Electronics giant Philips invests in monitoring and information platform for expecting mothers

The international electronics and medical device giant Philips is pushing further into pregnancy and childcare services by leading a $6 million early stage investment in the pregnancy-focused app-developer and device manufacturer, Babyscripts.  The Washington, DC-based company works with hospitals and healthcare providers to distribute a medical device and mobile app for monitoring blood pressure and providing […]

The international electronics and medical device giant Philips is pushing further into pregnancy and childcare services by leading a $6 million early stage investment in the pregnancy-focused app-developer and device manufacturer, Babyscripts. 

The Washington, DC-based company works with hospitals and healthcare providers to distribute a medical device and mobile app for monitoring blood pressure and providing neonatal care information for expecting mothers.

According to Babyscripts co-founder and President Juan Pablo Segura, typical neonatal care follows a standard script with women seeing an obstetrician typically fourteen times over the course of the pregnancy. And most of those visits are just to monitor a woman’s weight and blood pressure during pregnancy.

Babyscripts can adjust the frequency and scope of treatment required through its blood pressure and pregnancy monitoring application, Segura said.

Using remote-monitoring devices to monitor blood pressure and weight, the company claims it can tailor treatments to risk profiles and allow healthcare providers to manage up to 90% of pregnancies virtually.

The company is already being used to monitor 160,000 pregnancies across 20 states. In the U.S. there are roughly 4 million pregnancies per year.

“This funding will help us continue to acquire market share while also allowing us to focus on building even more products for patients in pregnancy,” says Babyscripts CEO and Co-founder, Anish Sebastian.

As part of the investment, Babyscripts will partner with the mother and baby unit of Philips healthcare to build more virtual care obstetric and pediatric services.

Babyscripts historically has focused all of its efforts in creating a trusted channel between the patient and OBGYN throughout the pregnancy,” said Segura, in a statement. “It’s only natural that we begin to expand that relationship through postpartum care and early stage pediatrics. On average, our patients use our app and remote monitoring service 6 times a week.”

This wristband detects an opiate overdose

A project by students at Carnegie Mellon could save lives. Called the HopeBand, the wristband senses low blood oxygen levels and sends a text message and sounds an alarm if danger is imminent. “Imagine having a friend who is always watching for signs of overdose; someone who understands your usage pattern and knows when to […]

A project by students at Carnegie Mellon could save lives. Called the HopeBand, the wristband senses low blood oxygen levels and sends a text message and sounds an alarm if danger is imminent.

“Imagine having a friend who is always watching for signs of overdose; someone who understands your usage pattern and knows when to contact [someone] for help and make sure you get help,” student Rashmi Kalkunte told IEEE. “That’s what the HopeBand is designed to do.”

The team won third place in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Opioid Challenge at the Health 2.0 conference in September and they are planning to send the band to a needle exchange program in Pittsburgh. They hope to sell it for less than $20.

Given the more than 72,000 overdose deaths in America this year a device like this could definitely keep folks a little safer.

Companies tracking mutations in cancer cells can provide a key to unlocking better therapies

Investors and entrepreneurs are beginning to bring new diagnostic tools to market that promise better results for cancer patients through the identification of mutations in cancer cells that can create more targeted therapies. Earlier this month, research using technology developed by the startup Mission Bio helped identify cellular mutations in acute myeloid leukemia cancer cells that could […]

Investors and entrepreneurs are beginning to bring new diagnostic tools to market that promise better results for cancer patients through the identification of mutations in cancer cells that can create more targeted therapies.

Earlier this month, research using technology developed by the startup Mission Bio helped identify cellular mutations in acute myeloid leukemia cancer cells that could be indicators of potential relapse or recurrence of the cancer after therapy.

In the study, which was presented at the American Society for Hematology’s recent conference, a team from the MD Anderson cancer research institute in Texas, including Dr. Koishi Takahashi, sequenced more than 500,000 cells across 70 patients using Mission Bio’s “Tapestri” platform.

“These results demonstrate the power of analyzing heterogeneity for the study and treatment of cancer patients,” said Dr. Takahashi, in a statement. “Tapestri’s ability to precisely identify cancer subclones throughout treatment and disease progression brings us closer to delivering on the promise of precision medicine.”

Increasingly, researchers are coming to the conclusion that genetic mutations of individual cancer cells can lead to the persistence of minimal residual disease and therapy resistance. Other leading cancer centers at  universities including the University of California, San Francisco, University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford University have also released papers on the viability of Mission Bio’s approach.

That research may help explain why Mission Bio was able to land $30 million in new funding from a slew of investors including Agilent Technologies, Cota Capital, LabCorp, LAM Capital, and Mayfield.

The company said it will use the cash to increase the work it’s doing in blood cancer research while expanding its business into the analysis of CRISPR applications and potential mutations that can occur through the use of that gene editing technology.

“Cancer will kill 10 million people this year alone. We can beat cancer with more effective, dynamic therapies, but we first need to precisely understand its biology, starting with the varying genetic composition of each and every cancerous cell,” explained Charlie Silver, CEO of Mission Bio. “Minimal residual disease is a major cause of cancer relapse; overlooking even one cell could put a life at risk. With the Tapestri Platform, we can track every cell, every mutation, to better guide treatments and save patient lives.”

That mutation tracking is also what brought Agilent on board as the company takes its initial steps into monitoring the intended and unintended consequences of using CRISPR technology to edit genes.

“The Tapestri platform’s unique quality control capabilities are strenghtening our CRISPR R&D programs,” remarked Darlene Solomon, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Agilent Technologies. “Agilent’s commitment to innovation and precision medicine are well matched with Mission Bio’s Tapestri platform as it has the potential to improve patient outcomes in the fight against cancer — and that’s the most meaningful benchmark of all.”

Mission Bio isn’t the only company making strides when it comes to cancer treatments and new targeted monitoring technologies.

Cambridge Cancer Genomics is another startup company working on bringing new technologies to blood sample analysis that can better identify cancer and target personalized therapies for the disease.

The company has raised $4.5 million to build what it’s calling one of the largest datasets of longitudinal cancer in the world

Like Mission Bio, CCG is hoping that its data can help map the ways cancer cells evolve in response to treatments and suggest new therapies to doctors.

Financing the companies rollout are investors including AME Cloud Ventures, Refactor Capital, Romulus Capital and Y Combinator. Additional capital has come from the company’s early partner, the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center in Bakersfield, Calif. who invested not only cash but provided 4,000 clinical samples for CCG to analyze and develop their monitoring and predictive solution.

Both companies are trying to tackle the “one-size-fits-all” approach to cancer therapy that exists for most patients around the world.

First line cancer treatment fails two-thirds of all patients and the realization that treatments aren’t working can take up to six months to recognize. Like Mission Bio, CCG is also working to identify whether a patient is at risk of relapse — something the company claims it can do 7 months earlier than standard practices.

“When you drill down into the DNA changes behind cancer, you quickly find that no two tumors are the same. To apply cancer therapies more successfully to any given tumor, we need a deeper understanding of what exactly has gone wrong in each case at a molecular level,” says Dr. Harry Clifford, a co-founder and chief technology officer at Cambridge Cancer Genomics. “This starts with effective tools to capture that information. The approaches we’re developing at CCG will have widespread applications, from identifying targets for new therapy development, to deciding which personalized approach is best for a given patient.”

That echoes the thinking of companies like Mission Bio, and like Mission Bio, CCG has published results from recent trials of its technology.

The company applied its predictive technology to the outcome of different therapies in over 2,500 breast cancer patients and used its machine learning technology to identify the same kind of variants that Mission Bio is working to call out in an attempt to understand when and how relapses can occur.

 

1) Interlacing Personal and Reference Genomes for Machine Learning Disease-Variant Detection 

https://arxiv.org/abs/1811.11674

Summary: Differences in our DNA underlie many aspects of human health; from rare genetic diseases to cancer. In this paper, we build a new class of software for detecting DNA variants. Based on the same principles behind facial recognition, our technique can identify cancer variants with unparalleled accuracy. We hope that releasing this software for non-commercial use will lead to more successful targeted therapy and personalized cancer medicine. 

China’s Infervision is helping 280 hospitals worldwide detect cancers from images

Until recently, humans have relied on the trained eyes of doctors to diagnose diseases from medical images. Beijing-based Infervision is among a handful of artificial intelligence startups around the world racing to improve medical imaging analysis through deep learning, the same technology that powers face recognition and autonomous driving. The startup, which has to date raised $70 […]

Until recently, humans have relied on the trained eyes of doctors to diagnose diseases from medical images.

Beijing-based Infervision is among a handful of artificial intelligence startups around the world racing to improve medical imaging analysis through deep learning, the same technology that powers face recognition and autonomous driving.

The startup, which has to date raised $70 million from leading investors like Sequoia Capital China, began by picking out cancerous lung cells, a prevalent cause of death in China. At the Radiological Society of North America’s annual conference in Chicago this week, the three-year-old company announced extending its computer vision prowess to other chest-related conditions like cardiac calcification.

“By adding more scenarios under which our AI works, we are able to offer more help to doctors,” Chen Kuan, founder and chief executive officer of Infervision, told TechCrunch. While a doctor can spot dozens of diseases from one single image scan, AI needs to be taught how to identify multiple target objects in one go.

But Chen says machines already outstrip humans in other aspects. For one, they are much faster readers. It normally takes doctors 15 to 20 minutes to scrutinize one image, whereas Infervision’s AI can process the visuals and put together a report under 30 seconds.

AI also addresses the longstanding issue of misdiagnosis. Chinese clinical newspaper Medical Weekly reported that doctors with less than five years’ experience only got their answers right 44 percent of the time when diagnosing black lung, a disease common among coal miners. And research from Zhejiang University that examined autopsies between 1950 to 2009 found that the total clinical misdiagnosis rate averaged 46 percent.

“Doctors work long hours and are constantly under tremendous stress, which can lead to errors,” suggested Chen.

The founder claimed that his company is able to improve the accuracy rate by 20 percent. AI can also fill in for doctors in remote hinterlands where healthcare provision falls short, which is often the case in China.

Winning the first client

infervision medical imaging

A report on bone fractures produced by Infervision’s medical imaging tool

Like any deep learning company, Infervision needs to keep training its algorithms with data from varied sources. As of this week, the startup is working with 280 hospitals — among which 20 are outside of China — and steadily adding a dozen new partners weekly. It also claims that 70 percent of China’s top-tier hospitals use its lung-specific AI tool.

But the firm has had a rough start.

Chen, a native of Shenzhen in south China, founded Infervision after dropping out of his doctoral program at the University of Chicago where he studied under Nobel-winning economist James Heckman. For the first six months of his entrepreneurial journey, Chen knocked on the doors of 40 hospitals across China — to no avail.

“Medical AI was still a novelty then. Hospitals are by nature conservative because they have to protect patients, which make them reluctant to partner with outsiders,” Chen recalled.

Eventually, Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital gave Infervision a shot. Chen with his two founding members got hold of a small batch of image data, moved into a tiny apartment next to the hospital, and got the company underway.

“We observed how doctors work, explained to them how AI works, listened to their complaints, and iterated our product,” said Chen. Infervision’s product proved adept, and its name soon gathered steam among more healthcare professionals.

“Hospitals are risk-averse, but as soon as one of them likes us, it goes out to spread the word and other hospitals will soon find us. The medical industry is very tight-knit,” the founder said.

It also helps that AI has evolved from a fringe invention to a norm in healthcare over the past few years, and hospitals start actively seeking help from tech startups.

Infervision has stumbled in its foreign markets as well. In the U.S., for example, Infervision is restricted to visiting doctors only upon appointments, which slows product iteration.

Chen also admitted that many western hospitals did not trust that a Chinese startup could provide state-of-the-art technology. But they welcomed Infervision in as soon as they found out what it’s able to achieve, which is in part thanks to its data treasure — up to 26,000 images a day.

“Regardless of their technological capability, Chinese startups are blessed with access to mountains of data that no startups elsewhere in the world could match. That’s an immediate advantage,” said Chen.

There’s no lack of rivalry in China’s massive medical industry. Yitu, a pivotal player that also applies its AI to surveillance and fintech, unveiled a cancer detection tool at the Chicago radiological conference this week.

Infervision, which generates revenues by charging fees for its AI solution as a service, says that down the road, it will prioritize product development for conditions that incur higher social costs, such as cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases.

Keeps parent company Thirty Madison raises $15 million to fight male pattern baldness

Men’s hair loss brand Keeps has raised $15 million in a round co-led by Maveron and Northzone.

Thirty Madison, the healthcare startup behind the hair loss brand Keeps, has brought in a $15.25 million Series A co-led by Maveron and Northzone.

The company provides a subscription-based online marketplace for men’s hair loss prevention medications Finasteride and Minoxidil. Keeps sells these drugs direct-to-consumer, working with manufacturers to keep the costs low.

On Keeps, a subscription of Minoxidil, an over-the-counter topical treatment often referred to as Rogaine, is $10 monthly. A subscription to Finasteride, a prescription drug taken daily, is $25 per month.

It’s an end-to-end platform that is the single best place for guys who are looking to keep their hair,” Thirty Madison co-founder Steven Gutentag told TechCrunch.

Keeps is tapping into a big market. According to the American Hair Loss Association, two-thirds of American men experience some hair loss by the age of 35.

You may have heard of Hims, a venture-backed men’s healthcare company that similarly sells subscriptions to hair loss treatments, as well as oral care, skin care and treatments for erectile dysfunction. Keeps is its smaller competitor. For now, the company is focused solely on haircare, though with the new funds, Thirty Madison plans to launch Cove, a sister brand to Keeps that will provide treatments to migraine sufferers.

The company was founded last year by Gutentag and Demetri Karagas with a plan to develop several digital healthcare brands under the Thirty Madison umbrella.

“Going through this process myself of starting to experience hair loss, I was not sure where to turn,” Gutentag said. “I went online and looked up ‘why am I losing my hair,’ and if you search on Google, really for any medical condition, you usually walk away thinking you’re going to die … I was so fortunate that I got access to this high-quality specialist who could help me with my problem and I was in the position to afford those treatments but most people don’t get that access.”

Keeps also provide digital access to a network of doctors at a cost of roughly $30 per visit.

TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos wrote last year that “it’s never been a better time to be a man who privately suffers from erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or hair loss” because of advances and investments in telemedicine. Since then, even more money has been funneled into the space.

Hims has raised nearly $100 million to date and is rumored to be working on a line of women’s products. Roman, a cloud pharmacy for erectile dysfunction, raised an $88 million Series A last month and is launching a “quit smoking kit.” And Lemonaid Health, which also provides prescriptions to erectile dysfunction medications and more, secured $11 million last year.

Greycroft, Steadfast Venture Capital, First Round, Entrepreneurs Roundtable, HillCour and Two River also participated in Thirty Madison’s fundraise, which brings its total raised to date to $22.75 million.

Keeps parent company Thirty Madison raises $15 million to fight male pattern baldness

Men’s hair loss brand Keeps has raised $15 million in a round co-led by Maveron and Northzone.

Thirty Madison, the healthcare startup behind the hair loss brand Keeps, has brought in a $15.25 million Series A co-led by Maveron and Northzone.

The company provides a subscription-based online marketplace for men’s hair loss prevention medications Finasteride and Minoxidil. Keeps sells these drugs direct-to-consumer, working with manufacturers to keep the costs low.

On Keeps, a subscription of Minoxidil, an over-the-counter topical treatment often referred to as Rogaine, is $10 monthly. A subscription to Finasteride, a prescription drug taken daily, is $25 per month.

It’s an end-to-end platform that is the single best place for guys who are looking to keep their hair,” Thirty Madison co-founder Steven Gutentag told TechCrunch.

Keeps is tapping into a big market. According to the American Hair Loss Association, two-thirds of American men experience some hair loss by the age of 35.

You may have heard of Hims, a venture-backed men’s healthcare company that similarly sells subscriptions to hair loss treatments, as well as oral care, skin care and treatments for erectile dysfunction. Keeps is its smaller competitor. For now, the company is focused solely on haircare, though with the new funds, Thirty Madison plans to launch Cove, a sister brand to Keeps that will provide treatments to migraine sufferers.

The company was founded last year by Gutentag and Demetri Karagas with a plan to develop several digital healthcare brands under the Thirty Madison umbrella.

“Going through this process myself of starting to experience hair loss, I was not sure where to turn,” Gutentag said. “I went online and looked up ‘why am I losing my hair,’ and if you search on Google, really for any medical condition, you usually walk away thinking you’re going to die … I was so fortunate that I got access to this high-quality specialist who could help me with my problem and I was in the position to afford those treatments but most people don’t get that access.”

Keeps also provide digital access to a network of doctors at a cost of roughly $30 per visit.

TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos wrote last year that “it’s never been a better time to be a man who privately suffers from erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or hair loss” because of advances and investments in telemedicine. Since then, even more money has been funneled into the space.

Hims has raised nearly $100 million to date and is rumored to be working on a line of women’s products. Roman, a cloud pharmacy for erectile dysfunction, raised an $88 million Series A last month and is launching a “quit smoking kit.” And Lemonaid Health, which also provides prescriptions to erectile dysfunction medications and more, secured $11 million last year.

Greycroft, Steadfast Venture Capital, First Round, Entrepreneurs Roundtable, HillCour and Two River also participated in Thirty Madison’s fundraise, which brings its total raised to date to $22.75 million.

Nurse-1-1 lets you text a nurse for health info, learn if a doctor is needed

A new startup wants to help you figure out if your medical issue requires a visit to a doctor’s office, the ER, or can be handled over a telemedicine service, while also providing you with some basic information about the problem and its severity. Nurse-1-1, the latest company from former RunKeeper co-founder Michael Sheeley, is […]

A new startup wants to help you figure out if your medical issue requires a visit to a doctor’s office, the ER, or can be handled over a telemedicine service, while also providing you with some basic information about the problem and its severity. Nurse-1-1, the latest company from former RunKeeper co-founder Michael Sheeley, is launching today to offer a quick, affordable way to get answers from physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses via chat.

Sheeley, a serial entrepreneur, sold his shopping app Kickscout to Mobee in 2014, and later worked on a food ordering service before starting Nurse-1-1 around two years ago.

The idea for the startup emerged from an experience he had after the birth of his daughter.

“My daughter was born with a congenital heart defect,” Sheeley explains – a health crisis that involved her having open heart surgery, he tells us. “I was sitting next to her for a week while she was recovering in the hospital….and I was Google searching everything and anything I could to learn about her condition,” he says.

But the more he read, the more confused he became, as it can be hard to parse health information found online.

He ended up connecting with his wife’s friend, a nurse practitioner, over SMS text messaging, in order to ask some of the questions that he hadn’t asked the doctors at the hospital.

“I was having these conversations with my friend, Kim, and I didn’t have to worry about it being a treatment; I didn’t have to worry about it being a prescription; and I didn’t have to worry about interrupting her busy day,” Sheeley says.

That nurse practitioner, Kim Liner, now works at Nurse-1-1 along with Meri Clare, RN; an ER doctor from Boston Children’s Hospital, Igor Shumskiy, MD; and a former marketing exec for TripAdvisor, Steve McAveeney, among others. The team is currently based out of Harvard University’s Innovation Lab.

The team opted for texting instead of calls, after doing some customer research. They found that most people preferred to communicate asynchronously – like through text messages. When offered the choice between phone calls, video chat or texting via the Nurse-1-1 website, patients choose texting at a much higher rate.

The startup also found that, often, what people first want to know when they have a health concern is what level of care they should get.

Ahead of today’s launch, the texting service was tested with over 1,200 patients and received interest from 190 nurses, who have since joined its platform. It’s free to end users if the patient’s provider is signed up on Nurse-1-1. (None have yet – but discussions are underway, Sheeley says.) Otherwise it’s $12.50 per chat.

This is much less than video visits with doctors, which typically go for around $49 or have co-pays of around $30 per visit.

 

“The triage industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. When you call your doctor late at night and get that phone call back, it’s usually a third-party service calling you. They charge $15 per call to these clinics and it’s very low quality,” Sheeley explains. “Our business model is to charge clinics only $12.50 per call…if your provider is on the platform, that money is charged to them, not to [patients.],” he notes.

When your provider is not available, the money customers pay, minus a $2.50 processing fee, will go directly to nurses instead.

In the future, Nurse-1-1 may generate referrals to telemedicine providers, allowing it to earn referral fees, too.

Already, the company found that many of its customers are moms or moms-to-be, asking questions about pregnancy, kid’s ailments, colds, flus, and the like. They’re trying to figure out if they should visit an urgent care now, or see a doctor in the morning, for example.

The service works both via the web and through an iOS app. It’s HIPAA-compliant, and data is encrypted end-to-end.

Nurse-1-1 is immediately available across the U.S. because it’s not actually prescribing or diagnosing. The company hasn’t raised outside funding, but may look to do a seed round in the near future.

Weed in space is going to be a thing now

Scientists interested in cannabis as a subject for pharmaceutical studies may find an unlikely new home for their research into the plant, its byproducts and biochemistry aboard the International Space Station. Yes, weed is going to space thanks to the work of a small Lexington, Ky.-based startup called Space Tango. The company makes a “clean […]

Scientists interested in cannabis as a subject for pharmaceutical studies may find an unlikely new home for their research into the plant, its byproducts and biochemistry aboard the International Space Station.

Yes, weed is going to space thanks to the work of a small Lexington, Ky.-based startup called Space Tango.

The company makes a “clean room” laboratory in a microwave-sized box. Because space is tight on the International Space Station, companies that want to conduct experiments in microgravity have to do more with less. And Space Tango gives them a small environment in which to perform tests and monitor the results.

Using Space Tango’s “CubeLab” modules, which slot into the larger TangoLab containers, companies like Anheuser-Busch can send barley up to the space station to observe how the crop could be cultivated in environments approaching zero gravity.

Now, Space Tango is taking its own steps to develop experiments on how the zero gravity environment could affect cannabis cultivation.

Alongside two Kentucky hemp and cannabis cultivation and retail companies, Atalo Holdings, which provides hemp genetics, and Anavii Market, an online retailer of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) therapeutics, Space Tango has set up its own subsidiary to research how microgravity can be used to better cultivate particular strands of hemp for medical compounds.

“For all entrepreneurial companies in this new space area everyone is trying to hone in [sic] on what is the actual business,” said co-founder and chairman Kris Kimel of Space Tango, in an interview. “We’re trying to figure out here what’s the business now… For us, the model is looking at low earth orbit to actually develop and design applications for life on earth.”

Kimel said the company now has two micro-laboratories installed on the International Space Station and has payloads launching to the space station for corporate and university customers about six times a year.

In its early stages, the company is mainly operating on existing income. “We’re able to meet our operating expenses off of revenue,” says Kimel. “Which is great for a company that is not just three years old.”

As it looks to create these kinds of joint ventures with other companies, Kimel said that additional revenue could come from a profit-sharing agreement rather than just straight contracts for services. The new subsidiaries enhance what the company sees as its broader mission, Kimel said.

“Each time a new type of physics platform has been successfully harnessed such as electromagnetism, it has led to the exponential growth of new knowledge, benefits to humankind and capital formation,” said  Kimel, in a statement. “Using microgravity, we envision a future where many of the next breakthroughs in healthcare, plant biology and technology may well occur off the planet Earth.”

Industrialized hemp production and research and development into the crop was enabled four years ago with the passage of the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill. It was the first time in 70 years that new rules were enacted to promote research into applications for the hemp plant as fiber, food or medicine.

By taking the plants to space, Space Tango hopes to study whether the growth of certain strains can be better controlled in the absence of gravitational stresses on the plant’s development.

“When plants are ‘stressed,’ they pull from a genetic reservoir to produce compounds that allow them to adapt and survive,” said Dr. Joe Chappell, a member of the Space Tango Science Advisory Team who specializes in drug development and design. “Understanding how plants react in an environment where the traditional stress of gravity is removed can provide new insights into how adaptations come about and how researchers might take advantage of such changes for the discovery of new characteristics, traits, biomedical applications and efficacy.”

Founded by former NASA engineer Twyman Clements and Kimel, who was serving as the president of the nonprofit Kentucky Science and Technology Corp., Space Tango was spun up to be the for-profit arm that would commercialize experiments in space as a service for large businesses that wanted to take advantage of the unique properties of manufacturing in microgravity.

There have been few commercially viable products that have come from microgravity research or production, in part because it’s expensive to bring products from space to earth.

That’s why Space Tango has focused on drug discovery and pharmaceuticals and why the company is spinning up its independent subsidiary that will focus exclusively on cannabis. Pharmaceutical compounds are lightweight and can be profitable in production without enormous volumes.

“That’s why biomedicine is attractive,” Kimel said. “You’re dealing with products that are incredibly high value and incredibly low weight.”

Vital Labs’ app can measure changes in your blood pressure using an iPhone camera

Vital Labs has emerged from stealth with $1 million in funding from True Ventures.

If a twinkle in the eye of a venture capitalist could predict the longevity of a startup, Vital Labs is going all the way.

During a quick demo of the Burlingame, Calif.-based startup’s app, called Vitality, True Ventures partner Adam D’Augelli’s enthusiasm was potent. The company, which emerges from stealth today, is pioneering a new era of personalized cardiovascular healthcare, he said.

Vitality can read changes in a person’s blood pressure using an iPhone’s camera and graphics processing power. The goal is to replace blood pressure cuffs to become the most accurate method of measuring changes in blood pressure and eventually other changes in the cardiovascular system.

The app is still in beta testing and is expected to complete an official commercial rollout in 2019.

Here’s how it works: The technology relies on a technique called photoplethysmography. By turning on the light from a phone’s flash and placing a person’s index finger over the camera on the back of the phone, the light illuminates the blood vessels in the fingertip and the camera captures changes in intensity as blood flows through the vessels with each heartbeat. This technique results in a time-varying signal called the blood-pulse waveform (BPW). The app captures a 1080p video at 120 frames per second and processes that data in real-time using the iPhone’s graphics processing unit to provide a high-resolution version of a person’s BPW.

The startup was founded by Tuhin Sinha, Ph.D., the former technical director for the University of California, San Francisco’s Health eHeart Study. He’s been working on the app for several years.

“Part of the reason this project strikes a chord with me is because if I look at the stats of my own family, I probably only have 20 years left,” Sinha told TechCrunch. “Most people on my dad’s side of the family have passed away before 60 from cardiovascular disease.”

Prior to joining UCSF, Sinha was an instructor at Vanderbilt University and the director of the Center for Image Analysis, where he directed and developed medical image analysis algorithms.

He linked up with True Ventures in June 2015, raising a total of $1 million from the early-stage venture capital firm.

“[Sinha] saw an opportunity to improve a stagnant practice and invented a new approach that takes full advantage of today’s technologies,” True’s D’Augelli said in a statement.

Three years after that initial funding, Sinha says Vital Labs is looking to raise another round of capital with plans to create additional digital tools to advance cardiovascular health.

 

 

Not to be overshadowed by the Apple Watch, AliveCor announces a new 6-lead ECG reader

Apple’s announcement last week of a Watch with an FDA-approved ECG reader to track heart health looked to be the undoing of original ECG reader company AliveCor. But, to prove it still has a hearty pulse, AliveCor tells TechCrunch it is coming out with a “never-before-seen” 6-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), pending FDA approval. In a care […]

Apple’s announcement last week of a Watch with an FDA-approved ECG reader to track heart health looked to be the undoing of original ECG reader company AliveCor. But, to prove it still has a hearty pulse, AliveCor tells TechCrunch it is coming out with a “never-before-seen” 6-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), pending FDA approval.

In a care clinic, a patient typically has 12 leads, or stickers placed across their chest to pick up data from their heart. However, other ECG readers typically have one or two leads. The Apple Watch places a single lead system on the wrist. The 6-lead ECG reader is, in theory, more accurate because there are more sensors picking up more information, which could be critical in saving lives.

AliveCor’s and the Apple Watch’s current function is to pick up AFib — or the detection of an irregular heart beat. AliveCor announced earlier this month it had received FDA-approval to use its ECG readers to detect a rare but dangerous blood condition called hyperkalemia.

With 6-lead ECG readers, the AliveCor device could also pick up about 100 different diseases, according to CEO Vic Gundotra, who rattled off a bunch of long-worded maladies I can’t even begin to pronounce but he’s hoping his reader will soon be able to detect.

However, one important detection would be ST elevation — one of the key factors associated with the onset of a heart attack and which could get a person on their way to the hospital before they start displaying other physical symptoms.

Of course, Apple — which already holds 17 percent of the wearables market — could easily decide it, too, needs to add a 6-lead ECG reader to the Watch and beat AliveCor’s market yet again. But Gundotra shrugs at that suggestion.

“They could but we have some pretty good patents in the space,” he told TechCrunch, adding “Apple has done me a great service, actually. We’re a small company but you are talking to me, calling about this [because of their announcement].”

No formal name has been announced yet for the 6-lead product, but AliveCor will be working with the FDA on the regulatory pathway for it and hopes to bring it to over-the-counter consumers by 2019.