Perspectives: Opinions from our network of advisors, investors, operators and analysts on the risks and opportunities they see.
Just two drops of blood is all it takes — that is Sight Diagnostics’ promise to analyze, in a matter of seconds, any anomalies present.
This point-of-care blood diagnostics system, called Olo, was launched in late 2018, and on February 14, 2019, the medical technology firm received a $27.8 million shot in the arm in a round of Series C venture funding. It plans to use the new investment to expand to the North American market, which makes up the majority of the global point-of-care testing market, as a Complete Blood Count (CBC) test is the most commonly performed laboratory test in America.
Founded in 2011 and based in Israel, Sight Diagnostics was initially focused on finding a solution for the quick and accurate detection of malaria. Now it has developed a computer vision and machine learning technology to speed up blood testing at the doctor’s office.
Blood diagnostics, an already expanding and dynamic field, contains further opportunities for growth as its focus widens from diagnosis to monitoring and care management. Growth is also being pushed through the development of sophisticated technology. This potentially enables the cheap provision of mobile healthcare with cellphone-based point-of-care technology in the developing world.
What does blood diagnostics innovation mean for the future market of point-of-care blood testing? In this interview, Karma Research Analyst Paul Banks turned to a competitor in the space, Group K Diagnostics Inc., to find out.
A Philadelphia-based biotechnology firm founded in 2016, Group K produces modular, multi-test medical diagnostics products and recently completed its liver function inpatient FDA clinical trials at Penn Medicine. The company had raised $2 million in Series A funding, which is being used expand its lab and further the work needed to obtain pre-market clearance from the Food and Drug Administration.
Paul Banks: Sight Diagnostics recently completed a $27.8 million Series C fundraising round. Do you see any particular unique opportunities or risks for Sight Diagnostics?
Brianna Wronko, CEO and founder: It’s hard to truly evaluate a company solely on a website and public information, as so much of the startup diagnostics industry is confidential. It’s important to first mention that there is always the risk of not receiving FDA approval, though, in the case of Sight Dx, they have earned [an European] CE mark.
At first glance, it appears as though their traditional tabletop analyzer model may be cost-prohibitive to physicians’ offices and may also bottleneck patient flow (for example, multiple patients will need it at one time). Also, the use of a single device for a single test increases the likelihood of infrequent use and, therefore, mistakes. That said, the team behind Sight Dx is knowledgeable and has significant experience in computer algorithms.
Paul Banks: Is the current marketplace for point-of-care blood diagnostics a race to market? Will the first reasonably effective point-of-care blood testing solution win out?
Russell Van Fossen, director of manufacturing and R&D: The current marketplace is competing to develop the best solution with respect to innovative technologies, manufacturing methods and usability. The most usable diagnostic will likely win out.
Paul Banks: Is there room for multiple players in the blood diagnostics marketplace (for example, separate providers or devices for CBC testing, organ function, other diagnostics), or is a single solution likely to win out?
Dr. Reshma Rajan, diagnostic engineer: Given the traditional diagnostic practices, it is likely that there initially will be room in the market for multiple players. However, if one solution eventually arises with the majority of diagnostics on a single platform, it is likely to win out due to usability and the streamlining of testing processes.
Paul Banks: In general, how do you envision the blood-diagnostics business landscape developing over the next three to five years?
Emilia Lopez-Ona, chief strategy officer: We see point-of-care testing becoming the norm instead of the exception, eventually expanding to home monitoring, continuous monitoring, and patient-initiated monitoring. This will encourage patients to be more engaged in their health. Novel diagnostics and more frequent testing will also allow physicians and other care providers to have a more complete view of their patients’ health.