Disrupting the Way Diagnostics Are Delivered
A Helix 51 company has designed a novel way to administer and process rapid diagnostic tests in the workplace and in the community. The Everyplace Labs kiosk can deliver a spectrum of specific test kits, instruct the user in sample collection, process the sample and deliver a clinically valid result within minutes.
“The pandemic showed us why it’s really critical to improve access to diagnostics,” said founder and CEO Michael Tu. “That’s our inspiration.”
Mr. Tu, a former systems engineer for the healthcare company Baxter International, and co-founder Prasanth Bijjam worked together as part of a graduate school team that developed a litter box that analyzed cat urine to detect kidney disease.
“Our real passion was improving human health,” said Mr. Tu.
He, Mr. Bijjam and other co-founders interviewed physicians and learned that urine testing is a major source of patient bottlenecks in emergency departments. They began work on a diagnostic smart toilet. Then the pandemic hit. Patient volume dropped.
“We asked ourselves, ‘How can we still have a meaningful impact?’” Mr. Tu said. “We realized if we repurposed our core technology, we could develop it into a kiosk that automates the point-of-care diagnostic process and deploy it outside of clinical settings.”
We’re enabling patients to initiate their own diagnostic tests in a way that’s very accessible, but also very reliable.
Prototypes for the kiosk are undergoing user testing at manufacturing plants in the Chicago suburbs. The kiosk will initially be used at essential worksites to facilitate turnkey, on-demand testing. Their solution aims to make testing accessible without significant oversight — a key challenge HR leaders faced during the pandemic.
“We’re disrupting the way diagnostics are delivered,” Mr. Tu said. “We’re enabling patients to initiate their own diagnostic tests in a way that’s very accessible, but also very reliable. We’re automating the entire process and eliminating user error.”
RFU’s Helix 51 incubator supplies the specialized lab space Everyplace Labs needs for testing, allowing the company to keep its R&D in Chicago. The Entrepreneur in Residence program has been particularly helpful, said Mr. Tu, whose team has benefitted from introductions to potential investors and advice on grant strategy. Raising new capital has been challenging, but success is on the horizon.
“We recently closed our first major investor for our current seed round,” Mr. Tu said.
Members of the Helix 51 incubator and RFU researchers can tap into the Entrepreneur in Residence program for advice from six entrepreneurs with skill sets in different areas of drug and medical device development:
- Intellectual property/patents
- Startup formation, commercial partnerships and investors
- Product development/product scale-up
- FDA regulatory strategy
- Non-dilutive funding (grants)
- Investor partnering/prep
The program is funded through industry partnerships and a grant from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust.