UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


UCL PhD students awarded £150k for gut health 'smart pill’

4 December 2020

Enteromics is creating an ingestible smart pill to help manage chronic conditions like IBD

Phoebe Heseltine and Mariam Elgabry

(Pictured above: Phoebe Heseltine, left, and Mariam Elgabry, Founders of Enteromics)

Enteromics is a health-tech start-up founded in 2019 by UCL PhD students Phoebe Heseltine (UCL Mechanical Engineering) and Mariam Elgabry (UCL Security and Crime Science). 

In partnership with UCL Mechanical Engineering and UCL Biochemical Engineering, Enteromics, the company has been awarded £150k by Innovate UK. 

Enteromics is developing a platform called GutLab™ that allows remote health monitoring via the gut microbiome. They are developing a range of smart pills to monitor and detect chronic diseases, beginning with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), before hopefully expanding into other conditions. 

Photo visualisation of GutLab platform on mobile phone

What is the gut microbiome? 

Microbiome is a collective term for the microbes that live in our body. The gut microbiome is crucial to health – it affects our metabolism, immune system and even brain function. The food we eat, medications, exercise, sleep and stress all affect the gut microbiome and can cause it to become disrupted, leading to many diseases such as obesity, gut problems and even Alzheimer's. 

What’s the challenge and what is the Enteromics team doing? 

Even though the gut microbiome is so important, there are limited ways we can test it. The most common method is faecal sampling, which can be inconvenient, expensive and slow to provide results.  

IBD is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that can cause stomach pain, diarrhoea, weight loss and fatigue. Patients can experience painful flare-ups and may need to undergo invasive medical exams or even surgery. The UK has the second-highest rate of IBD in the world, costing the NHS £720 million a year.  

Enteromics is providing an ingestible smart sensing pill that tracks the bacteria in the gut and provides feedback to a smartphone app, in real-time. With this technology, people with IBD will be able to monitor their condition in a more medically safe and convenient way.  

Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic relapsing gut condition with no cure that causes significant distress to patients and reduces quality of life. With GutLab™, we aim to serve a patient population that home microbiome tests and endoscopic procedures can’t, by providing a routine monitoring solution that is simple, safe and easy to use. We are grateful to Innovate UK for the opportunity to develop our product and we are delighted to have the expertise our project partners - Professor Mohan Edirisinghe and Darren Nesbeth from UCL Engineering on board.

- Phoebe Heseltine, Co-Founder and Director of Enteromics

We have the potential to fundamentally change the way we practice medicine. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unintended consequences of severe delays in diagnosis and treatment of various gastrointestinal diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – leaving 8 million chronic care patients untreated in the UK alone. We are proud to be working to better control a condition which affects the lives of so many patients worldwide. In collaboration with our expert partners at the UCL, the funding provided from this grant will allow us to take the first step to resolving this situation through our precision gut microbiome monitoring technology.

- Mariam Elgabry, Co-Founder and Director of Enteromics

The team will use the Innovate UK ‘Smart Grant’ award to build upon their initial research and bring their technology closer to market. Enteromics hopes to first launch in the UK, then North America – the fastest growing market for ingestible sensors and microbiome products.  

More information 

Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation.