Five enter the Shark Tank, one emerges



SAN FRANCISCO – All five innovative startups pitched at the Shark Tank at the 2019 AGA Tech Summit, sponsored by the AGA Center for GI Innovation and Technology, are in advanced stages of development, but only one is given the opportunity to be declared the winner of the competition. The ideas ranged from a smart toilet for early disease detection to a unique strategy for obesity phenotyping, but the winner by both official decision and popular vote was a smartphone app to help patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) manage the condition.

“As always, this year’s Shark Tank was a highlight of the AGA Tech Summit and represents the progress our field is making when it comes to innovation. Our panel of sharks was focused on understanding the problem each innovation solved – that’s the key when determining if an idea is novel or innovation for innovation’s sake. We were impressed with all of the technologies presented, but ultimately chose the Oshi Health IBD app as our winner because of the impact it is already having on improving the health and care of IBD patients,” said V. Raman Muthusamy, MD, AGAF, chair of the AGA Center for GI Innovation and Technology.

The winner: Oshi pitches “all-in-one” IBD app

By both popular vote from those attending the AGA Tech Summit as well as the six-member Shark Tank panel, Oshi Health was selected as the 2019 Shark Tank winner for its IBD app. The app was designed to help patients track symptoms, a first step in understanding flare patterns, which differ substantially between patients and emphasize the need for a personalized plan for controlling disease.

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“Since we launched last June at DDW® we have had 40,000 downloads. We are the number one IBD management app,” reported Dan Weinstein, MBA, CEO of Oshi Health.

The available app represents the first of three phases as the functionality is expanded. Currently, in addition to using the app as a tracking tool, patients can find resources to learn about their disease and to communicate with other patients about their experiences. In a second phase, information gathered by the app will be made available to physicians to provide accurate current information about disease status to better individualize therapy.

Ultimately, the app is expected to guide treatment based on information it has collected on symptom patterns and other data collected over time, although this application is further down the road and will require regulatory approval if it is designed to provide clinical advice as expected, according to Mr. Weinstein.

However, benefits have already been seen. Mr. Weinstein cited data that associated the app with a 40% improvement in medication adherence and a nearly 60-day reduction in flare duration. Calling the app “the next chapter in treat-to-target” IBD management, he believes that this is an important step forward in digital health that will improve IBD outcomes. The Shark Tank panel agreed.

Runners-up: Other potential innovations to improve GI health

With or without Shark Tank endorsement, the other four startups described in the competition are moving forward. Each is designed to address an important unmet need with the potential to improve patient outcomes, which is a criterion for their inclusion in the competition.

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