Rapid diagnosis is key in faster treatment, limiting outbreaks and ultimately improve health outcomes. However, existing diagnostic instruments usually requires sophisticated infrastructure, stable electrical power, expensive reagents, long assay times and highly trained personnel, which is not often available in limited resource settings. As a result, point of care testing represents an important advance in patient care that could provide vital healthcare to low resource settings and developing countries, while decreasing cost and wait-time of current diagnostics in developed countries.
The Philadelphia-based startup
Group K Diagnostics
is determined to revolutionize healthcare, and is developing a low-cost, paper-based point of care diagnostic system, small enough to fit in the palm of the hand. Their main product, the MultiDiagnostic, is a microfluidic platform that can be used with minimal to no training in any setting. The test employs three different types of diagnostic technologies: a lateral immunoflow assay for detecting infectious diseases, isothermal amplification for diagnosing sexually transmitted diseases, and molecular diagnostics that can determine the quantity of a substance or protein in multiple conditions.
A finger prick of blood, or a small sample of urine or sputum, is placed onto the test, which reacts with dried reagents to induce a colorimetric change within 30 minutes. A picture is taken of the test and uploaded to the complementary app to have results analyzed in seconds. Although still early, the test could eventually handle up to 40 different types of tests, with their first assay for liver function expected to begin clinical trials during the summer of 2017.
In spite of technological advancements the last decades, developing countries still struggle with numerous health challenges. Laboratories and medical testing facilities are often limited and inaccessible to most patients, resulting in high mortality rates. Group K is developing an innovative platform that is easy to use, transport, store and ship, and do not require highly trained personnel. The rapid, inexpensive, ultraportable medical laboratory could become the future of diagnostic testing, increasing access to reliable diagnostics worldwide, in any setting. The state-of-the-art technology could lower cost and wait-time of current diagnostics in developed countries, while significantly improving health outcomes, enable faster treatment for multiple diseases and tracking of public health data in low-resource settings.
Group K Diagnostics was founded by CEO, Brianna Wronko and has won ‘Best in Show’ and ‘Most Fundable’ at
Mid-Atlantic Bio Angels’
Pitch Life Science Competition
Philadelphia, in addition to reaching the semi-finals of the
President’s Innovation Prize
Wharton Startup Challenge
. The startup also announced that they had joined
, a community for Penn entrepreneurs to help move their startup to the next level, as well as
Spring 2017 Cohort.
A research team at UC San Diego and Rady
Children's Hospital has developed a sensor-filled
glove to accurately measure muscle stiffness.
Credit: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications
Everyone experiences stiff muscles from time to time, whether after a rigorous workout, in cold weather, or after falling asleep in an unusual position. People with cerebral palsy, stroke and multiple sclerosis, however, live with stiff muscles every single day, making everyday tasks such as extending an arm extremely difficult and painful for them. And since there isn’t a foolproof way to objectively rate muscle stiffness, these patients often receive doses of medication that are too low or too high.
Now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of California San Diego and Rady Children’s Hospital has developed new wearable sensors and robotics technology that could be used to accurately measure muscle stiffness during physical exams. “Our goal is to create a system that could augment existing medical procedures by providing a consistent, objective rating,” said Harinath Garudadri, a research scientist at the university’s Qualcomm Institute and the project’s lead investigator.
The level of muscle stiffness, known as spasticity, is typically evaluated using a six-point rating scale called the Modified Ashworth Scale. This scale is the current hospital standard, but it is subjective and often yields ratings that vary from one doctor to another. These ratings help dictate the dose of medication patients are prescribed to manage their spasticity. Inconsistent and inaccurate ratings can either lead to dangerous overdose or ineffective treatment as a result of doses that are too low.
Patient feedback can also skew these ratings, Andrew Skalsky at Rady Children’s Hospital said. “Sometimes, patients think that they aren’t getting enough medicine and end up being put on a higher dose than they should actually be on. That’s thousands of dollars’ worth of medicine that could potentially be saved.”
Garudadri and Skalsky teamed up with electrical engineers and neuroscientists at UC San Diego to develop a glove equipped with sensors that is a more reliable tool and will enable doctors to come up with objective, accurate and consistent number ratings when evaluating spasticity in patients undergoing treatment.
The device is built on a regular sports glove that a doctor can wear while holding and moving a patient’s limb back and forth. Taped onto the palm are more than 300 pressure sensors that measure the amount of force required to move a patient’s limb. A motion sensor taped on the back measures how fast the limb is being moved. The glove is connected to a computer via USB.
Data from all the sensors are transmitted to the computer, where they are integrated, processed and mapped in real time using advanced signal processing algorithms developed by Garudadri’s research group. The computer provides a numerical reading that calculates the actual power required to move a patient’s limb—the more power needed, the more severe the patient’s spasticity.
“We’re instrumenting the doctor instead of the patients,” said Padmaja Jonnalagedda, an electrical engineering graduate student who worked on refining the algorithms. “It’s more convenient for patients to not have to wear all these sensors all over their bodies. It’s also more practical to equip just the doctor when you think about the large patient to doctor ratio, especially in developing nations or rural areas around the world,” she said.
Researchers built another robotic device that they call the “mock patient” to serve as a control to validate their results. The mock patient consists of an artificial arm that can be moved up and down, simulating the flexing motion of an actual patient’s arm. The artificial arm is connected to a rotating disc that can be manually adjusted to different resistance levels, like bike gears. The arm is embedded with its own set of sensors that measure the power needed to overcome the resistance and get it moving. Researchers can set the resistance, know the amount of power required to move the arm and then test whether the glove produces a matching result.
“The mock patient provides a ground truth to verify that what the glove is measuring is indeed a real number,” said Fei Deng, an electrical engineering graduate student who was in charge of building the mock patient.
an initial study
, two physicians trained in spasticity assessment were instructed to test the glove on five different patients with cerebral palsy. Each physician wore the glove while performing various movement tasks, including flexing and extending the patients’ arms and legs. The physicians were asked to provide their own spasticity ratings according to the Modified Ashworth Scale, without knowing the readings from the glove. They also did not know what spasticity ratings the other was giving.
The research team compared the results. They found that only 27 percent of the physicians’ spasticity ratings agreed with each other. By comparison, 64 percent of the measurements made by the glove agreed with the numbers generated by the mock patient. “This number needs to be higher if we want to deploy our system for use in the hospital, but it shows better consistency than existing spasticity assessments,” Garudadri said.
Researchers say the technology could potentially be applied in other procedures where doctors have to rely on touch and feel to evaluate a patient's condition: monitoring spine health, assessing the severity of hip dislocation in infants, rehabilitation therapy, physical therapy, and more.
Our body has an amazing ability to heal itself, and when faced with a wound most of us take for granted that it will heal. However, millions worldwide suffer from chronic wounds, representing a significant burden to patients, healthcare professionals, as well as the healthcare system. In fact, it is estimated that chronic wounds cost over $20 billion in the US alone. The burden is growing rapidly due to an aging population and a sharp rise in the incidence of diabetes and obesity worldwide, and developing new treatments to fight chronic wounds is of high importance.
The Buffalo, New York-based startup
Garwood Medical Devices
is determined to provide more positive clinical outcomes for patients suffering from wounds. Their technology is based on electrical stimulation, an established and proven methodology to increase rate of healing. While current approaches require expensive, heavy equipment in a clinical setting, Garwood is developing a device called EnerAid, that embed electrodes into a bandage, which sends pulses into the skin with the goal of stimulating healing.
, the startup describe an electrical, programmable bandage consisting of a pad disposed for absorbing bodily fluids, and at least two snap button electrodes. Pulsed electric currents are passed across the wound through the snap button electrodes via an RF transceiver, which can be provided with a mobile device. The transceiver offers continuous exchange of information between the bandage and the mobile device, allowing remote, wireless monitoring of the wound. This not only enable clinicians to monitor the treatment efficacy, but allow them to adjust the output electric pulses to personalize treatment and optimize wound healing.
Although there are a few existing techniques that use electrical stimulation to heal chronic wounds, they require expensive and heavy equipment in clinical settings that often limit compliance rates. Garwood is developing an innovative device that eliminate the problems associated with the devices currently in use, and the small and easy-to-use device could play a major role in the fight against chronic wounds. It help doctors monitor wound healing, personalize treatment, while potentially reducing cost of care. At the same time, it could increase access to care and improve compliance rates, potentially leading to better treatment efficacy, outcomes and improved quality of life for millions of patients around the world.
Garwood Medical Devices, formerly known as Enermed, was founded by Gregg Gellman and Wayne Bacon in 2014, and is part of the
economic development program. They were also a semifinalist of the 2016
business-plan competition, and have received $1.48 million in support from the
University at Buffalo’s Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics
(BIG). In 2016, the startup raised $3.6 million in a Series A funding round from private investors, and was in 2017 awarded $40,000 from
University at Buffalo’s New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics
(CMI). In addition to the wound care device, the startup is also developing devices that target bone growth, and a device that can be applied to implants to recognize when infections are starting.
Chemotherapy is able to treat many types of cancer effectively, and has is many ways revolutionized cancer treatment. Current drug dosing calculations are primarily based on height and weight, and adjustments are made depending on how the patient is feeling. However, this approach significantly raise the risk of affecting healthy cells and cause serious side effects. To optimize treatment efficacy and increase the chance of survival, it is important to find a dosage that kills cancer cells without killing the healthy cells.
The Buffalo, New York-based startup
is developing a platform called CytoComm, consisting of implantable biosensors, that allow wireless monitoring of treatment response in chemotherapy patients. The biosensor is injected just below the skin of the patient, and uses living cells to measure levels of biomarkers, proteins and medications in the cells. The data is wirelessly transmitted to the cloud, where it is analyzed and can be securely accessed at any time, from anywhere. This allow doctors to specifically tailor a course of chemotherapy to the patient, eliminating dramatic swings in administration of medication and reduce toxicity.
Drug toxicity remains one of the most significant barriers to delivery of curative doses of chemotherapy. Successful treatment of most tumor types is based on administration of multiple cycles of intensively dosed chemotherapy. Current approaches of adjusting dose intensity based on how the patient is feeling may achieve some reduction in toxicity, but also decrease the therapeutic effect of the treatment. Efferent Labs is developing an innovative and powerful solution that allow doctors to personalize treatment plans based on real-time physiological data, and get alerted if any issue occurs that need immediate intervention. This means that they can react before the patient feel any physical symptoms, lessening or even eliminating side effects. And more importantly, eliminating the need to stop and restart treatment due to side effects could significantly improve treatment outcomes and quality of life for millions worldwide.
Although the startup is focused on targeting chemotherapy dose monitoring, the technology has multiple applications. It can monitor at-risk cardiac patients, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, as well as providing higher quality data and reducing cost in preclinical testing. The technology could even play an interesting role in future clinical trials, determining optimal doses, and potentially improve treatment efficacy.
Efferent Labs, previously known as Raland Therapeutics, was founded in 2012, based on technology developed at the
University of Rochester
. They have been part of the
Z80 Labs Technology Incubator
Critical Path program
, and won $500,000 in the
43North business competition
. In January 2017, the startup announced they had entered an agreement with
for the continued development and validation of the CytoComm system, and they expect to launch human trial in 2019.
This photo shows the 3D-bioprinted cell patch in
comparison to a mouse heart. When the patch was placed
on a live mouse following a simulated heart attack, the
researchers saw significant increase in functional capacity
after just four weeks.
Credit: Patrick O’Leary, University of Minnesota
Heart disease kills more than 360,000 people a year, in the US alone. During a heart attack, a person loses blood flow to the heart muscle, causing cells to die. The heart muscle cells can't be replaced, so the body forms scar tissue, which puts the person at risk for compromised heart function and future heart failure.
Now, a team of biomedical engineering researchers has created a revolutionary 3D-bioprinted patch that can help heal scarred heart tissue after a heart attack. The discovery is a major step forward in treating patients with tissue damage after a heart attack. The research was published in
In the study, researchers from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Alabama-Birmingham used laser-based 3D-bioprinting techniques to incorporate stem cells derived from adult human heart cells on a matrix that began to grow and beat synchronously in a dish in the lab.
When the cell patch was placed on a mouse following a simulated heart attack, the researchers saw significant increase in functional capacity after just four weeks. Since the patch was made from cells and structural proteins native to the heart, it became part of the heart and absorbed into the body, requiring no further surgeries.
"This is a significant step forward in treating the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.," said Brenda Ogle, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. "We feel that we could scale this up to repair hearts of larger animals and possibly even humans within the next several years."
Ogle said that this research is different from previous research in that the patch is modeled after a digital, three-dimensional scan of the structural proteins of native heart tissue. The digital model is made into a physical structure by 3D printing with proteins native to the heart and further integrating cardiac cell types derived from stem cells. Only with 3D printing of this type can we achieve one micron resolution needed to mimic structures of native heart tissue.
"We were quite surprised by how well it worked given the complexity of the heart," Ogle said. "We were encouraged to see that the cells had aligned in the scaffold and showed a continuous wave of electrical signal that moved across the patch."
Ogle said they are already beginning the next step to develop a larger patch that they would test on a pig heart, which is similar in size to a human heart.
Which Greeble is different? Credit: Michael J. Tarr,
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and Department
of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive, irreversible neurodegenerative disease characterized by declining memory, cognition and behavior. AD is the most prevalent form of dementia, affecting over 40 million worldwide, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
The disease is characterized by the presence of beta amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Tau tangles predictably develop first in the perirhinal and entorhinal cortices of the brain, areas that play a role in visual recognition and memory. Now, researchers have developed cognitive tests, using unique graphic characters called Greebles, designed to detect subtle deficiencies in these cognitive functions. The research, published in the
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease
could potentially detect signs of AD decades before symptoms become apparent.
"Right now, by the time we can detect the disease, it would be very difficult to restore function because so much damage has been done to the brain," said Emily Mason from the University of Louisville. "We want to be able to look at really early, really subtle changes that are going on in the brain. One way we can do that is with cognitive testing that is directed at a very specific area of the brain."
Mason identified test subjects age 40-60 who were considered at-risk for AD due to having at least one biological parent diagnosed with the disease. She also tested a control group of individuals in the same age range whose immediate family history did not include AD.
The subjects completed a series of "odd-man-out" tasks in which they were shown sets of four images depicting real-world objects, human faces, scenes and Greebles in which one image was slightly different than the other three. The subjects were asked to identify the image that was different.
The at-risk and control groups performed at similar levels for the objects, faces and scenes. For the Greebles, however, the at-risk group scored lower in their ability to identify differences in the images. Individuals in the at-risk group correctly identified the distinct Greeble 78 percent of the time, whereas the control group correctly identified the odd Greeble 87 percent of the time.
"Most people have never seen a Greeble and Greebles are highly similar, so they are by far the toughest objects to differentiate," Mason said. "What we found is that using this task, we were able to find a significant difference between the at-risk group and the control group. Both groups did get better with practice, but the at-risk group lagged behind the control group throughout the process." Mason would like to see further research to determine whether the individuals who performed poorly on the test actually developed AD in the future.
Brandon Ally, assistant professor of neurological surgery at UofL and senior author of the publication, said the tests with Greebles can provide a cost-effective way to identify individuals who may be in the early stages of AD, as well as a tool for following those individuals over time.
"We are not proposing that the identification of novel objects such as Greebles is a definitive marker of the disease, but when paired with some of the novel biomarkers and a solid clinical history, it may improve our diagnostic acumen in early high-risk individuals," Ally said. "As prevention methods, vaccines or disease modifying drugs become available, markers like novel object detection may help to identify the high priority candidates."
Survival rates for ovarian cancer can be significantly increased if it is detected at an earlier stage. Now, MIT researchers have developed a far more sensitive way to reveal ovarian tumors. In tests in mice, they were able to detect tumors composed of nodules smaller than 2 millimeters in diameter. In humans, that could translate to tumor detection about five months earlier than is possible with existing blood tests.
The new test makes use of a "synthetic biomarker" - a nanoparticle that interacts with tumor proteins to release fragments that can be detected in a patient's urine sample. This kind of test can generate a much clearer signal than natural biomarkers found in very small quantities in the patient's bloodstream. The approach could also be adapted to other cancers, according to the research published in
Nature Biomedical Engineering
The strategy of using synthetic biomarkers to diagnose cancer was first reported in 2012. The method
measures the activity of protein-cutting enzymes called endoproteases, which are made by tumors to help recruit blood vessels and invade surrounding tissues so the cancer can grow and spread.
To detect this sort of enzyme, the researchers designed nanoparticles coated with small protein fragments called peptides that can be cleaved by particular proteases called MMPs. After being injected into a mouse, these particles passively collect at the tumor site. MMPs cleave the peptides to liberate tiny reporter fragments, which are then filtered out by the kidney and concentrated in the urine, where they can be detected using various methods, including a simple paper-based test.
Currently, doctors can look for blood biomarkers produced by ovarian tumors, but these markers don't accumulate in great enough concentrations to be detected until the tumors are about 1 centimeter in diameter, about eight to 10 years after they form. Another diagnostic tool, ultrasound imaging, is also limited to ovarian tumors that are 1 centimeter in diameter or larger. Being able to detect a tumor five months earlier, which the MIT researchers believe their new technique could do, could make a significant difference for some patients.
In this paper, the researchers also showed that they could detect disease proteases in microarrays of many tumor cells taken from different cancer patients. This strategy could eventually help the researchers to determine which peptides to use for different types of cancer, and even for individual patients.
"Every patient's tumor is different, and not every tumor will be amenable to targeting with the same molecule," the researchers said. "This is a tool that will help us to exploit the modularity of the technology and personalize formulations."
The researchers are now further investigating the possibility of using this approach on other cancers, including prostate cancer, where it could be used to distinguish more aggressive tumors from those that grow much more slowly.
More than 5 million people worldwide is affected by inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), a group of autoimmune diseases with the two main conditions being Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD can significantly limit quality of life, causing pain, vomiting, diarrhea and other socially undesired symptoms, even increasing the risk of certain cancers. Currently there is no cure, but treatment often involve either drug therapy or surgery to reduce inflammation and risk of complications. As new technologies become available, researchers are actively exploring new approaches to better treat these painful and debilitating diseases.
The Miami-based regenerative medicine startup
is focused on developing and commercializing novel treatments for IBD, and is determined to provide a first-in-class non-drug, non-surgical treatment option. Their lead product, ExtraCellular Matrix Hydrogel (ECMH), is a hydrogel composed of extracellular matrix derived from porcine tissue. The hydrogel is delivered to the colon using a standard GI procedure, coating and protecting the colon, creating an environment favorable for the body to grow new tissue in place of diseased or damaged. The startup’s first target is ulcerative colitis, to be followed by Crohn’s disease and rectal mucositis.
Extracellular matrix has been commercialized for over a decade and has been safely used in many clinical applications, including esophageal repair, hernia grafts, vaginal slings, and burn and wound dressings. Asana’s novel application of this technology has shown promising results in preclinical proof-of-concept studies, promoting mucosal regeneration, inhibiting inflammation, restoring the epithelial barrier function, and reduce stool blood and weight loss. While traditional therapy attempts to ameliorate clinical symptoms by reducing inflammation, EMCH seems to provide a local scaffold that allow healing. Asana will use the data from the study to support an application for regulatory approval to initiate a human clinical trial, expected to start in 2017.
Currently, there are limited therapeutic options for IBD, and the market is dominated by biologic and drug therapies that can have significant side effects. In addition, 20-30% of patients do not benefit from these therapies and have no alternative except colon removal surgery. Asana Medical’s first-in-class drug-free and surgery-free solution could revolutionize IBD treatment. Although still early, results from studies are very exciting, and could finally provide relief from these physically and psychologically debilitating diseases. It could potentially help thousands around the world, significantly improve quality of life, and even save lives.
Asana Medical was founded in 2013, and has obtained world-wide exclusive license from the
University of Pittsburgh
to develop and use ECMH. The startup has previously won $250,000 at the
Business Idea Competition, and announced in 2016 they had closed a $1.2 million convertible promissory note offering.
Micrograph of the Marburg virus
An antibody treatment successfully protected nonhuman primates against the deadly Marburg and Ravn viruses even when given five days after becoming infected, according to the latest findings of a collaborative team from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., and Vanderbilt University. The findings are now available in
Science Translational Medicine
There are currently no vaccines or drugs approved for human use to protect against the Marburg and Ravn viruses. These two filoviruses, which are in the same virus family as Ebola, cause severe and often lethal disease in people. The average case fatality rate of Marburg virus disease since the first recognized outbreak in 1967 is 80 percent.
Monoclonal antibodies are a technology that is currently in wide use for treating autoimmune diseases and cancers. There are more than 45 monoclonal antibodies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency.
"In this paper, we demonstrated that one monoclonal antibody is able to protect up to 100 percent of Marburg or Ravn virus-infected non-human primates when the antibody treatment is given up to five days following exposure to a lethal amount of the virus," said UTMB's Thomas Geisbert, professor in the department of microbiology and immunology. "These findings extend the growing body of evidence that monoclonal antibodies can provide protection during advanced stages of disease with highly dangerous viruses and could be useful during an epidemic."
The study was conducted in Biosafety Level (BSL)-4 at UTMB's Galveston National Laboratory. BSL-4 is a highly-restricted area where scientists wear positive pressure protective suits and study pathogens that cause severe and often fatal diseases. UTMB has the only functioning BSL-4 laboratory located on an American university campus.
The 2013 to 2016 Ebola virus epidemic highlighted the troubling lack of preventive or treatment options for filoviruses. Some of the therapeutics used to treat those infected with Ebola were developed and tested in the GNL.
"The level of protection observed by Dr. Geisbert's team with this antibody is very impressive. We plan to advance this product towards human safety testing as quickly as possible," said Larry Zeitlin, president of Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc.
According to the WHO, malaria affects half the world’s population, killing nearly a million people annually. The disease cost African economies over $12 billion and is responsible for over 4.2 million disability-adjusted life years in India alone. Although there are effective malaria treatments, without any simple and accurate diagnostics, these cannot be administered for fear of resistance, cost and potential side effects.
The Boston-based startup
Disease Diagnostic Group
is determined to develop rapid, accurate and inexpensive diagnostics tests, and are focusing on malaria. Their flagship product, the Rapid Assessment of Malaria (RAM), uses magneto-optical technology to provide accurate malaria diagnoses from a drop of blood in less than 60 seconds, at 1/10
the cost, and 100x the accuracy of current solutions. The smartphone-sized device is battery-operated and consists of a plastic box, a small circuit board, a few magnets and a laser on the inside. On the outside is an LCD screen, an SD card slot and a plastic disposable cuvette, making the total cost of the reusable device about $100.
The idea is based on the fact that malaria parasites create iron crystals in human blood that are magnetic. A finger prick of blood is put into the cuvette, which is inserted into the box,
and introduced to pulsing magnetic fields. If the parasite is present, the iron crystals will spin in conjunction with the spinning magnets. By shining a laser through the sample, fluctuating light can be viewed on the other side, allowing a quantitative measure of malaria. In field studies, the point-of-care device has shown an impressive 93% to 97% accuracy, demonstrating its huge potential.
Malaria must be recognized promptly in order to treat the patient in time and to prevent further spread of infection. In fact, delay in diagnosis and treatment is the leading cause of death in malaria patients. However, current diagnostics are either unreliable or require the medical infrastructure not available in rural communities in Africa and Asia that is hit the hardest by the disease. Disease Diagnostic Group’s has developed a low-cost, highly accurate point-of-care device that is sensitive enough to diagnose early-stage infections. RAM can detect infections before patients are symptomatic, meaning it finally offer a diagnostic test to those who carry an undetectable infection. This not only means that it has the potential to become the universal method of malaria diagnosis, but could potentially make it an active screening tool.
The innovative device’s low cost, combined with its accuracy and portability, make it perfect for low-resource areas. It allow NGOs and countries to screen and treat entire villages before it can spread. In addition, as patients become symptomatic the treatment costs increase significantly, meaning that RAM could reduce direct costs, limit hospital stays and increase productivity of the economy. Most important, the device could revolutionize global health, increasing access to highly accurate diagnostics for people around the world, enabling early treatment of more people, potentially saving millions of lives and preventing outbreaks.
Disease Diagnostic Group was founded by John Lewandowski and Brian Grimsberg in 2012, and has since won multiple awards and grants. The startup has been a
Semi-finalist, diamond winner of
$100K Entrepreneurship Competition
2016 Dao Ventures Entrepreneurship Competition
NACD’s ‘Dancing With the Start-Ups’
. They have also been part of
, as well as receiving grants from Case Western Reserve University. They are now planning to apply the technology to other diseases, such as schistosomiasis, dengue fever, typhoid and Chagas’ disease.
Researchers have developed an immunotherapy that, when
given to paralyzed mice exhibiting a mouse model of
multiple sclerosis (left), the mice regained the ability to
walk (right). Credit: American Chemical Society
In the ultimate betrayal, one’s own immune system can turn against the protective sheath that envelops neurons in the brain, leaving the body paralyzed. Researchers have developed an experimental treatment that tames the wayward immune system in rodents, returning the power of movement to paralyzed mice. The approach may someday combat autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, in humans.
The researchers will present their work at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
“The problem with current immunotherapies is that they aren’t specific,” says Christopher Jewell, Ph.D. “They act broadly, compromising the entire immune system and putting the patient’s health at risk, rather than focusing on only those immune system cells doing the damage.”
By considering how the immune system works, Jewell’s team at the University of Maryland set their sights on the lymph nodes as a possible target for creating a specific immune response. In autoimmune disease, a body-roaming immune cell recognizes an antigen — a molecule that the cell in this case falsely identifies as a piece of a foreign invader — and brings it to the lymph nodes, where another type of immune cell, the T cell, is then programmed to attack the antigen. For example, in multiple sclerosis, T cells are taught to recognize and attack the myelin sheath. Jewell thought it might be possible to prevent the T cells from learning bad habits by delivering an immune-system modifying agent directly to the lymph nodes.
To build the immunotherapeutic agent, the researchers first constructed a particle from poly(lactide-co-glycolide), an FDA-approved polymer, to serve as a carrier. They infused it with an immune-suppressing agent and the myelin antigen, to teach the T cells that myelin is no enemy.
The researchers injected these particles into the lymph nodes of paralyzed mice exhibiting a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. The particles slowly reprogrammed the environment of the lymph node tissues to generate immune cells that migrated to the brain to stop the attack against myelin. These mice regained the ability to walk, and the effects lasted for the duration of the study, which was about 80 days. The mice were also able to readily respond when foreign molecules were introduced, suggesting that the treatment didn’t compromise normal immune function.
As a next step, the researchers have been testing the idea in other mouse models of autoimmune disease, including transplant models and models of type 1 diabetes — a disease in which the immune system attacks the pancreas. Later this year, the group will team up with clinicians at the University of Maryland Medical School to begin tests in non-human primates, another step closer to investigating this idea as a future human therapy.
On the list of dreaded medical tests, a prostate biopsy probably ranks fairly high. The common procedure requires sticking a needle into the prostate gland to remove tissue for assessment. Thousands of men who undergo the uncomfortable procedure, prompted by a positive PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, ultimately don’t require cancer treatment. Today, scientists report progress toward minimizing unnecessary biopsies: They have identified the molecules likely responsible for the scent of prostate cancer, which could be detected by chemically “sniffing” urine.
The researchers will present their results at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
“The idea for this project started with a study published in 2014 showing that trained canines could detect prostate cancer with greater than 97 percent accuracy,” says Mangilal Agarwal, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator. His team had already been working on a sensor to sniff hypoglycemia on a person’s breath as dogs have also been shown to do. When the prostate cancer study appeared in the Journal of Urology, Agarwal’s lab set out to determine what molecules the dogs might be sensing.
“If dogs can smell prostate cancer, we should be able to, too,” says Amanda Siegel, Ph.D., who is presenting the work at the meeting. Both Agarwal and Siegel are at the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center.
Prostate cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States. In 2016, more than 180,000 new cases were diagnosed, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute. Early detection has been critical to saving the lives of many men with prostate cancer. But diagnosing the disease can be fraught with challenges.
The screening test that doctors use now to determine whether to perform a biopsy assesses PSA levels in a blood sample. The prostate gland normally produces this protein in small amounts. Increased levels, however, can indicate many different conditions besides cancer, including prostate infection. As a result, the test is widely recognized as flawed and often leads to unnecessary biopsies.
“Currently, about 60 percent of men who get a biopsy to test for prostate cancer don’t need to get one,” Siegel says. “We hope our research will help doctors and patients make better-informed decisions about whether to have a biopsy, and to avoid unwarranted procedures.”
To determine which molecules wafting from urine could indicate prostate cancer in a patient, the IUPUI and VA team collected urine samples from 100 men undergoing prostate biopsies. To avoid issues that similar studies have had with sample degradation, Agarwal’s team developed a pre-processing step — adding sodium chloride and neutralizing the pH — to ensure the samples would remain intact during the analysis. Then, they used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to identify the volatile organic compounds floating in the “headspace” above the urine samples. With this method, the researchers pinpointed a small set of molecules that showed up in 90 percent of the samples from patients with prostate cancer but not in samples from those who did not have the disease.
Next, the team plans to conduct large-scale tests at multiple health centers to validate their findings. They have also submitted a proposal for funding to confirm the molecular signature they identified by collaborating with a local dog trainer and comparing their technique’s results to those obtained with a canine nose. Depending on the outcome of these projects, Siegel and Agarwal say their test could become available to patients and doctors within the next few years. In the short-term, urine samples would have to be sent to a lab for analysis, but the researchers say their ultimate goal is to design a sensor that can yield results in a doctor’s office.
IV infusions is one of the most common healthcare procedures, and the accuracy of them is critical to patient safety.
While infusion pumps are useful tool that automate the process, there are many clinical settings where pumps are not a viable option, whether it is in home care, disaster settings, or hospitals in low-resource settings. In these situations, gravity IV infusions are more commonly practiced. However, difficulty of calculating infusion rates and limiting nurse workflow and time create many potential errors and is a safety risk to patients.
The Seattle-based startup
is designing and developing technologies that improve the lives of people around the world, and has developed DripAssist, an IV infusion monitoring device used in conjunction with a gravity feed. The device attaches to the drip chamber of a standard IV drip set and uses an infrared sensor to precisely detect and count drops in real time. This provides an accurate measure of the flow rate and the total volume of the infusion, replacing the need for manual calculations. It also allow clinicians to set a target flow rate, including an optional alert that lets them know when the rate changes or stop, ensuring safety and accuracy without having to wait by the bedside. In addition, the device require minimal training time, needs no calibration, and runs off one AA battery to offer portability for field, hospital and alternate site use.
While infusion technologies such as pumps are available at many bedsides, a majority of infusions done globally are through gravity. However, gravity infusions requires significant time and attention from a skilled technician, and research shows that around 75% of them are performed at rates too high or low for patient safety. Shift Labs’ DripAssist was specifically designed to improve the accuracy of infusions while reducing provider time spent per patient. It doesn’t change the basic nature of gravity infusions, but enable staff to safely care for patients. With multiple barriers to accurate gravity infusions, DripAssist is an easy and affordable step to ensure patients are receiving the prescribed and safe dose of IV fluids and medication. And in addition to enabling the highest quality of care with an affordable price tag, the device saves clinical care time and costs.
Shift Labs was in 2015 part of
and has previously won a silver medal from the
Industrial Designers Society of America IDEA awards
. They have since secured both FDA and CE Mark approval for their DripAssist device, which currently is used in over 15 countries. The startup has also raised over $1.6 million in seed funding, with investors including
Great Oaks Venture Capital
, and has received a $300,000
USAAID Ebola-related federal grant
Vital signs are important indicators of health, and are useful in assessing the general physical health of a person, give clues to possible diseases, and show progress toward recovery. While most of us have had them measured at the doctor’s office, some are dependent on measuring their vital signs far more often than in an annual checkup. They can not only detect early signs of underlying health issues, but for example help doctors monitor treatment efficacy. As a result, we have seen increased focus on developing technologies that help measure vital signs outside the doctor’s office and emergency settings.
The Swiss startup
Leman Micro Devices
is empowering consumers to monitor their health using their smartphone to take medically-accurate measurements of their vital signs. They are developing an inexpensive, miniature sensor, called V-sensor, which is built into the top edge of any smartphone. The technology is based on the well-proven Riva-Rocci technique to measure blood pressure, but instead of using a cuff around the arm, the inside of the index finger is pressed onto the sensor on the smartphone. A complementary, factory-loaded app with a basic game function ensure that the user maintains the correct pressure to enable values of systolic and diastolic pressure to be computed. In addition, the sensor give accurate readings of body temperature, blood oxygen saturation, heart rate and respiration rate. By following simple instructions, all five measurements are performed anywhere at any time in under 60 seconds, without any extra accessories. The data is displayed through the app, stored, and can be shared with your doctor.
The startup is specifically targeting hypertension, one of the world’s most neglected killers, affecting a quarter of the adult population. It is easily treated if you know you’ve got it, either through lifestyle interventions or medications, but current products for home use that measure and monitor blood pressure and other vital signs are often inaccurate and unreliable. Leman Micro Devices is developing unique sensors that accurately and reliably measure five vital signs, including blood pressure, costing less than $5 dollars. It has wide application, and can be used as part of a daily routine for people who want to live a healthy lifestyle, or can be used by patients to closely monitor treatment efficacy and recovery. The platform engage patients, while making the communication with doctors more efficient. Results of measurements can be shared safely, and doctors can quickly intervene if necessary, helping them reallocate resources to where they are needed the most. It can reduce unnecessary doctor visits, hospital admissions and readmissions, potentially reducing healthcare costs.
Most importantly, the technology could revolutionize public health and preventive care. Through smartphones, Leman Micro Devices can deliver a powerful health monitoring-system to all corners of the world, potentially saving millions of lives. It could increase access to care in rural and low-resource settings, improving health outcomes regardless of where you live in the world, democratizing healthcare.
Leman Micro Devices is starting trials to obtain CE, FDA and other medical approvals around the world, and expect to submit the sensor and app for full approval and certification later in 2017. They want to license the technology to major smartphone companies to integrate the sensors into their phones within a few years. The startup has offices in the
EPFL Innovation Park
, and is funded by business angels, venture capital and major players in the smartphone sector, including
Start Angels Network
A study from Dr. Madhukar Trivedi (front)
demonstrated that measuring a depressed
patient's C-reactive protein level can help
doctors prescribe an antidepressant that is
more likely to work.
Credit: UT Southwestern
Doctors can for the first time determine which medication is more likely to help a patient overcome depression, according to research that pushes the medical field beyond what has essentially been a guessing game of prescribing antidepressants. A blood test that measures a certain type of protein level provides an immediate tool for physicians who until now have relied heavily on patient questionnaires to choose a treatment.
“Currently, our selection of depression medications is not any more superior than flipping a coin, and yet that is what we do. Now we have a biological explanation to guide treatment of depression,” said Dr. Trivedi, who led the research at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care.
The study, published in
, demonstrated that measuring a patient’s C-reactive protein (CRP) levels through a simple finger-prick blood test can help doctors prescribe a medication that is more likely to work. Utilizing this test in clinical visits could lead to a significant boost in the success rate of depressed patients who commonly struggle to find effective treatments.
The research measured remission rates of more than 100 depressed patients prescribed either escitalopram alone or escitalopram plus bupropion. Researchers found a strong correlation between CRP levels and which drug regimen improved their symptoms:
For patients whose CRP levels were less than 1 milligram per liter, escitalopram alone was more effective: 57 percent remission rate compared to less than 30 percent on the other drug.
For patients with higher CRP levels, escitalopram plus bupropion was more likely to work: 51 percent remission rate compared to 33 percent on escitalopram alone.
The next step is to conduct larger studies to verify CRP’s role with other antidepressants and find alternative markers where CRP does not prove effective. Dr. Trivedi said these studies could lead to additional useful biological tests that can be used in practice.
Every year, more than 250 million people undergo needle-based procedures, such as biopsies. Unfortunately, 1 in 10 sustain nerve damage while 2 in 10 are re-called for a repeat procedure as a direct result of needle misplacement due to poor visibility and deflection of needle tip. This not only increase patient anxiety, but impose a significant burden on the healthcare system. It is estimated that damages cost healthcare providers over $1 billion annually, and developing new technologies that increase visibility can significantly reduce procedure time and complications.
The UK-based startup
Active Needle Technology
is determined to help doctors perform needle-based procedures with greater accuracy and reliability, and aim to become the gold standard in ultrasound-guided needle interventional procedures. They are developing a handheld device with the aim of providing users with real-time imagery of the procedure. The device induce ultra-frequency pulsation or micro-vibration to standard medical needles, making the needle highly visible in color on standard Doppler ultrasound. The vibration further reduces insertion force, which in turn reduces needle tip deflection.
Poor visibility under ultrasound guidance and deflection of the needle tip are major concerns for clinicians, increasing procedure time and numerous post-operative complications, such as nerve damage and internal bleeding, as well as patient discomfort. Active Needle Technology has developed an innovative medical device that allow clinicians to see a standard medical needle in color during ultrasound-guided needle procedures. The technology represents a significant improvement over currently available technologies and could revolutionize the healthcare system, benefiting patients, clinicians and healthcare providers. It could significantly reduce inaccuracies, the risk of repeat biopsy and time taken on the procedure, saving millions annually in costs, while increasing hospital capacity and reducing patient anxiety and discomfort.
The startup has conducted an independent market survey, involving experts from the EU and USA, to validate the problems and identify the market need for their proposition. They found that only 10% of the participating clinicians could confidently visualize the needle, and all the clinicians showed interest in using the technology either themselves or for colleagues in their practice. This highlight the huge clinical impact of the technology, increasing confidence and providing safer and more efficient procedures.
Active Needle Technology was founded by Ian Quirk and Muhammad Sadiq, and the technology is the outcome of research carried out by Sadiq and Graeme McLeod. The startup was an entrant of
, and has previously been part of
. Through a crowdfunding campaign on
in March 2017, they successfully secured over £350,000, overfunding its £250,000 target, with the lead investor being
Oxford Technology Management
. The startup plans to use the funds raised to progress the device to pre-production standard, testing and into regulatory approval.