Mechanical Engineering


Meet the duo behind biotech startup Enteromics

13 December 2020

Pheobe Heseltine and Mariam Elbary are developing "smart pills" to monitor gut health with a Smart Grant from Innovate UK

Phoebe Heseltine and Mariam Elbary

Meet the dynamic duo behind the biotech startup Enteromics, UCL PhD researchers Mariam Elgabry (right) and Phoebe Heseltine (left).

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Mariam (UCL Security and Crime Science) and Phoebe (UCL Mechanical Engineering) explain how they are combining their expertise in cyber-biosecurity and biomaterials respectively, to innovate in healthcare.

In parallel with demanding PhD research, the pair have won a grant from Innovate UK to develop their Gutlab project to monitor gut microbiome in the treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disorder (IBD).

Phoebe: Enteromics is an innovation-led start-up that Mariam and I co-founded last year and we’re focusing on hacking the gut microbiome for better health.

Mariam: So Enteromics is changing the way that we monitor gut health by building GutlabTM, which is a platform that comprises of an Internet of Medical Things, or a smart pill and an application and once swallowed, that can sense data remotely and can provide you with AI-powered medical insights.

Phoebe: Anybody who’s taking this pill can actually look at their smartphone and see information about their gut health and the chronic condition that it’s monitoring.

Mariam and I met at the launch event of Conception X, which is a deep tech accelerator for PhD students, and we both had an idea about a medical device. So my idea was to have an ingestible device that can be swallowed that tracks your gut health, and I was really looking for somebody with IOT experience and who understood the data analytics side to actually make this device something that would be used today and fitting in with today’s smart technology.

Mariam: So we’ve secured an Innovate UK Smart Grant. This project will allow us to reach our minimum viable product for the specific application of inflammatory bowel disease.

What is the gut microbiome?

Phoebe: The gut microbiome are the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit our intestinal tract, so they are responsible for fiber digestion, vitamin production and nutrient absorption and actually affect our health and disease states. So in the case of inflammatory bowel disease, that’s the disease that we’re looking at, we know that the microbiome actually changes in response to the disease progression and the treatment that’s offered to the patient. So what we’re doing is we’re trying to access that GI tract information to see how we can change and influence the disease.

Mariam: Enteromics has the potential to fundamentally change the way we practice medicine. As it gives us access to a previously unreachable location in our body and allow us to understand our health like we’ve never been able to before.

Phoebe: This is an early-stage project and we’re really grateful to have the support of our PhD supervisors who are also our partners for this award and me, that’s Professor Mohan Edirisinghe and for Mariam, that’s Dr Darren Nesbeth.

Mariam: So we’re very grateful for Innovate UK who have given us the opportunity to take this forward.