Archives

Written by Jonathan Shieber

With echoes of Theranos, Truvian Sciences revives the dream of low-cost, accessible blood tests

A little over a year after the dissolution of the once high-flying blood testing startup Theranos, another startup has raised over $27 million to breathe new life into the vision of bringing low-cost blood tests to point-of-care medical facilities.

Unlike Theranos, Truvian Sciences is not claiming that most of its blood tests do not need clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and is, in fact, raising the money to proceed with a year-long process to refine its technology and submit it to the FDA for approval.

“More and more consumers are refusing to accept the status quo of healthcare and are saying no to expensive tests, inconvenient appointments and little to no access to their own test results,” said Jeff Hawkins, the president and chief executive of Truvian, in a statement. “In parallel, retail pharmacies are rising to fill demand, becoming affordable health access points. By bringing accurate, on-site blood testing to convenient sites, we will give consumers a more seamless experience and enable them to act on the vast medical insights that come with regular blood tests.”

Hawkins, the former vice president and general manager of reproductive and genetic health business at Illumina, is joined by a seasoned executive team of life sciences professionals including Dr. Dena Marrinucci, the former co-founder of Epic Sciences, who serves as the company’s senior vice president of corporate development and is a co-founder of the company.

Image courtesy of Flickr/Mate Marschalko

As part of today’s announcement, the company said it was adding Katherine Atkinson, a former executive at Epic Sciences and Illumina, as its new chief commercial officer, and has brought on the former chairman of the Thermo Fisher Scientific board of directors, Paul Meister, as a new director.

Funding for the company came from GreatPoint Ventures and included DNS Capital,Tao Capital Partners and previous investor Domain Associates.

The ultimate goal, according to Hawkins, is to develop a system that can be installed in labs and can provide accurate results in 20 minutes for a battery of health tests from a small sample of blood for as low as $50. Typically, these tests can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars — depending on the testing facility, says Hawkins.

Using new automation and sensing technologies, Truvian is aiming to combine chemistries, immunoassays and hematology assays into a single device that can perform standard assessment blood tests like lipid panels, metabolic panels, blood cell counts, and tests of thyroid, kidney and liver functions.

The company’s system includes remote monitoring and serviceability, according to a statement from Truvian. Its dry reagent technology allows materials to be stored at room temperature, removing the need for cold chain or refrigerated storage. According to a statement, the company is working to receive a CE Mark in the European Economic Area and submitted to the FDA for 510(k) clearance along with a  “clinical laboratory improvement amendments” waiver application to let the devices be used in a retail setting or doctor’s office.

“We don’t believe that single drop of blood from a finger stick can do everything,” says Hawkins (in opposition to Theranos). “Fundamentally as a company we have built the company with seasoned healthcare leaders.”

As the company brings its testing technology to market, it’s also looking to compliment the diagnostics toolkit with a consumer-facing app that would provide a direct line of communication between the company and the patients receiving the results of its tests.

Truvian’s data will integrate with both Apple and Google’s health apps as well as reside on the company’s own consumer-facing app, according to Hawkins.

“At the end of the day precision medicine is going to come from integrating these data sources,” says Hawkins. “I think if we pull off what we want we should be able to make your routine blood testing far more accessible.”

WHILL brings its autonomous wheelchairs to North American airports

After trials in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Tokyo’s Haneda airport, and Abu Dhabi airport earlier this year, WHILL, the developer of autonomous wheelchairs, is bringing its robotic mobility tech to North America.

At airports in Dallas and Winnipeg, travelers with mobility limitations booked a Whill through Scootaround and test out the company’s products.

Using sensing technologies and automatic brakes, Whill’s wheelchairs detect and avoid obstacles in busy airports, allowing customers to get to their gate faster.

Based in Yokohama, Japan, Whill has raised roughly $80 million for its technology to bring autonomy to personal mobility.

“When traveling, checking in, getting through security and to the gate on time is critical to avoid the hassle and frustration of missing a flight,” said Satoshi Sugie, the founder and chief executive of WHILL, in a statement. “Travelers with reduced mobility usually have to wait longer times for an employee to bring them a wheelchair and be pushed to their gate, reducing their flexibility while traveling. We are now providing an opportunity for travelers with reduced mobility to have a sense of independence as they move about the airport and get from point A to point B as smoothly as possible.”

The company is one of a growing number of startups and established technology companies tackling the massive market of assistive technologies.

The entire population of people with disabilities globally stands at 1 billion and there are 70 million potential customers for assistive technology products across Europe. If demand in human terms isn’t enough to sway would-be entrepreneurs, then perhaps a recent market report indicating that spending on assistive technologies for the elderly and people with disabilities is projected to reach over $26 billion by 2024 will do the trick.

“Accessibility is a priority for Winnipeg Richardson International Airport and travel is now easier for passengers with limited mobility thanks to our partnership with WHILL. We are excited to be one of the first airports in North America to trial WHILL’s autonomous personal mobility devices with our travelers.”

Tuesday Company acquires VoteWithMe as tech for politics looks to consolidate ahead of 2020

Tuesday Company, the organizational toolkit for political advocacy groups and candidates, has taken another step to consolidate its position in the growing market for tech-enabled political outreach with the acquisition of the voting mobilization service VoteWithMe.

Launched in the wake of the 2016 election by three former staffers from Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency, Tuesday is one of the higher profile alumni from the progressive-focused technology accelerator, Higher Ground Labs.

Michael Luciani, Jordan Birnholtz, and Shola Farber, the co-founders of Tuesday Company, met working on mobilization and outreach for the Clinton campaign in 2016. Although Clinton lost, the work that the trio had done to encourage staffers and volunteers to send personalized outreach messages to their social network increased outreach in Michigan and other battleground states.

Now, coupled with VoteWithMe’s technology to encourage people to get to the polls on election day, the company believes it has a more complete platform to organize and mobilize for election day.

While Tuesday’s users were political campaigns, advocacy groups, and their professional staffers, VoteWithMe was a free-to-use app that went directly to voters to encourage them to get friends to voting booths. The company had over 250,000 downloads at the time of its acquisition.

“The opportunity to bring the B2B and B2C aspects together was really really really important,” says Farber, the Tuesday Co. chief operating officer.

“We did a really great job building for organizations and for staff and organizers because our team is so strongly rooted in the organizing practice… and, VoteWithMe, they did a great job of building that consumer experience and our goal is to blend the expertise there,” according to Birnholtz, the company’s chief product officer.

The size of the acquisition was not disclosed, but the all-cash transaction means that Tuesday Company now owns the VoteWithMe tech and the team developing the VoteWithMe product will continue to have a consulting relationship with Tuesday Company.

While national politics dominates the news, advocacy groups of all stripes are seeing the benefits in applying the same tools that well-funded political campaigns brought to bear on the electorate to promote particular issues.

Non-profits represent at least $13 billion of annual business, according to Farber, and Tuesday Company believes its services can provide value to all of them.

“The… political campaign world is really hard to build an innovative, sustainable business in, because it’s relatively small. Folks that don’t figure out how to become broadly relevant won’t survive,” says Birnholtz.

In the wake of the acquisition, investors can expect to see Tuesday Company out on the fundraising trail. The company is backed by Higher Ground Labs and individual investors like Chris Sacca and Reed Hoffman.

While Hoffman’s forays into the intersection of tech and politics have not always been without scandal, he has emerged as one of the most prolific backers of companies looking to apply technology to the political sphere.