Israeli startup turns cellphone into a testing lab for kidney disease

Adiri, the former chief technology officer to Israeli President Shimon Peres, developed a passion for health technology early in his career. He realized the smartphone as a medical tool was a niche that would grow when his father used it to transfer CT scans after his mother had an accident while traveling in China a few years ago. That helped her get diagnosed and saved her life.

“My goal is to help turn the mobile phone into the lab of today,” he said. “Advances in AI and computer vision technology are making this possible.”

In early February, Healthy.io raised $18 million in a Series B financing round led by Aleph, an Israeli-based venture capital fund, to support growth across its existing markets and to fund the commercial launch of the product in the United States. It also has raised funds from Samsung NEXT and private investors. That brings its total funding to $30 million.

Healthy.io’s products are currently available in Israel and the U.K., where it recently inked a deal with Walgreens Boots Alliance subsidiary Boots UK to introduce consumer-focused UTI testing at the company’s locations. Its efforts have been supported by a partnership with Siemens Healthineers to use the company’s urinalysis reagents.

The start-up is boosted by rapidly advancing smartphone technology. Digital urinalysis is the latest example of a trend toward home diagnostics driving a surging medical technology market. The first at-home pregnancy test appeared in the late 1970s, paving the way for a home-based medical test market. More recently, the internet, IoT, smartphones and advances in areas like genetic testing have driven sharp growth in a home-testing market that will soon surpass $300 million.

Much of the marketing driving sales of at-home tests, which include cloud-based monitors that beam medical results to doctors, tout ease of use and lowered barriers to clinical-grade health maintenance. But getting people to take tests, whether in a doctor’s office or at home, is tricky. In the case of kidney disease, which the Healthy.io kit can screen for, only about 6 percent of people with hypertension and 39 percent of diabetes patients undergo proper testing.

It’s still too early to know if Healthy.io’s technology will be a game-changer in kidney testing, but if it does, it could have a big impact on curbing health-care costs — and saving lives. “The FDA is now approving clinical algorithms and outcomes derived by using a cellphone for urine testing. That’s a big step in helping to democratize health care,” said Michael Eisenberg, a partner at Aleph.

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