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Health trusts swapped patient data for shares in an AI firm. They may have lost millions
Deals leave NHS bodies out of pocket after collapse in value of UK health tech company
Seven NHS hospital trusts in the UK including world-renowned pediatric hospital Great Ormond Street appear to have lost millions of pounds following deals with an AI startup that has since delisted from AIM, part of the London Stock Exchange.
The company, Sensyne Health, is a fledgling AI business trying to discover and develop new medicines.
The NHS hospitals – Great Ormond Street Hospital; Somerset NHS Foundation Trust; University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospital; Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Milton Keynes University Hospital; Royal Wolverhampton NHS Foundation Trust; and Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust – were among those that had signed Strategic Research Agreements (SRA) with the UK startup which involved sharing patient health records in exchange for shares in the company.
The series of deals with healthcare and research organizations were intended to see "de-identified" health records of 12.1 million patients in the UK used to "carry out research with the potential of providing new understanding and treatments for various diseases."
Meanwhile, five other NHS trusts — Cambridge University Hospital, Royal Devon and Exeter, George Eliot Hospital, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, and Wye Valley — struck deals in the last year which remained subject to a Section 593 valuation report by the Company, according to a statement from Cambridge University Hospital in which it said it was set to receive 4,285,714 ordinary shares in Sensyne Health.
We understand that on Cambridge University Hospital's part, some conditions had to be fulfilled before CUH was issued with shares and they weren't ultimately issued.
Sensyne's shares were delisted from AIM in May, after the agreement of a financing deal which saw the introduction of a new management team.
In a statement to The Register, Cambridge University Hospital trust said:
"CUH is at an early stage of a partnership with Sensyne. We have shared no data with Sensyne, and we hold no shares. We are aware that Sensyne is currently going through a restructuring process and we are waiting to see the outcome of this. As always, we will be driven by what we believe is in the best interests of our patients both in the short and long term."
However, at least seven trusts, including Great Ormond Street Hospital, have lost out after striking deals they thought would be worth millions of pounds in exchange for sharing patient data. At the time Sensyne Health was delisted, loan notes were offered at a conversion price of 0.8 pence per share.
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children also appears to have been receiving funding from Sensyne. "Since Sensyne has delisted from AIM, GOSH cannot assign a value to the shares held," it said. "Funding from Sensyne is enabling the development of the hospital's data infrastructure to achieve our ambition to advance paediatric healthcare and research outcomes."
In a statement shared with The Register, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust said that under its deal, announced in 2020, a total of 1,428,571 shares were issued at a notional value 175p per share, or about £2.5 million (c $3 million).
"While the Trust still holds shares in the company, these are no longer traded on the stock market and as a result there is no readily available valuation of the shares," the statement said.
However, the trust said it had not yet shared data under the agreement. "We are meeting with Sensyne Health to discuss the changes to the company, including any requirements under the SRA and the potential restructuring of the company. The trust has not yet sent any data to Sensyne Health and therefore hasn't yet seen the specific benefit of the arrangements," it said.
In 2017, the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospital were set to receive in aggregate £5 million (c $6 million) worth of equity in Sensyne — then called Drayson Technologies — as part of the Series C funding round.
In its 2020-2021 annual report [PDF], Oxford University Hospital valued the equity it held at £7.3 million (c $8.7 million).
An Oxford University Hospital spokesperson refused to say whether it had since sold the shares. In a statement, it said: "We are in regular contact with the new management of Sensyne and they have suggested a review of the current Strategic Research Agreement (SRA) later in the year. We will carefully consider these proposals when we receive them."
The Trust would take over the management of a key software system provided by Sensyne which monitors the vital signs of patients and which it will be using across its hospital sites, the spokesperson said.
In August 2018, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said it would get a £5 million (c $6 million) equity stake in Sensyne. It has not responded to The Register's questions over the current value of its stake.
In October 2020, Milton Keynes University Hospital said it would get 1,428,571 ordinary shares in Sensyne Health at a time when the shares were worth share around 90 pence, making its stake initially worth around £1.3 million (c $1.5 million).
Royal Wolverhampton NHS Foundation Trust was set to receive the same number of shares in an agreement announced in January 2021 when shares were worth 120 pence, giving it a £1.7 million (c $2 million) stake.
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Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust was set to get roughly the same stake in a deal announced in November 2020.
South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust also signed an MoU for a strategic partnership with the AI firm, but did not say shares would change hands.
None of these five trusts have responded to The Register's request for comment.
According to the Health Service Journal, more than 1 million data items have been shared under the agreements during the last two years.
The Journal claimed South Warwickshire FT had received shares worth £6.45 million (c $7.72) in 2018-19 which it had "recognized in full" on its revenue position at the time.
The Register has asked Sensyne Health to comment. ®