Collaboration breathes new life into the weight loss game

Headquartered in Perth, Metabolic Health Solutions (MHS) is on a mission to measure, monitor and manage the world’s metabolic health.

To do so, MHS has developed a simple machine the size of a shoe box that could breathe new life into the management of obesity. ECAL is the world’s first portable metabolic monitor designed for clinical practice. ECAL stands for an Electronic indirect CALorimeter

When describing ECAL, Martin Cebis (Head of Strategy and Innovation at MHS) always begins with a question: “When you lose weight, where does it go?”

This is a concept most people never consider. “The strange thing is, that question was asked of a number of health professionals for a paper published in the British Medical Journal, and 98% could not answer correctly,” Cebis explains.

“There are two ways to lose weight; the first is to metabolise it, and the second is to have it surgically removed. But the reality is that 85% of the mass you lose is breathed out. Much like a car engine burns fuel, your body burns fat and expels the exhaust.”

“ECAL is based on the idea that, by looking at your breath, we can determine whether you’re using fat, or carbohydrates for your energy. ECAL is a smaller scale version of the metabolic exercise testing used by athletes. In five to eight minutes, our breath test breaks down how your body uses the fuel you put into it.”

“Through the test results, we can tell how many calories you use in a day. We can tell what percentage of the energy you are using is from fat or carbohydrates. We can also tell how fit your cells are by looking at the efficiency of the mitochondria within your cells.”

“Many chronic diseases—such as diabetes, heart disease, a fatty liver, and even some cancers—are caused by an inability to burn one’s own body fat. The ECAL allows practitioners to coach their patients on how to burn their own body fat better and fix the underlying metabolic problems with their health. The ECAL test results enable medical practitioners to give the best diet, exercise and metabolic advice for a patient’s personal situation.”

“Your metabolism is as unique as your own fingerprint. So, if you know your numbers—if you know whether you’re burning fat or not—you can improve,” said Cebis.

Collaboration breeds commercial success

MHS has been collaborating with universities and health professionals to further develop and validate ECAL since the technology’s inception. Cebis believes that collaboration has been essential to the company’s success.

“Collaboration is in our DNA, and has been right from the very beginning. Our mission is to change the world to improve the world’s health, to enable everyone to make better informed decisions about their health for a happier and better life. This is a big ask for a small company in Australia. When you’re looking to change the world, you simply cannot do it by yourself; you cannot facilitate meaningful change without collaboration.”

“For this reason, right from the outset, we have engaged with collaborators. We built the first prototype of the ECAL device and knew we needed to have it validated. So we worked with an academic at Curtin University. It was actually their suggestion to have the device certified for medical use.”

In pursuing the development of the device MHS collaborated with clinicians, dieticians and exercise scientists, and is currently working with GPs to embed ECAL into their practices—in much the same ways as blood pressure monitors are found in every doctor’s surgery.

“If you’re not working with, and getting feedback from, your target market, and determining where your tech fits in the broader ecosystem, you’re missing out on being commercially successful,” said Cebis.

An impressive list of global partners

MHS’s list of partners is impressive. In Australia, they have conducted studies together with the University of Sydney and the University of Western Australia, as well as pilot programs with Pharmacy 777 in Perth.   

As a global company, with a subsidiary in the United Kingdom MHS is making strides through partnerships with some of the UK’s leading health institutions. MHS boasts the English Institute of Sport, the NHS, the University of Newcastle, Liverpool John Moores University, the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, and London Medical as partners.

MHS is set to work with the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC). “The work that we’re embarking on with AGMC is focused on taking our product—a device—and turning it into a service that can help people access the best, personalised advice to improve their overall health and wellbeing.” Another collaborator on this project will be Sydney University, who will evaluate and validate further developmental changes in a sports science and health setting.

“We offer a smart medical device, with smart applications for personalised health-related decision making. It is this personalised data that is so essential. For instance, the Heart Foundation has always told us to avoid full fat dairy and eggs for cardiovascular health. However, the Heart Foundation recently turned that advice on its head, stating that full fat dairy is not a health risk, and people can eat eggs without concern, unless they have already had cardiovascular problems. ECAL provides personalised data amid all this uncertainty. We’re giving people access to this data so that they can make better decisions about their own health.”

“Our relationship with AMGC will help us make a greater positive impact on the world’s metabolic health,” said Cebis.