WoW Woman in Health Tech | Letizia Gionfrida, bioengineer researcher and founder of Arthronica

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Letizia is a bioengineer researcher at Imperial College London. She founded Arthronica in 2018 to monitor chronic arthritis remotely and assess the disease in clinical trials. The system uses a camera on a laptop combined with software to measure mobility, functionality and swelling of joints. Letizia wrote the software during her PhD and is currently raising £1.4m for Arthronica, with trials taking place at Imperial, King’s, and Leeds NHS Trusts.

Letizia, what is the idea behind your project / product and how did you come up with it?

The idea behind the product is simple, using ubiquitous tech to diagnose and monitor chronic condition, make recommendations and assess medication effectiveness. The idea came up when I was working in Singapore of skin cancer detection using AI and smartphone. When I started my PhD at imperial college in the UK I realised that current measuring too was too bulky and patients were massively suffering. So, I adapted the idea and implemented a new AI to sort this out.

When did all start, and do you have other members in your team?

Arthronica starts as a PhD project of the CEO the Bioengineering department at imperial. The company then gets incorporated in September 2018 and wins grant funding to support clinical validation. From one initial founder the company now has 4 full time employees and 3 works leader directors appointed on the board.

How long did it take you to be where you are now?

A total of 4 years: 3 years of research and 1 after incorporation.

What was the biggest obstacle?

To gain more and more active patient users subscribing to the platform. Even if the product is a B2B getting patients support and getting they love the product is fundamental for us.

What are your biggest achievements to date?

3 clinical trials ongoing in multi-site locations across the UK including Imperial, Kings and Leeds with access to 20,000 patients across the UK. Also securing £350,000 from grants and additional £350,000 from VC to close our pre-seed £500k round.

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What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in?

Many times, people are not aware of how much of a struggle arthritis and particularly chronic arthritis is, and when not treated Wellcome it can poorly affect the life of millions of individuals across the globe.

How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?

As a female entrepreneur I have been told that I wasn’t aggressive enough from a VC or I was asked “... aren’t you planning on getting pregnant in the next 2 years, right?” by a possible co-founder.

What are your projects you are currently working on?

I’m working on the developed, final clinical validation and commercialisation of Arthronica. The best AI powered platform to monitor chronic condition.

Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?

Extremely. Being part of a kick ass inspiring women group it is extremely important, particularly when delivering medical solution that can revolutionise for the better life of mission if individuals across the globe.

What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?

Be strong, be cool, keep learn!

What will be the key trends in the health tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?

Remote monitoring, bespoke diagnosis and assessment, “uberization" of healthcare.

Who are your 3 inspirational women in health tech?

Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates, Aashima Gupta.

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Website: https://arthronica.com

This blog series is part of the Women Startup Challenge Europe HealthTech, which will take place on 7 October in Paris!

This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic.