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24 July 2014

Oxford puts students to sleep

Oxford University has entered into a research agreement with startup Big Health.

Author: Thierry Heles, reporter

Oxford University will be offering Sleepio, a digital sleep improvement programme, to its students as part of a research agreement with the product’s developer Big Health. The two new partners are hoping to launch their joint research by 2015.

Sleepio is billed as a digital sleep improvement programme. It has been clinically proven to help overcome poor sleep without any medication. The app works by teaching the user Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, which adapt to the individual’s problems and progress.

Peter Hames developed Sleepio when he was suffering from insomnia himself. He set up Big Health in 2010, along with Colin Espie, a sleep disorder expert and professor at Oxford University. Hames holds an MA in Experimental Psychology from Oxford.

For the past two years, the company has also been running trials with UK-based healthcare company Bupa, UK-based pharmacy chain Boots, and small-scale pilots with the NHS, the UK’s public national health service.

The company has attracted around $3.8m in funding, in a seed round and a $3.3m series A in April 2014. Its investors include Index Ventures, Forward Partners and angel investor and former Wall Street technology analyst Esther Dyson.

Peter Hames said: “We want to become the world’s first behavioural medicine company of a size and scale that can challenge big pharma. That is the vision. And in the process there is an opportunity to transform healthcare, the way grassroots, primacy healthcare is delivered. Digital medicine – we are the drug. We can directly augment and make more efficient. We can reduce the drug bill. We can actually solve people’s problems, alongside healthcare… It is something that can augment existing care.”

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