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Holland & Barrett acquires femtech start-up Parla

The wellness retailer has announced the acquisition of Parla, as part of its strategy to extend its reach beyond retail

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Holland & Barrett has made public the acquisition of the femtech start-up Parla, aiming to offer personalised wellness solutions and services across a range of underserved healthcare topics.

Parla is the first-ever virtual support system to improve women’s mental wellness after pregnancy loss and beyond. It provides a safe space supporting ongoing informed conversation and scientific insights around women’s health and fertility experiences. 

Co-founded by Lina Chan with her husband Tyler Christie and Rose Acton in 2018, Parla’s mission is to break down the taboo surrounding women’s health issues and enable access to trusted and holistic support. 

The company offers holistic, personalised care for a range of challenges including endometriosis, PCOS and pregnancy loss. Through its online programmes, participants join cohort-based learning programmes, which help bring together women who may have been through similar experiences and connect them with experts in fertility, psychology, nutrition and wellbeing. 

“Our vision is to transform the wellness of 100m people by 2025, helping them achieve their personal wellness goals,” says Tamara Rajah, Holland & Barrett chief business and science officer. “This ambition takes us beyond our current retail business to offer a suite of different personalised diagnostics, services and solutions.  

Parla aims to tackle major underserved wellness needs that impact tens of millions of women around the world. What stood out for Holland & Barrett is their focus on making these taboo topics more socialised, and their novel cohort-based model to address mental wellness through conversation, community and expert support. Holland & Barrett has been offering women advice on menopause and women’s health for over 50 years, so this is a natural extension of our business.”

Lina Chan, founder of Parla, explains that: “Parla was inspired by my own experience with pregnancy loss and trouble conceiving. I always felt on the back foot.

“One in ten women in the UK currently suffer with endometriosis and PCOS, and one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. I wanted to build something that helps women feel in control of their journey through these challenging experiences. Parla’s research found that cohort based learning is a particularly powerful support method when it comes to tackling taboo health areas as it combines access to expert coaching with peer support.

“We also offer at-home hormone testing, health quizzes and the opportunity to access personalised health insights,” Chan continues. “Our programmes are also supported by an app designed to help customers adopt the lifestyle interventions taught in each programme.”

Parla is officially launching the start of its next endometriosis programme by supporting the UK premiere of Below the Belt, a new US documentary about the injustices impacting women’s health. Directed by Shannon Cohn and Executive Produced by Hillary Clinton, the film reveals how millions of people with endometriosis are sidelined and silenced.

The screening in London on June 8 will be followed by a live panel discussion with some of the biggest names in UK medicine and media – Candice Brathwaite, Pippa Vosper, Dr Anita Mitra aka Gynae Geek, Dr Nighat Arif, Lina Chan from Parla and Shannon Cohn will be exploring how storytelling, femtech innovation and community can help break the silence and improve healthcare outcomes for all.

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Researchers to investigate role gut bacteria plays in breast cancer

The project aims to provide insights into the function of gut bacteria in breast cancer

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Researchers in the UK are to investigate the function of gut bacteria in breast cancer and how it could be used to fight against the disease.

Bacteria living in our gut can affect our immune system and previous research in other cancers has shown a connection between healthier gut bacteria and better overall outcomes for patients.

Cancerous cells can spread in many different ways, including by manipulating the immune system to prevent being killed. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it becomes incurable.

Breast Cancer Now has awarded £249,065 to Dr Stephen Robinson at the Quadram Institute, in Norwich Research Park, to study the composition and function of the gut bacteria in oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer.

Up to 80 per cent of women with the disease are diagnosed with ER-positive breast cancer, making it the most common type of breast cancer.

Stool samples will be taken from women who have recently been diagnosed with ER-positive breast cancer and are yet to begin treatment.

Further samples will then be taken from the same women at various stages during and after treatment to see how gut bacteria changes during the course of the disease.

The team will compare samples from people who respond well to treatment to people who do not, to analyse any differences in their gut bacteria and see if it’s possible to predict the outcome of treatment based on this information.

Using mice, the researchers will also investigate how gut bacteria influence the immune system. The team will test specific bacteria species that have been linked with better treatment outcomes alongside bacteria linked with poorer outcomes, to see how the bacteria affect the progression of breast cancer.

“Evidence shows that certain bacteria living in our gut can help slow the growth and spread of cancers, including breast cancer,” said Dr Stephen Robinson from the Quadram Institute.

“These findings are particularly important given that breast cancer treatment may disturb normal gut bacteria.

“We are looking into how exactly the bacteria help our bodies prevent cancer from progressing, and whether standard treatments are affecting this.”

Dr Simon Vincent, Breast Cancer Now’s director of research, support and influencing, said: “This project will provide crucial insights into the role gut bacteria play in breast cancer.

“It could help us develop new approaches to treatment that use gut bacteria to activate the immune system and reduce the chance of breast cancer spreading and becoming incurable.”

He added: “With around 11,500 women tragically dying from breast cancer each year in the UK, we urgently need to find new ways to prevent the disease spreading, and treat it effectively when it does.”

Kerry’s story

Kerry Blake, 34, from Hertfordshire found a small lump in her left breast a month before her wedding.

“A few days before the wedding I felt a pain in my breast so booked a doctor’s appointment to get it checked out,” Kerry said.

“During the examination, the doctor confirmed I had a small pea-sized lump and referred me to the breast clinic.”

After an ultrasound, mammogram and needle biopsy, Kerry was told she had grade 2, ER-positive breast cancer.

“The doctor sat down next to me to give me the results. I burst into tears and was trying hard to listen and make sense of what he was saying but all I could think was I’m 28, how can I have breast cancer?”

In the following months, Kerry had CT scans, MRI scans, fertility appointments, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, followed by a single mastectomy. She also had a tumour in her left breast removed.

It’s now been five years since Kerry’s diagnosis, and she believes it’s due to advances in research that’s she’s living a full and active life today.

“Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is terrifying, but thanks to research, I’m here today,” she said.

“For me and countless others, breast cancer research isn’t just about finding a cure; it’s about finding kinder, more effective treatments and inspiring hope. With every research breakthrough, we’re closer to a world where no more lives are lost to this terrible disease.”

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London tech start-up TaraCares launches revolutionary AI co-pilot MIMI for personalised hormone health

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Jyoti Sharma at HR Technologies UK Conference in London, April 2024 / MIMOSA was Top 4 Most Innovative HR Tech StartUps
In a groundbreaking move set to transform personal health management, the London-based tech start-up TaraCares has unveiled MIMI (Menopause Information and Management Interface), an advanced AI co-pilot designed to personalise science for users of its B2B2C hormone health and employee wellbeing platform MIMOSA. 

Leveraging cutting-edge responsible AI and a deep understanding of human health, MIMI aims to become an indispensable tool for women and female individuals of all ages seeking to optimise their hormonal wellbeing and health span, from puberty  to post-menopause.

In Beta since 2023, the development of MIMI was funded by an NIHR R&D grant awarded to TaraCares and strategic angel investors from Big Tech and Big 4 Consulting firms. 

MIMI has been successfully tested by individuals and clinicians in the UK, US and India including British Menopause Society (BMS) certified menopause specialists.

“MIMI gives you the freedom, safety and scientific evidence at your fingertips,” said Lisa Watson, advanced specialist nurse and BMS Menopause Specialist at Watson Health Menopause Clinic.

Dr Vikram Talaulikar, reproductive specialist at UCLH, trainer and BMS certified menopause specialist added: “Out of the comparable apps I have seen, MIMOSA stands out as comprehensive, inclusive and easy to use. 

“I am astonished at the accuracy of MIMI. It is first-class and better than some of the clinicians I know!”

MIMI stands out by its ability to meticulously study and monitor user behaviour and symptoms across 29 key determinants of female hormonal health transition. This sophisticated level of monitoring allows MIMI to deliver tailored recommendations and up-to-date research, empowering users with insights that are specifically relevant to their unique health profiles.

MIMI was inspired by founder Jyoti Sharma’s conversations with female C-suite leaders at UNLEASH World in Paris where she discovered that women running some of the largest and successful businesses in the world were being ill-informed by sponsored social media posts, antiquated diagnostic tools as they resort to dwarfed medical expertise and over the counter menopause test kits against RCOG recommendations.

“We are thrilled to introduce MIMI to our corporate customers,” said Sharma, founder and CEO of TaraCares. 

“Our mission is to bridge the gap between complex scientific knowledge and everyday health management. MIMI does just that by providing personalised, actionable insights that can make a real difference in people’s lives.”

The development of MIMI is a significant leap forward in the field of responsible AI. 

Unlike generic health apps, MIMI’s algorithms are designed to prioritise user privacy and data security while delivering highly specific health recommendations. The system continuously learns from the data it collects, improving its accuracy and relevance over time. 

Users interact with MIMI through an intuitive interface on MIMOSA that makes complex scientific information easily understandable. The AI tracks various health indicators, such as sleep patterns, stress levels, physical activity, diet, and more. 

By analysing these factors, MIMI identifies trends and potential issues before they become serious problems, allowing users to take proactive steps toward better health.

MIMI’s personalised approach is particularly valuable for managing hormonal health, a crucial aspect often overlooked by traditional health monitoring systems. 

The 29 determinants that MIMI monitors include hormone levels, menstrual cycles, mood fluctuations, and other critical markers. This comprehensive approach ensures that users receive a holistic view of their health, backed by the latest scientific research.

Early adopters of MIMI have already reported significant benefits, praising the AI for its precision and user-friendly design. Testimonials highlight how MIMI’s insights have led to improved lifestyle choices, better management of hormonal imbalances, and a deeper understanding of personal health.

The launch of MIMI marks a significant milestone in the journey towards personalised healthcare. 

As the tech start-up continues to refine and expand its capabilities, MIMI is set to become an essential tool for anyone looking to take control of their health with the help of advanced, responsible AI technology.

For more information about MIMI and how it can help you personalise your health journey, visit TaraCares’ official website here.

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US health platform raises US$10m to advance ‘patient-centred’ care

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The US health platform Amino Health has raised US$10m in funding to build “personalised” care journeys.

More and more employers in the US are faced with rising healthcare costs, complex benefit plans and low utilisation of specialised solution providers. Meanwhile employees struggle to know what is covered by their health insurance, and how to access programmes available to them.

Amino aims to connect people with cost-effective providers and benefits programmes across the healthcare ecosystem.

The company’s care navigation platform seeks to “simplify” healthcare by recommending healthcare providers based on objective clinical data.

The funding round, led by Transformation Capital, is hoped to accelerate Amino’s AI product roadmap to build “personalised” patient care journeys.

“This investment underscores the confidence placed in our vision to harness the power of AI to revolutionise healthcare,” said John Asalone, Amino’s CEO.

“With this infusion of capital, we are poised to strengthen our AI capabilities, expand our team, and drive innovation that will shape the future of patient-centred care.”

Amino’s AI investments, Asalone said, will further improve the user experience by offering care recommendations based on a user’s unique care journey.

Amino’s product and clinical teams have already seen the benefits of using AI to generate thousands of new care topics, including expanded primary care, women’s health and LGBTQ+ health, he added.

Mike Dixon, managing partner at Transformation Capital, said: “We believe Amino Health is poised to make a transformative impact in the healthcare landscape through its innovative AI-driven approach to care navigation.

“We are excited to further invest in Amino Health, and accelerate their journey to revolutionise healthcare delivery and drive meaningful improvements in cost savings and member engagement.”

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