Already at the beginning of the conversation it becomes obvious that the own ambitions of founding partners of Clear , Piet Hein van Dam and Madelon Bracke, are bold: “We’re going to help millions of people with this,” says CEO Van Dam. And: “We must be enabled to know what is best to eat at any time of the day.” He picks up a diet advice book: “Look, a book by a general practitioner about healthy eating. But such a book does not get smarter the more it is used. An algorithm does. It gets to know you better and can therefore give you increasingly better advice.”
Piet Hein van Dam has a background in physics and chemistry and has worked for Unilever for a long time. “There, we were happy if we could add something to a margarine that would benefit 30 percent of the people. I thought we could achieve a lot more with personalized diet advice. Fortunately Madelon thought so too.” Chief Scientific Officer Bracke obtained her PhD in cell biology and worked in science for a long time before moving to the corporate world. “I wanted to apply scientific insights in practice, translate conceptual population messages into usefulness for an individual. Soon after I started talking to Piet Hein, I was convinced of his idea.”
Glucose measuring sensor
That idea became Clear: customers of the startup will receive a sensor that continuously measures glucose, an app and a customized nutrition plan. Customers wear the sensor for two weeks and keep track of exactly what they eat and how they feel. They also share information about their activities and sleep. In the first week they eat whatever they would normally have. In the second week, they eat what they are advised. The glucose meter shows how the body reacts to this, so that users can ultimately receive tailor-made nutritional advice.
The company follows two tracks: on the one hand there are customers who receive personal advice, on the other hand, based on the anonymized and aggregated data of those customers, research is conducted into the relationship between biomarkers, nutrition and lifestyle and health – of course, only with the consent of those customers.
The advice is based on personal data and the most recent scientific insights, says Bracke. “The challenge here is that most of the scientific data on blood glucose is based on data from people with diabetes or through nutritional research – under controlled conditions. So we need data about ‘people in the wild’, all kinds of people, in order to understand exactly what happens in the body. One person gets a blood sugar spike, another gets a dip.” “For example, I always thought oatmeal was good for you,” says Van Dam. “But my measurements show that I react badly to it. Also with non-alcoholic beer and diet coke, which people often assume is not bad for you, you see big differences in how bodies react to it.”
The Healthcare Innovation Prize
Clear has existed for 1.5 years, has seven employees and about 1,000 people have already completed the short program. The company participated in the startup generator startup program antler.co and partly because of this has a good network in Amsterdam. Bracke: “Here in the region there is a large density of parties that are of interest to us: not only when you look at customers and consumers, but also parties involved in prevention and care and, of course, investors.”
At the beginning of this year, Clear won the regional Healthcare Innovation Prize and with it a membership of the Network Council of the Amsterdam Economic Board. With that membership, Clear hopes to further strengthen their own network, says Bracke. “We are happy with the membership because many of our stakeholders are in the network of the Board: organizations involved in nutrition, healthcare institutions, retail companies. There is still a whole world of possibilities for our proposition. We also want to contribute to the network with our experience and brainpower. We connect science to a consumer proposition and may be able to help others with that as well. I have already registered for the Medical Data without Pizza evening, one of the events that the Board co-organizes to connect the medical world and data science. I also became a member of the network for innovation in the Life Sciences and Health sector Smart Health Amsterdam (an initiative of the Board and the Municipality of Amsterdam) to increase our visibility and to come into contact with new people, but also to share our knowledge and expertise there ourselves. ”
Health for everyone
The company is working hard to be allowed to make a health claim. “We did a health check on 50 people before and after participation and we can already see that the program is effective,” says Van Dam. “In order to really make that claim, we have to measure even more. And then it also becomes interesting for insurers to reimburse our product.”
Back to that ambition of the Board and of the company itself: better health for everyone. “We don’t want this to be an app just for people who can afford it,” says Van Dam. “How great would it be if municipalities in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area could play a major role in this and offer this to all its residents?”
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