Innovation

A Race Against the Clock

TMCx startups design medical devices to diagnose and treat patients more quickly


By Christine Hall | December 5, 2017

Sathya Elumalai says his mother, who suffers from multiple chronic conditions, is like many other patients: She doesn’t want to keep going back to the doctor to have her vital signs monitored.

While some doctors send patients home with devices to take vital signs, patients often need assistance and the process can take as long as 15 minutes, said Elumalai, CEO of Baltimore-based Multisensor Diagnostics. And most likely, this is just one of many things patients must deal with on a daily basis, so they don’t want another thing to manage, he added.

The frustration Elumalai observed in his mother and other patients inspired him to create MouthLab, a portable, handheld device inserted in the mouth to record key vital signs—temperature, blood oxygen saturation, breathing rate and pattern, pulse rate and blood pressure—in just 30 seconds.

That pressing need to get things done faster has led companies to create diagnostics, laboratory testing and medical devices that perform tasks more quickly and accurately.

Multisensor Diagnostics is among a handful of startups that brought their time-related devices to the Texas Medical Center as part of the TMC Innovation Institute’s recent TMCx medical device accelerator. Other time-related devices included a screening device for stroke and a portable device that provides blood test results in 20 minutes.

Nearly half of all medical care in the United States is performed in emergency departments, according to research. Timeliness is a key issue in treating a multitude of conditions, including stroke, when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the brain is blocked.

“Time is everything in stroke, and it is the No. 1 cause of disability,” said Matt Kesinger, CEO of Forest Devices, a Pittsburgh-based startup. “The only way to prevent it is by early treatment, and the only way to ensure early treatment is to get to the right hospital that can treat you.”

Seventy percent of the country does not live near a stroke hospital, Kesinger said, and typically it takes between three or four hours for a stroke patient to get treatment.

But Forest Devices is addressing this problem with AlphaStroke, a portable device used at the point of initial triage to identify stroke patients and get them to the right place in time to receive clot-busting drugs.

AlphaStroke works like a shower cap. It fits around the patient’s head, with wires connected to the device and electrodes attached to the patient’s wrists. The device helps determine whether or not a patient is having a stroke and, if so, where the nearest stroke hospital is so the patient can get care.

Another time-consuming part of health care is waiting for the results of blood tests. Patients wait anywhere from days to weeks.

Orphidia, a San Francisco-based startup, touts itself as an “app store for labs” that aims to redefine the laboratory experience.

Typically, a patient will see a doctor who will order tests. Depending on the doctor’s office, the patient will either have blood drawn to be sent off for analysis, or the patient will have to drive to a separate laboratory testing facility to have the blood drawn. Then the patient must wait for the results.

But Orphidia is developing a portable device that can run 40 common tests from a single drop of blood and provide results in about 20 minutes.

Ryan Kuriakose, PharmD., Orphidia’s vice president of strategy and business development, said he and many other doctors think this device will improve physician work flow because it provides results in real time—during the patient’s visit with the doctor.

Although physicians may finish seeing patients at 3 p.m., he explained, they typically remain in the office for several additional hours to follow up on lab tests and call patients.

“Instead of the long process, you get the results straight away and get a diagnosis,” said Aron Rachamim, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Orphidia.

Multisensor Diagnostics, Forest Devices and Orphidia all graduated from the TMCx accelerator program in November and will continue working to get their devices into hospitals or onto ambulances.

Ultimately, Elumalai was able to get his mother to try MouthLab, and he is helping her use it. He is notified when it is time for her to check her vitals, and he calls to remind her.

“We want to change the culture of health care monitoring,” Elumalai said. “All we ask for is 30 seconds.”




Social Posts

profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

RT @KirstiClifford: Rounding with @ppisters and @CarolPorterDNP was extra special today as we recognized our amazing staff @MDAndersonNews…

18 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMSpaceHealth: Attention all researchers & scientists. Join Stephen Mayo and TRISH research #spacehealth.Information can be found he…

24 mins ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @UTPhysicians: Dr. Stuart Harlin will be a guest on KPRC TV Channel 2’s Houston Life. At 1:30 today, he will be discussing varicose and…

26 mins ago
profile_image

Harris Health System

@harrishealth

Reduce your risk of cancer - RE: @WHO https://t.co/DGDoZCOXj5

30 mins ago
profile_image

UTMB Health

@utmbhealth

RT @ppisters: I enjoyed my visit yesterday with @utmbhealth president Dr. David Callender and his team. Great tour and time spent learning…

34 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Eye cancer survivor Tina Ladowski: "Suddenly, there was hope where none had been before." https://t.co/3cEQhyBpit #Rarecancer @MDAProtons #endcancer https://t.co/7tfmqvlqsB

46 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Colorado’s new Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center is open for business https://t.co/btQdn6UuSi via #VAntagePoint

51 mins ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

Two University of Houston students and a faculty member, striving to set examples for future generations of women. #GoCoogs! https://t.co/xZWa98q6aW

52 mins ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @uhparking: Did you know? Our team has been working hard to get parking permits ready and sent out, so be sure to keep an eye out for yo…

54 mins ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

RT @RiceUNews: #Houston and #HarrisCounty's serious flooding problems can be solved if funding is available and both the public and local o…

1 hour ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Rice’s Disability Support Services has changed its name to the Rice Disability Resource Center to reflect its expanded scope of services offered: https://t.co/63eC9pJn8d https://t.co/UVQXuqI5Qx

1 hour ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Learn how Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences student Jamie Reyes decided to get into research after his grandfather's death. https://t.co/qtE4duuobR #students

2 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Family members and guests joined first-year medical students at Baylor College of Medicine's Family Day on Aug. 11, 2018. The event included campus tours and faculty presentations. View more photos on our Facebook page. https://t.co/PZD1zqjBXL https://t.co/97fj6gZkI2

2 hours ago
profile_image

UTMB Health

@utmbhealth

RT @utmbnews: See the @noticiashouston segment with our own Dr. Cortiella speaking about bioengineering lungs: Investigadores de Texas adel…

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Tom, a @USArmy Veteran, reconnected with some of his battle buddies years after their service. He finds relief in the camaraderie of being around Veterans who experienced challenges like his own. Hear his story: https://t.co/JERUKq7VeA https://t.co/AW42GALdGO

2 hours ago