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Welsh health tech firm set up by pensioner with lung disease goes global

A rapidly-growing Welsh health technology firm started by a patient suffering lung disease aims to help patients and medics around the world through digital technology.

Bond Digital Health was established by entrepreneur Ian Bond, who came up with the idea during retirement.

Mr Bond, a lifelong smoker, had been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in his 60s. He became frustrated as he entered the health system and realised something was missing at consultations with his specialist and GP. He found his treatment was often based on subjective recollections rather than real evidence. It led Ian to create a personalised self-management data record so he could better manage his condition, predict potential exacerbations and present medics with accurate information to support diagnosis and treatment.

Bond Digital Health co-founder Dave Taylor built the technology to manage this and it is that technology which has become the cornerstone of the business, based at the Life Sciences Hub Wales in Cardiff.

The pair have been given support and advice from Welsh Government’s business development scheme, the Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP) which provides help and support for firms wanting to expand.

It quickly became clear that the app and digital platform – which Mr Bond and Mr Taylor had initially intended for use for patients like him – could be adapted for use in one of the fastest growing areas of medicine.

Bond’s digital cloud technology is now an essential component in the growing field of lateral-flow diagnostics – the home pregnancy test the best-known example of this – helping not only in the patient-doctor relationship, but also in providing quantitative data for researchers.

Mr Bond said he could never have envisaged his retirement being taken over by entrepreneurship – but at the age of 75, he has no plans of giving up.

He had previously worked in marketing before setting up his business in 2016.

Mr Bond said:

“I retired when I was about 60, I did give up smoking and thought I would go off and do interesting things like learning to fly or quantum mechanics!

“But I realised that not only could I do something good for myself but I could help a lot of other people and that became my motivation.

“There is no way I could walk away from it, it’s too much fun and it’s really exciting.”

Lateral-flow diagnostics is a massive area for growth in the global health sector, and is expected to be worth US$8.7bn by 2023 from an estimated US$6bn in 2018.

It is growing in importance because it is a fast, cost-effective and mobile way of diagnosing a growing range of diseases and conditions.

The technology developed by Bond Digital Health – which has eight full-time staff and three part-time and which is set to double this financial year – can be used in the diagnosis and research of diseases around the world and the company is preparing for a £1M investment round to finance its expansion.

“Lateral-flow technology is an extremely important tool in diagnosing many conditions in both humans and animals, and we are now a world market leader in providing the digital glue that makes it work efficiently,” said Mr Bond.

“Working with AGP has been worth its weight in gold in helping us get there.

“When you are a CEO of a small start-up company, you need someone to tell you that you are wrong, because there’s nobody else to.

“In addition to that honest advice, we could call on the resources of AGP which was extremely helpful in terms of advice on financial management, marketing and social media.

“AGP gave us that comfort that we could pick up the phone and talk to someone when we needed to. I don’t think we could have achieved what we have without AGP.”

David Notley of the Excelerator Consortium, which delivers the Accelerated Growth Programme, said:

“Ian Bond is proof that entrepreneurship is not and should not be bounded by things like age or gender. If someone has a great business idea then they can make it work.

“The support and advice we’ve provided Bond Digital Health has helped the company establish itself and navigate its way into unchartered international markets.

“It has an exciting future ahead and is a crucial component in Wales’ growing and vibrant life sciences sector.”