- Peter Carr, Director of Judging
Providing a solution to the hypothyroidism treatment problems could be the key to reduce patients’ adverse effects and health care costs. Then, why not make Hormonic that very own solution? In order to do so, an exhaustive bibliographic research was done, followed by a human-centered solution search process.
Identification of the medical need
Thyroid disease is one of the most common endocrine disorders, affecting millions of individuals throughout Europe and a 5% of the general population . Over 99% of affected patients suffer from hypothyroidism and are mainly prescribed levothyroxine: a medication that has a narrow range of doses at which is effective without adverse effects . As a consequence, one-third of the patients who receive this treatment still exhibit symptomes.
Especially at the initial stages of the treatment, doses are adjusted by “trial-and-error” procedures, which require close tracking of the patients’ state by regular analytics and visits to the doctor. The treatment’s estimated total cost increases around 260 percentage points for the patients that require 3 or more annual dose adjustments in comparison with those that do not undergo levothyroxine dose changes .
Due to the current Sars COV-2 health crisis, patients’ that require frequent dose adjustments have got their clinical appointments cancelled. Accordingly, the study carried out by the Spanish Endocrine and Nutrition Association (SEEN) has identified an increase in the demand (19,5% to 77,4%) for an alternative such as Telemedicine (TM) . However, current TM methods rely on the patient’s communication and technological skills, together with its degree of medication compliance.
Proposed solution: Hormonic
Several studies have concluded that there is a clear need for patient-specific dosage optimization . Consequently, the aim of this project was set as the development of an alternative treatment that remotely restores the whole thyroid feedback system, allowing to automatically adapt the dosage depending on each patient’s hormonal state. This way, Hormonic intends to reduce the number of visits to the doctor, while guaranteeing a correct and safe monitoring of the patients that does not depend on self-diagnosis methods.
Integrated Human Practices
It is clear that background information gathered from books and articles was essential to gain a first sight of Hormonic’s possible impact, helping us identify the previously mentioned objective towards which we started working thanks to the help of multidisciplinary scientists. However, we found a huge gap between the academic world and the real one. A gap that ought to be connected by a trustworthy and robust bridge: a human-centered solution search process.
At this point, we understood that concerns related to current hypothyroidism therapies were as numerous as the number of different stakeholders.
Therefore, once we obtained a better understanding of the disorder by interviewing several doctors, we decided to go a step further and identify the concerns of local, national and european endocrine associations. Since they are representative bodies of patients, scientists and doctors, their demands, which were included into our solution, turned out to be very diverse. Moreover, once their medical needs were identified, concerns over the ethical and safety aspects that the demands’ implementations required arose; issues that were solved together with experts.
All in all, thanks to this human-centered process, Hormonic started out as a simple hormonal level controller in order to later become a complex patient-specific therapy, designed to mimic hormonal circadian rhythms and characterize the currently unknown thyroid hormone metabolism and action pathways. Take a look at our Future implementation section, in which you will find the solution to all the clinical, security and ethical concerns.
Now is the time to follow the journey of our UPF_Barcelona team as we got closer and closer to what Hormonic has become!
First Brainstorming sessions
Letting our mind think of any crazy and ambitious idea to help solve a problem using synthetic biology tools.
Marc Güell Cargol
The head of Translational Synthetic Biology laboratory in the Biomedical Research Park of Barcelona
Final brainstorming session with advisors
May 17, each team member voted for one of the candidate projects and the winner was...
Javier Macia Santamaria
The head of the laboratory of Synthetic Biology for Biomedical Applications in the Biomedical Research Park of Barcelona.
PhD candidate at the Translational Synthetic Biology group in the Biomedical Research Park of Barcelona.
Dr Ricard Torras
Former head of department of the Endocrinology Service at Hospital Mutua Terrassa.
Dr Albert Goday
The head of department in the endocrinology unit of Parc de Salut Mar Hospital in Barcelona.
Catalan Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition.
European Thyroid Association
Spanish society of endocrinology and nutrition
Member of the Wireless Communication Group within the department of Information and Communication Technology at the UPF, Barcelona.
Clinical Research Ethic Committee
Managed by IMIM, the Hospital del Mar Institute for Medical Research.
Noemí Pont Noguero
Expert in regulation and legislation of medical devices in the European Union. Director of Qualitec-scp business.
Carles Taulé Flores
Business Development Manager in Biotech.
 Chiovato, L., Magri, F. & Carlé, A. (2019) Hypothyroidism in Context: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going. Adv Ther 36, 47–58. DOI:10.1007/s12325-019-01080-8
 Fliers, E., Demeneix, B., Bhaseen, A., & Brix, T. H. (2018). European Thyroid Association (ETA) and Thyroid Federation International (TFI) Joint Position Statement on the Interchangeability of Levothyroxine Products in EU Countries. European thyroid journal, 7(5), 238–242
 Ernst, F., Barr, P., Elmor, R., Sandulli, W., Thevathasan, L., & Sterman, A. et al. (2016). The Economic Impact of Levothyroxine Dose Adjustments: the CONTROL HE Study. Clinical Drug Investigation, 37(1), 71-83. doi: 10.1007/s40261-016-0462-3
 Gorgojo Martínez, J., Zugasti Murillo, A., Rubio Herrera, M. and Bretón Lesmes, I., 2020. TELECONSULTA En Endocrinología Y Nutrición En Tiempos De La Pandemia COVID-19 Y Más Allá. [online] Seen.es. Available at: https://www.seen.es/ModulGEX/workspace/publico/modulos/web/docs/apartados/1433/160620_105727_7128864936.pdf [Accessed 22 October 2020].