An Israeli medical technology company trying to do what controversial defunct Silicon Valley start-up Theranos tried and failed to achieve is expanding to Australia with a $99 million capital raise ($US71 million).
Sight Diagnostics is applying artificial intelligence and machine vision technology to blood tests and has already received approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration and US Food and Drug Administration for its Complete Blood Count (CBC, or full blood count) analyser OLO.
OLO provides lab-grade results with two drops of blood from a person’s finger in less than 10 minutes.
Founder and chief executive Yossi Pollak started the business in 2010, after previously working as an AI algorithm developer for self-driving car systems maker Mobileye, which was acquired by Intel for $US15.3 billion in 2017, and also working for Toyota and General Motors.
Mr Pollak told The Australian Financial Review that while working at Mobileye he realised there would be applications for computer vision technology in healthcare.
Unlike Theranos – whose Edison machine was supposed to be able to run numerous blood tests off a single drop of blood – he started small and concentrated his efforts on creating a detection product for malaria and then the CBC test.
“We bought a very accurate device to the market that was very scientific, very focused, had the right team [behind it] and we worked from an early stage with the FDA and ran clinical studies at the Harvard Medical School’s Boston Children’s Hospital,” he said.
“Now we also provide CBC … we take images of the blood sample and six gigabytes of information from each patient. We will be able to use these images to do a lot more than just CBC and we’ve started looking into additional applications like some types of cancer detection.
“We’re also collecting samples from COVID-19 patients to see if we can help understand blood factors that impact the severity of the disease and looking into the early detection of sepsis and other exciting features we believe with our extensive base of analytics we’ll be able to bring to market.”
The business has secured a distribution agreement for its CBC analyser with local company Diagnostx.
CBC tests are the most common type of blood test and provide information about a patient’s immune system. They can help distinguish between bacterial and viral infections, measure if someone is able to undergo chemotherapy and help detect iron-deficiency anaemia. More than 4 billion tests are conducted globally each year, according to Sight.
“Everyone gets blood tests and doing it from veins is a lot more annoying than a finger prick,” Mr Pollak said.
Sight’s latest capital raise was supported by Koch Disruptive Technologies, Longliv Ventures and global crowdfunding platform OurCrowd. OurCrowd has participated in all four rounds, with 25 per cent of its investments in Sight coming from Australian investors on its platform.
Sight’s technology was trialled by a Sydney-based hospital earlier this year, which the company would not name. It is also in use by the Sheba Medical Centre at Tel Hashomer in Israel, the Oxford University Hospital Trust in Britain and the Boston Children’s Hospital.