says that most of those metrics are just to satisfy the requirements for reimbursement in a home sleep test. All they need to analyze, he says, is the EKG, which will use a proprietary single-lead approach that the company isn't saying anything more about right now.

The company is currently negotiating the IP licensing with the university and taking meetings with potential investors and customers, attempting to demonstrate the largely unexamined link between sleep apnea and cardiovascular conditions.

"Right now you can look at the numbers and see they’re connected," said Wilkins. "But the mechanism that’s driving co-morbid cardiovascular conditions for those patients with sleep apnea is unclear. That’s part of our initial inception, turning that grey area into a black and white area."

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