An automated microscope that folds up into a small box, takes a blood sample from a finger and gives blood test results based on sophisticated algorithms – this isn’t science fiction, but is actually the first product to be rolled out by the promising Israeli startup EfA.
Anyone who’s been sent by a Family Doctor or a Specialist to have even basic blood tests done, knows the drill: first you need a referral, then you need to schedule an appointment with the nurse to draw blood, wait in the waiting room, then wait hours or even days after the blood is drawn to get the results. But what about those situations where it’s difficult for a patient to get to the lab or clinic, or in urgent cases?
This issue is what Yoel Ezra, CEO and founder of the Israeli startup EfA, was facing. “The initials of our company name represent our goal, Engineering for All,” Yoel explains. “We aim to make basic blood tests results accessible to anyone, anywhere. In addition, we decided that our solution needed to be mobile, easy to use, would work without being connected to electricity or the internet, while also being affordable.”
The company’s first device, which had been awarded a CE approval, can currently conduct a blood count, with other tests planned for later, simply by pricking a finger, without the need to go to a lab and with results delivered in a few minutes. “The idea is to enable doctors and medical teams in various situations, such as during home visits (which are on the rise especially during the COVID-19 period), to make educated decisions on continuation of treatment, without the need to wait for the patient to get a blood test and then wait for the results,” he added.
How can such a small device carry out on-the-spot testing?
“We have a mobile, microscopy based lab that can be taken anywhere and carry out automated testing – without the need for any special preparations or expertise, very similar to a glucometer. All that a user needs to do is press the single-use test component to a drop of blood from the finger. This is part of our IP portfolio.”
“Our system includes three main elements. The first is the sampling component, the test chip. This is what you press to your finger and takes a capillary blood sample. We’ve registered several patents related to preparing the blood samples. The second element is automated scanning and analysis based on the RevDx scanner that we’ve developed. The system integrates several technologies: optics, mechanics and electronics. It’s actually a microscope which can digitally scan blood cells and is folded up into a small box. The third element is a sophisticated algorithm that we’ve developed based on deep learning and imaging technologies.”
“The end result is that the device displays the user’s blood count on its screen. The information can be forwarded, printed and more. This is obviously the first stage, and later on we plan to add more applications, in addition to the blood count. The system was designed with simplicity in mind, yet with scalability for further developments.”
“You can think of it as a lab microscope that displays microscopic images of blood samples, and each time a different medical expert offers a different diagnosis, based on their expertise. Extrapolating that point, in the future we’ll be able to run additional algorithms and programs, which will enable diagnosing other components of the blood test (or even other bodily fluids) that were taken via our device.”
“I was looking to do something with purpose and significance”
Yoel entered the medical field after 24 years of military service, with a passion to do something that had meaning. “I was lucky enough to start my way at two US based corporations specializing in heart valves, so I was exposed to the medical devices field and the challenges it faces – like development, regulation, clinical trials and commercialization.”
In 2016, Yoel decided to venture into his own path, and initially set out to understand the health challenges facing developing countries. “I met many people in the field, specifically infectious diseases, and focused on a microscope – that basic component of lab testing. I believed that it was possible to take a microscope and fold it up into a mobile device, and add all the other ‘experts’ and sample-taking elements, so that people could take samples anywhere, without any special training.”
“After we discussed the issue with many doctors, we decided to focus on blood count. This is the lab test that is most in demand by doctors, and it provides a wide range of diagnostic indicators for illnesses that affect the immune system, infections, anemia and more. Once doctors get the results, it becomes obvious to them how to proceed. But until we came along, it wasn’t possible to carry out this exam on-the-spot and from anywhere, outside of a clinic or lab.”
The company’s idea took several first-place prizes and accolades in contests, and in January 2019 it was invited to join the eHealth Ventures (EHV) tech incubator. “We hired a team, small at first, we raised funding in addition to the incubator’s, and hit the road running. We picked up some collaborations, and then Maccabi HMO, Merchavia Group and a Family Office decided to invest, in addition to private investors. We were awarded several grants from the Israel Innovation Authority, which greatly supported us all along.”
“One of the things I’m most proud of, is our diverse, talented and devoted team – which includes algorithmic, Software, artificial intelligence, bio-medical engineering experts, and biz-dev and marketing, with years of experience in marketing, business development, as well as global distribution and sales. Our team ranges from holders of Ph.D. degrees to researchers, young and brilliant engineers that joined our journey as young students and continued with us after getting their degrees, for which we are full of gratitude and appreciation.”
“In our second circle we have experienced partners who’ve been accompanying us since the beginning. Thanks to them, we are able to fast-track our progress. And we’re running fast – it’s been 3.5 years from our first investment and joining the incubator. Today we have a very complex technological system that has received CE regulatory approval, and we’re getting ready for production and distribution. We have already signed our first distribution agreement, and our next step is of submission to the FDA. In addition, we’re looking into new fields, such as veterinary medicine.”
“Along the way, luckily, we’ve met many good people who have helped us – the EHV incubator team, advisors, doctors, and an investor group that believes in us and supports us. Now we’re in the midst of a significant capital raising round, led by the Maccabi Fund and the EHV II Fund. Our goal is to reach investment funds and create strategic collaborations so that we can ramp up and move on to the next phase – commercialization of our current product and development of additional clinical applications.”
What’s your vision?
“We’re starting in Europe and the United States, but aim to be everywhere. Needless to say how necessary our solution is in developing countries, and we’ve already received requests from them – these will certainly be our next scaling up markets.
Check out the full article in Calcalist: https://calcalist360.webflow.io/articles-en/efa
About eHealth Ventures
The eHealth Ventures partnership is a leading investor in early-stage digital health companies.
It includes 2 VC funds and a technological incubator with an exclusive focus on digital health and significant government non-dilutive funding. Partners include Maccabi (a leading Israeli HMO), Amgen (global biotech giant), the Mayo Clinic, Medison Ventures, Arad Investments, and the Hadar Group. The team has reviewed over 1,650 companies to date and invested in a portfolio of 24 highly innovative companies (digital diagnostics, therapeutics, home care and Bioconvergence).