We often think about global health as a philanthropic endeavor, something addressed by nonprofits and NGOs. But there is a real opportunity for businesses tackling global health challenges, something Portland, Ore., based Hemex Health is well aware of.
The startup was founded by two veterans of the medical industry with the goal of commercializing technology that can improve health around the world and also create a self-sustaining business.
The company has just raised $1.7 million to continue developing its tech: a veritable laboratory in a box that can diagnose deadly diseases like malaria and sickle-cell disease in just minutes, at a far lower cost than current diagnostics.
Investors in the current round include The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), Keiretsu Forum Northwest, Alliance of Angels and Elevate Capital. Some of the funds were won at competitions at the Bend Venture Conference and Willamette Angels Conference.
The startup previously was awarded $1.5 million in funding from the National Institute of Health’s Small Business Innovation Research grant, bringing its total funding to $3.2 million.
Hemex CEO Patti White, a 30-year health executive and entrepreneur, told GeekWire that she and co-founder Peter Galen founded the company after searching for a technology that they knew would have a big impact.
“We were looking for innovation that solved big problems, had proven clinical results, could be developed in 2 years and had a strong business model that would attract investors,” White said.
They landed on a diagnosis technology being developed by professors at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, and they founded Hemex Health to commercialize it in 2016.
The startup now employs 8 and is headquartered in the OTRADI Bioscience Incubator in Portland, Ore. Its board of directors and scientific advisors include health researchers, clinicians and executives across four continents.
The company has two prototype devices being studied in clinical trials: the Magneto-optical device, which diagnoses malaria, and the Hemechip, which diagnoses hemoglobin disorders like sickle cell. The devices need just a pinprick of blood, which is inserted into the machines using a disposable cartridge.
The blood is then analyzed and the device returns a diagnosis within 1 minute for malaria and within 8 minutes for sickle cell disease. It can send the diagnosis wirelessly to computers, mobile devices or the cloud.
Hemex’s main advantage over how these diseases are currently diagnosed is its simplicity: it doesn’t take the resources or money behind a full lab and can be operated by any primary care provider instead of just specialists, meaning it is much more affordable and accessible.
Malaria is one of the most deadly infectious diseases in the world, and is among the top five killers of children. Sickle cell disease also largely impacts children, who rarely survive past the age of five with the disease. But in both cases, early diagnosis and treatment can save the majority of those with the disease. Many at risk for malaria and sickle cell disease in the developing world do not get tested because clinical tests are hard to access or unaffordable.
White said the company’s new funding will go towards expanding the trial studying the devices to over 1,000 patients as well as finalizing the product design, manufacturing and distribution plans.