Elizabeth Holmes was in the news again this week, as part of the ongoing coverage of the Theranos saga. Holmes was the founder and CEO of Theranos, a biotechnology company founded in 2003, but shuttered in 2018. The company claimed that it had developed a revolutionary blood testing system that could perform hundreds of tests ranging from cholesterol levels to complex genetic analysis from just a single drop of blood, in an automated, fast, and inexpensive manner. Sadly, the technology didn’t work and it was later discovered that Holmes and others had misled investors.
Sometimes, things can be too good to be true, but that does not mean that those with ambitious ideas should not start or should refrain from innovating, in order to reach a lofty goal that could be of tremendous benefit to human society.
Billions of blood tests are carried out each day and as recipients of healthcare, we often take them for granted. However, blood testing and the demand for blood testing and analysis are truly quantum of staggering proportions. According to Grand View Research, an Indian/US market research and consulting company, the market value of such testing was 82.5 billion US Dollars in 2021, with a projected growth rate of 8% + up until 2028.
Given the importance of and the demand for blood tests worldwide, it is no wonder that Israel, with its advanced healthcare system and strong R&D and start-up culture, has produced numerous companies with innovative and proven technology to help address needs in this area.
For example, PixCell was founded by a team of researchers at the Technion Institute of Management and has developed an FDA-approved Portable Point of Care blood analyzer that allows health practitioners and patients to avail of rapid blood test diagnostics and information that assists them with critical decisions. Technologies employed in the solution include microfluidics, machine vision, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Established over ten years ago, Sight Diagnostics has developed Sight OLO, which performs a Complete Blood Count (i.e. the most commonly ordered blood tests), in minutes rather than hours. Sight OLO is FDA 510(k) cleared for use in moderately complex laboratories and was deployed in many healthcare facilities, including Israel’s Sheba Tel Hashomer hospital, as part of Israel’s effort to deal with infection assessment in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A key issue in blood testing and analysis is speed, and that is why EfA (Engineering for All) Technologies / RevDx Medical’s solution aims to bring the laboratory to the blood rather than the blood to the laboratory. The company has developed a portable laboratory-grade device that incorporates state-of-the-art technology that enables a complete blood count, previously only available in clinics/hospitals, to be conducted anywhere and at any time.
Just recently, another Israeli company, Scopio Labs, was awarded first place in the Fast Company list of the World’s 10 Most Innovative Medical Device companies of 2023. Scopio Labs have made a significant breakthrough in digitising hematology and blood cell morphology analysis and are able to offer a suite of digital applications that support laboratory technicians with fast and early detection of blood-related cancers, anemia, infections, allergies, and other hematological-based diseases. Less than one year ago, Scopio Labs announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had granted it 510(k) clearance for its X100HT device for peripheral blood smear applications.
While blood testing and analysis are cornerstones of global healthcare, another Israeli blood technology company, RedC Biotech, is on a mission to create a highly scalable process for the production of pathogen-free, universal, and reliable red blood cells, derived from stem cells. Such a solution could help to meet the global demand for blood transfusions in situations requiring medical intervention such as trauma, childbirth, surgeries, chronic illness, cancer, and more. RedC Biotech’s universal red blood cells could also be used as a unique platform for the delivery of advanced therapies. The company is currently in a pre-clinical stage and collaborates with leading industry, academic and government organizations.
When looking at the issue of health in a global context it is well established that chronic inflammation is involved in the disease process of many conditions such as arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Presently, current blood tests (CRP, ESR, LPA, and others) cannot distinguish between acute and chronic inflammation, or monitor the body’s immune function. Hence, there is a tremendous need for new tools to evaluate the immune status and inflammatory stage of patients suffering from chronic diseases. Israel’s Improdia is tackling this issue with novel technology and using unique biomarkers which will help physicians to identify patients that are most likely to benefit from a particular therapeutic treatment. Pharmaceutical companies may also benefit from using Improdia’s technology in the development of new drugs for various diseases involving chronic inflammation.
Given the contribution of these and other companies, it is clear that Israeli innovation can help to be the “oxygen” needed to further fuel the development of blood testing and analysis solutions and thus improve human healthcare.
By Colin Sheena, Commercial Representative, Embassy of Israel, Dublin.