Interview Series: Dr Rameen Shakur, Cambridge Heartwear

In our latest interview in the series we speak with Dr Rameen Shakur, an academic clinician in Cardiology and Precision Medicine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the founder and chairman of Cambridge Heartwear.

The medical device and algorithm company develops health technology and wearables for cardiac monitoring and also actively develops artificial intelligence and computer science for the prevention of heart disease and stroke. HTN speaks to the founder of the company to learn more about them and how they gained their US patents for their products.

Could you tell us about the organisation?

Cambridge Heartwear was founded in 2017 and we began from work colleagues were doing on developing devices and unsupervised machine learning at the University of Cambridge. I was interested in methods to diagnose those at risk of strokes early in real time so we can start treatment and to identify those with electrical problems of the heart, which is the chief cause of stroke mortality and morbidity.

Currently the process of diagnosis takes days to weeks before treatment can be initiated, with our wearables and analysis this is cut down to a day with immediate curation and analytics of the data. It is a game changer.

We wanted to change the process in which heart monitoring is done and so built wearables which can be accessible and affordable for all, which also utilise AI technology for good. We therefore manufacture and have produced all our devices in the UK.

We have developed AI for real-time ECG monitoring and you get so much data from ECGs, the challenge was how do you make the computer understand how to diagnose ECGs as a cardiologist would. It’s like finding a needle in a hay stack – the AI is trained to look at such small sensitive data.

Talk us through the process of gaining a patent for your product.

This is a long process which has taken us three years from the initial invention and discovery and to filling and being granted. This process takes a substantial amount of time and resource in the EU and UK but we also applied in the USA and this takes time to be examined. It is a thorough process and is key for companies which are keen to have a global presence and want to safeguard their intellectual property.

How important is it for health tech companies to get patents for their products and what would your advice be to anyone who is thinking of doing the same?

If you have a strong desire to be an innovative and progressive organisation in your field then having a patent portfolio sets you apart from the rest of the crowd. Services are often built on novelty and good user needs as well as costing plans but this is often difficult to maintain or expand unless the company itself has a strong scientific, research and development ethos.

Our commitment to cutting edge research and development was borne out from our underlying academic backgrounds and strong research teams which allow us to help with solutions and apply AI in all aspects of healthcare as well as being an engineering device company.

What were the challenges that you came across?

The patent has taken us around three years to complete and especially with AI, software patents are tricky. Our unique methodology does not require supervised learning for the AI models and with that we have enhanced the field.

What is in store for the rest of 2020?

This year a number of devices including a watch will be launched, and we are looking for partners for clinical trials in the UK.

We have partnered with a digital health platform partner where we have been invited by the Department of Trade and Industry to showcase AI.

We have also partnered with the UK’s largest diabetes supplier GLUCORX who came to us to develop a solution for monitoring their patients in an user friendly method whilst having a secure, robust real time AI platform. We are excited to  announce this will be launched in a few weeks.