By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A health care startup called Microdrop is bringing the lab to your home. Co-founder Jani Tuomi says blood collected in a small vial promises to produce test results that are as reliable as traditional lab testing ones.

Microdrop’s at-home blood testing kit is called imaware. The company is working with doctors in California to develop new tests to help clients get ahead of a potential disease.

“That first visit to the doctor is actually very time consuming, tactical, paper oriented, just to order a test,” said Tuomi. “So what we’re saying is, let’s not necessarily waste time on that first visit, and let’s have you go armed with a little more information.”

Information would come from the Imaware kit, available online for $99.

The global blood testing market is expected to reach $60 billion dollars by 2023. It’s a space made murky by Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos. She had promised to revolutionize blood testing using a similar method of collection. She is now awaiting trial on charges of fraud and felony conspiracy for misleading investors about its technology.

“The problem was that they had technologies that were not validated in a clinical environment and they did not engage the clinical lab professionals when they first launched,” said Dr. Alan Wu, professor of laboratory medicine at UCSF.

Microdrop says it is dedicated to accuracy and transparency in how its tests work.

The vials are sent to certified partner labs around the country.

No lab order is required, the process takes less than 5 minutes and, after mailing back the vial, results are available within five days.

Currently, imaware only screens for Celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis but it plans to expand its range in the coming months to include tests for heart disease and other auto-immune conditions.

Tuomi says the goal is to help people get diagnosed quicker.

“Where we want to go to is proactive healthcare,” said Tuomi. “Proactive healthcare means being able to measure and monitor your health stats and vitals and, when you see something going out of range, you go to your doctor proactively.”

Dr. Wu, who is not affiliated with the startup, says Microdrop shows promise, as the at-home testing industry grows. One of its key advisers, Dr. Eleftherios Diamandis, was an early critic of Theranos. A reputable scientific journal, CCLM, has also validated results from the Celiac test.

“We don’t want patients making their own diagnoses, ordering their own laboratory tests and interpreting laboratory results, without the help of a professional. So, bypassing that step is potentially problematic,” Dr. Wu cautioned.

Tuomi says he believes the imaware kit will add efficacy to the process.

“We don’t want you to not visit your doctor, we just want you to visit your doctor with a little more awareness of your health and the words that resonate with them,” said Tuomi.


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