“For information on risks and side effects please read the pack insert and ask your doctor or pharmacist” – this is what you hear (or not because it’s too fast) at the end of every drug advertisement. Do you ever take the time to read the leaflets? Well, perhaps you won’t have to anymore.
Vienna-based medical startup Diagnosia has recently anounced the closing of their second round of funding, and they apparently already have big plans on how to use it. We caught up with Lukas Zinnagl, co-founder and the company’s medical director, who told us that they are getting ready to roll out new applications and enter at least one new market this year.
Through this round of funding Diagnosia has raised funds of approximately one million euros, mainly from business angels Christoph Prinz, Michael Altrichter, Johann Jauk, Martin Dall, and Christoph Gelbmann – a part of the sum came from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), Zinnagl told inventures.eu. “All our investors bring a lot to the table,” he said. “We’ve gained a lot of feasibility advice from the FFG, and our business angels bring in a lot of contacts and industry knowledge.”
“Gaining funding from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) is definitely not easy,” Zinnagl said. “In our first year, the technological aspect was very important and while it still is, [now] there is also a strong focus on marketability.”
In 2011, Diagnosia secured an investment round led by Austrian business angel Johann (“Hansi”) Hansmann.
What is Diagnosia?
Diagnosia has developed a sound, international database for medical drugs. In a nutshell, the tool reads out drug information directly from the official product leaflets, saves the data, and makes them accessible to both doctors and patients in a standardised format. While this sounds simple, the information about drugs out there is not only vast but also vastly unorganised.
The programme that extracts and saves this information, the “Diagnosia Brain”, won the company their first part of the FFG funding. “We called it the Brain because it’s comprehensive and immensely complicated,” said Zinnagl. An initial (PreSeed) grant was given to them by the aws, which allowed them to form a company.
Today, the technology behind the Brain has been improved from “reading comprehension” of extracting numbers and data, to connecting and interlinking those. This is also what won Diagnosia follow-on funding from the FFG.
On to new shores?
The drug search of Diagnosia is freely available in 14 languages and serves more than 1,3 million users per month. With the newly acquired funds, the startup plans to expand beyond Austria before Christmas. There, two of Diagnosia’s programmes – Index and most likely Check (still in beta) will be available in a localised version. “Localisation is not easy at all. There really is no central governing law on independent medical advice,” said Zinnagl. “When we enter a new market, all legal disclaimers, for example, must be drafted with regard to the country. Drug names are often completely different in different countries.”
Simultaneously, Diagnosia will roll out Check as well as its mobile applicationsfor smartphones and tablets in Austria. Their marketing roadmap has been extensively planned to raise awareness before the launch – addressing key opinion leaders, medical journals and doctors’ unions. “We saw in Austria that we got our first customers simply by sending out an email, announcing that this database will be available soon – demand is quite high, as there really is no comparable system widely available,” said Zinnagl.
Diagnosia is currently running usage trials in Australia, since Australian doctors need to be highly mobile and tech savvy due to low population density. Yet, will doctors ever be replaced by a huge database? “No, I don’t believe so,” said Zinnagl. “We are observing a big shift, medical knowledge increases at incredible rates and the standards of evidence-based medicine keep increasing [as drugs and treatments need to be increasingly backed by clinical trials and studies]. The sum of information is simply too large, and technology is already a fundamental part of the medical practice.”
Diagnosia currently operates with a team of 20 out of their Vienna headquarters – in five years they want to be present not only in numerous European countries, but “be the best in terms of product and information – a true support for doctors by doctors.”