Continuing our P4SY Accelerator Programme Founder interviews, we’ve been talking with Eva Galant, Founder & CEO at Hashiona, a femtech-focused digital platform for the management and treatment of Hashimoto’s disease.
‘Great to meet you Eva. Can you tell me more about Hashimoto’s?’
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder. The immune system creates antibodies that are ‘self-attacking’ – which means they attack thyroid cells, as if they were bacteria or viruses, damaging the thyroid gland.
Many people with Hashimoto’s aren’t aware they have the condition in the early stages as it progresses very slowly – there are 45 different symptoms (a lot!) but in the first few years these can be unnoticeable or attributable to other common conditions, for example hair weakness, nails breaking, dry skin etc. Not pleasant but they don’t affect daily life.
However, when the thyroid gland is significantly underperforming, and releasing low levels of hormones, particularly T4 (thyroxine), most people start noticing symptoms which significantly affect their health.
The ‘big 5’ symptoms are – extreme fatigue, sleep problems, weight gain, depression, and brain fog (difficulty concentrating, articulating thoughts, processing information).
Hashimoto’s can be difficult to diagnose due to the range of symptoms. A clinician who knows what they are looking for can join the dots early, use a blood test for diagnosis and provide treatment, typically a medication called levothyroxine. I wasn’t as lucky – it took 8 years between my first symptoms and receiving a diagnosis.
And it’s not just diagnosis which is an issue. In many cases, levothyroxine does make a difference, but our research talking to people with Hashimoto’s found that over 70% still struggle with symptoms and their quality of life is poor.
Hashimoto’s affects more women than men – typically aged between 20 and 50 – however data specific to Hashimoto’s is hard to find. According to US statistics, 1 in 8 women will have a thyroid issue in their lifetime (about 480M women globally) – and up to 60% of these women are not aware they have the condition.
The population diagnosed varies by country – many countries estimate 10% of the population (for example Germany, Spain, Italy, India) however in the UK the population estimate is 2-4%. My personal opinion is that this is an under-diagnosis.
“You mentioned that you also have Hashimoto’s, can you tell me more about your own experience that led you to establish Hashiona?”
My condition is genetic – I was very active as a teenager, but looking back to my childhood I can see that there were symptoms of hypothyroidism. At 18 years old my symptoms got worse – I needed to sleep all the time and I had problems losing weight.
Medical opinion at that time was that my issues were due to my age and lack of vitamins so my only option was to adjust my lifestyle to cope – my quality of life wasn’t great but I managed.
However, as I progressed through my career, stress and lifestyle triggered my symptoms – they skyrocketed! I’d have 13 hours sleep and wake up exhausted and have brain fog. I googled symptoms and found I had 38 symptoms of Hashimoto’s – so I went for a private test.
That was my bingo moment. Of course I was upset to learn I had this condition – but I also felt relieved to have some answers about what I was dealing with. I was prescribed the medication and I thought “Yaay, this will work and all will be fine” but time passed and some symptoms just didn’t go away.
So, I searched for information. Read everything I could find for 8 months – including medical student books – to learn how to create my own lifestyle regime to be able to function normally. This worked for a time but I’d have remissions and take 6 months to regulate again, until I found the regime that worked for me.
I’d worked in tech start-ups for years so I sought out technology solutions that would help me to manage my condition and maintain a regime – and I couldn’t find anything. I had the idea to create Hashiona for 6 years before we set-up. I’d think about it constantly until I decided to make it a reality.
I wanted to use the knowledge I had to support the Hashimoto’s community – many people spend 10 – 15 years trying to live a normal life. So, I found a co-founder, we financed ourselves to create an MVP and we had our first investor 9 months later.
“Can you tell me more about Hashiona?”
Hashiona is an all-in-one platform for people with Hashimoto’s disease, with the goal of improving our users’ quality of life by lowering the level of antibodies in their blood.
Hashiona offers personalised nutrition plans, a symptom-tracking system, and a healthy dose of disease knowledge. Everything we do is data-driven, to create an automated, highly personalised program that will guide our users back to health. Our Step by Step to Remission programme makes changing things simple – one major habit at a time. We monitor how patients are feeling, help them understand their blood chemistry, and provide access to dietitians and the community of fellow patients.
Hashiona’s mission is to make the lives of people suffering from Hashimoto’s disease more manageable. Our customised meal plans were designed to reduce inflammation in the body, while the symptom tracker assists in monitoring (and avoiding) negative triggers. We also provide a comprehensive guide to thyroid health, complete with interactive content to make learning enjoyable.
“What’s next for Hashiona?”
We are gaining recognition nationally and internationally through media profile and the positive impact on our users. The personal stories we receive are amazing – it proves we are making a difference. We’ve had users telling us that Hashiona has changed their lives – you can’t ask for more than that to motivate us to keep doing what we’re doing!
We’ve had good results from patient trials showing that implementing the regime is improving quality of life – a win for us, patients and the wider scientific community. We want to prove that a diet modification approach can lower antibodies in the blood. There’s no research published in this area yet and we are the first company in the world trying to prove this.
We were awarded Innovate UK Fast Start funding in 2022 to form a partnership to integrate at-home blood test kits to our service – establishing this partnership has been fantastic.
We have ambitious goals. We want to form research partnerships globally with clinicians and experts in autoimmune conditions for patient trials.
We are looking for VC funding around £1.5m to continue to grow. We are continually improving our platform – all our users have individual experiences so we are working on personalisation through algorithms, integration with IoT devices for more data, and the feedback loops for users.
“And finally, can you tell us about your experience of participating in the P4SY Accelerator Programme?”
The P4SY program has helped us in a variety of ways, from understanding our future path as a digital therapeutic solution, certification as a medical device and most importantly working with the NHS.
We are very grateful to be in the programme, where we are getting a personalised experience and custom-made advice from the P4SY team, clinicians and experts from a variety of organisations across the country. I can strongly recommend every digital health startup to join the programme – the quality is outstanding.