MediKeep: putting personal medicine in everyone’s pocket

MediKeep OÜ started out in 2015 with an app initiated by Kerti Alev aimed at helping people manage their home medication supply and take notes on their health. Alev says personal medicine has become the company’s main focus and soon a number of innovations are in the pipeline.

In 2014, Alev took part in the Garage48 hackathon and met the future co-founders of MediKeep, who developed the first prototype for the app. In 2015, they took part at the Bayer Healthcare Grant-s4Apps hackathon and secured financial support. After the four-month Berlin hackathon in 2016, the app that is now in app stores was completed. It keeps an eye on the home pharmaceutical supply, reminds patients to take their medicine, alerts them to nearing expiration dates, and allows them to read medication package inserts.

The company spent last year mainly working on developing the product and soon, says Alev, it will be possible to give users information on which medications, doses or food interactions are appropriate.

Implementing personal medicine and integrating it with genetic data is our special feature.

“Implementing personal medicine and integrating it with genetic data is our special feature. Once we integrate genetic testing with our service, we will be able to offer app users very personalized information,” says Alev.

Alev says the personalized service is in very high demand, as it helps solve many problems that come up in health-care, starting from the fact that people’s treatment compliance is often poor – all too often they discontinue treatment because the medication “just doesn’t seem right” or resources are wasted on finding the most suitable drug. The journey could be shortened and expenses reduced by offering users a patient empowerment app and genetic information in pharmaco-genomics, to say nothing of prevention – heading off health problems before they arise.

The Estonian Genome Centre found that 98% of the population has a genetic mutation that could have an influence on assimilation of the active ingredient in medications. That may also be the rea-son that a large percentage of poisonings seen in emergency rooms are related to medications,” says Alev. Ideally, MediKeep would solve this problem by contributing to treatment compliance and reduce expenditures made on finding a treatment. However, it is hard to measure the changes resulting from preventive work.

Alev added that as a new direction, the company plans to participate in research as well.

Speaking about target groups for the app, Alev said the service is aimed mainly at people whose health needs to be monitored. And that is not all. “By adding the genetic testing function to the app, we can offer healthy people useful information, too, and indicate how they can care for their heath and prevent diseases,” says Alev. Smart medicine chest management will help not only patients but also caregivers (including parents) who must orient themselves in the unfamiliar world of pharmaceuticals. The target group thus consists of the chronically ill, caregivers, parents, athletes, biohackers and other health activists.

MediKeep is headquartered in Tallinn, Estonia, but thanks to its mobile platform (available in several languages) MediKeep has users around the world. “Due to some of the functionalities (e.g. medication database, barcodes, package inserts) we are localized, but for example, the feature for locating the nearest pharmacy is a global service. Furthermore, anyone can create medicine cabinet content, no mat-ter where they are located,” said Alev.

Alev says last year’s user statistics show that 68.5% of the users of the smart medicine chest are from Estonia. They are followed by Germany with 10%, Italy with 5.5%, Ukraine and US with 3% each and a small contingent in Spain, Mexico and other countries where good English is spoken. “We even have users in the Mal-dives. The obstacles come more from the language barrier, not the app’s functionality. The app is currently able to be used in Estonian, English, Russian and Dutch. But personal medicine solutions will definitely tend to be more local or domestic European at the outset, as genomic interpretation is largely based on statistical data on specific populations. It is mandatory to start with smaller cohort and scale from there.”

Speaking about the team, Alev said MediKeep has no wage-earning employees; it’s an entirely freelance-driven venture. The team has 5-15 active members depending on the needs of the project in process. Last year, an advisory group was put together, including three top-level specialists in their field. Brand Manual founder Kaarel Mikkin provides consultation for service design, Medi-Keep’s “angel architect” is Andres Kütt, and Dr. Lili Milani from the Genome Centre provides advice in the field of pharmaco-genomics. Kerti Alev and Allan Kändmaa are the founders of MediKeep OÜ. Kerti Alev handles the day-to-day business.

Involvement of the advisory group was one of the biggest innovations seen in recent years, including prototyping for the genetic testing service,“ says Alev. In addition, there is the previously mentioned goal to market the first solutions in personal medicine – the first test group has now started work. They have undergone DNA analysis and genotyping. “As our conviction is that the data belong to the individual, people who contribute tests get their DNA raw data and have the opportunity to use their data in future at various service providers.

MediKeep also intermediates other gene testing options to them and naturally they also give primary feedback related to medications and diet, while we are happy to leave the disease risk assessment to doctors or the Genome Centre,” says Alev. She says people interested in joining a test group should write to info@medikeep.eu.

The health technologies cluster has been invaluable in helping to implement the ideas, says Alev. Support has been received for establishing contacts with potential cooperation partners. “Although Estonia’s small, it is not always that easy to find contacts by oneself,” she says. She added that the cluster has done a great deal to bring people and companies working in the same sector (hospitals, start-ups and other health organizations) together and that this is also an innovative approach in the context of other countries. “It has been a big benefit for Medi-Keep,” she says.