Diagnostic test results, including blood tests, inform of over 70 percent of medical decisions, and 50 percent of the information in the average medical chart comes from laboratory data. Although a blood test appear simple and straight forward, the actual diagnostic process is quite complex. It requires specialized equipment and technicians, and samples need to be prepared and results verified, requiring a trained lab professional. The complex process can delay medical decisions, and developing point-of-care diagnostics could reduce health care costs, make care more convenient and improve patient outcomes.
The Cleveland, Ohio-based startup Apollo Medical Devices is developing a blood testing technology that give results in five minutes from a single drop of blood. The test measures glucose levels and electrolyte levels, and the startup hopes to expand its technology to over 25 additional tests. The proprietary platform consists of a portable analyzer, a handheld device with a touchscreen, and a disposable microfluidic-based sensor cartridge. The single drop of blood is placed directly onto the cartridge, and is ready for analysis in seconds. The cartridge is then placed into the analyzer and results are ready within five minutes, eliminating the need for expensive equipment and complicated protocols.
The startup and their innovative technology is in a unique position and could potentially transform healthcare. As we are experiencing an aging population, more chronic diseases and rising healthcare costs, the technology could improve efficacy and cost-effectiveness while reducing the overall burden of disease. The portable analyzer and its fast return of results lead to more timely treatment, giving it a huge advantage in emergency care. Not to mention its potential in primary care settings where it not only provide a diagnosis, but also could decide on drug dosage, assess efficacy of treatment, and monitor compliance. It not only enable faster decision-making while lowering healthcare costs, but lead to better patient care and outcomes.
The system is specifically designed to minimize the training required for use, and could therefore play a major part in increasing access to care. Existing diagnostics usually requires sophisticated infrastructure, expensive reagents, long assay times and highly trained personnel, which is not often available in limited resource settings. The inability to develop diagnostics tools that overcome these challenges has had catastrophic consequences on the response to both communicable and non-communicable diseases in developing countries. This highlight the technology’s huge potential in both public health, and preventing outbreaks and epidemics.
Apollo Medical Devices’ vision and technology has not gone unnoticed and they have received support from a number of organizations. Both JumpStart and Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund have invested in the startup, and they have received a grant of $100k from the state of Ohio Third Frontier and $125k from GLIDE’s innovation fund. In addition, the startup was awarded a $125k loan from Cuyahoga county through their North Coast Opportunity Fund.
The startup was founded by Punkaj Ahuja after working on the technology as a biomedical engineering PhD student at Case Western Reserve University. The university has also allowed the startup to use their makerspace Think[Box]. Today they have seven full time employees and are renting lab space at BioEnterprise where they now are able to produce hundreds of disposable cartridges per day. So far, they have done proof-of-concept studies with excellent results, and are expecting to begin clinical trials in the spring 2017.