ASU Biodesign Institute spinout, HealthTell, landed on San Francisco Business Times reporter Ron Leuty’s top five start-ups to potentially “win big” for 2015.
“Picking five Bay Area companies to watch this year is just as difficult, if only because I’m limiting myself to five,” wrote Leuty. “The companies, are there for a batch of reasons — not just because they might turn out a blockbuster drug. In fact, only one is likely to bring a product to market this year.”
His writes in his profile of HealthTell:
“Answers could come quickly for HealthTell Inc. — and early for patients as well.While there’s been a surge in development of drugs that boost the immune system’s response to cancers, the privately held San Ramon company is working on a simple blood test that could move more patients onto those immuno-oncology drugs. HealthTell’s “immunosignature technology” is designed to measure a person’s immune response to cancer, essentially giving patients and their doctors an early answer on the course of treatment.
“We need tests to change the way doctors behave,” said HealthTell CEO Bill Colston. “A screen with actual information within the context of the cancer is what doctors want.”
One of HealthTell’s biggest talking points is that its platform technology may go beyond cancer to detect dozens of diseases, including infectious diseases and perhaps even Alzheimer’s. Instead of looking for telltale signs of a virus, like most diagnostic tests, HealthTell’s technology uses a wafer loaded with peptides that attract antibodies produced by the body in response to an invader.
“We hope that we can do early detection way before any test,” said Kathryn Sykes, HealthTell’s vice president of research. “But now there is a better, cheaper test that can be used (as well) for monitoring.”
As a diagnostic, HealthTell’s test doesn’t have to go through the years-long clinical trial and regulatory approval process faced by drug developers. As a result, it hopes to bring its test to market as early as this year, but it still needs studies to convince insurers to cover the test after it hits the market.
The four-year-old company, which moved corporate offices from Chandler, Ariz., last year, is laying the groundwork for a Series B round of funding. It raised $9.5 million last year and $4 million in 2013 in debt financing.
HealthTell’s investors have included Vital Venture Capital LLC and Paladin Capital Group.
The company also is seeking other ways to raise cash and prove its technology.
Sykes, working with the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University and Barrow Neurological Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, is the principal investigator for a $225,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health.
If HealthTell’s technology is successful through the grant in discerning the difference between primary brain cancer and cancer that has spread from elsewhere in the body to the brain, it has a shot at a larger SBIR grant and more private investment as well.
Either way, Colston said, HealthTell’s technology is not a one-trick pony. It can be applied, he said, across a range of diseases.
“It’s like getting 90 swings instead of three,” he said.”
HealthTell has been on Arizona’s radar as well, garnering a “Start-Up of the Year” award in 2012 at annual Governor’s Celebration of Innovation.
To learn about HealthTell, go to: healthtell.com
Story Source: ASU Biodesign News http://biodesign.asu.edu/news/asu-spinout-healthtell-among-top-five-start-ups-to-watch-