Memphis-based startup Health & Bliss is hoping to save the medical system some time and money by developing a diagnostic solution for strep throat. The company, which graduated from the med-tech accelerator Zero to 510 this year, is now raising a $2 million Series A to conduct the clinical trials that will bring it to market.
While suspected strep throat is one of the most common reasons for a doctor’s visit, only about 15 percent of patients who come in actually have it, founder Bliss Lansing explains. In addition, 70 percent of the time a child sees a pediatrician for a sore throat they will be prescribed antibiotics even though they only need them about 30 percent of the time, Lansing noted.
For the most part, sore throats turn out to be viral. Good news for the patient, but not so much for the doctors’ offices and emergency rooms that have to accommodate them and — in the case of the ER — pay billions of dollars annually for those non-emergency visits.
To remove some of that financial and logistical pressure on the medical system, Health & Bliss has developed a portable, self-contained screening device that cuts strep testing time from about 10 minutes to fewer than 30 seconds. It’s not that the rapid antigen-detection test has gotten faster. Rather, the device saves time on transporting the throat swab to a sterile lab environment, performing the test there, and returning to deliver the results.
The device resembles a test tube into which a clinician inserts the throat swab. Pushing the three buttons initiates the test and, in a few moments, the device returns a diagnosis.
If the test makes it to market, Health & Bliss will sell not only to hospitals and doctors’ offices, but also to pharmacies, many of which already administer flu shots and perform wellness exams. The cost of a Health & Bliss strep test at a pharmacy clinic would be $27 dollars, which is less than the average $35 co-pay fee in a doctor’s office.
Lansing described clinical and pharmacy use of the test as an intermediary market that will hopefully make consumers comfortable with the procedure and build their confidence in being able to perform the test themselves. Eventually, Lansing says, the company would like to develop an at-home test, putting the device into consumers’ hands. But entering the consumer market isn’t on the table just yet.
“In order to make it an over-the-counter device, we would have to perform a much larger clinical trial, and that would require medical professionals to use the device anyway,” Lansing said. “Rather than trying to raise 7 to 10 million dollars to get the product out there [for consumers], we’re raising much less money.”
Having already completed preclinical lab tests, Health & Bliss’ Series A funding will cover the expenses of clinical trials and pay the FDA, both of which have to happen before they can enter the market. The goal is to reach their funding goal in the coming months and have their product out by the January 2015 flu season.