Diagnosing What’s Wrong, With Your Smartphone

scanadu-scoutLast week, Slate reported on a brilliant UCLA professor who is “changing the field of medical testing by turning smartphones into portable laboratories.”  But there are a growing number of entrepreneurs finding ways to transform our phones into diagnostic tools. Among the latest is Walter de Brouwer, the founder of Scanadu, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Calif.-based company that just raised $10.5 million in Series A funding led by the firm Relay Ventures. (Tony Hsieh’s VegasTechFund, Jerry Yang’s Ame Cloud Ventures, and numerous angels also participated.) 

Right now, Scanadu makes a puck-shaped scanner that’s packed with sensors designed to read your vital signs — including heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and blood oxygen levels — and beam the information wirelessly to your iOS or Android smartphone. Next, the company plans to produce a disposable urine analysis testing platform to help determine, say, whether you’re developing heart-related kidney problems. 

Yesterday, I chatted with de Brouwer — a serial entrepreneur and former academic — about his company’s next steps.

What’s the big idea here?

We want to bring [to consumers] the complete diagnostic experience of a hospital. That consists of the emergency room, which basically measures the electromechanical information on the surface of the body; imaging, or what you see through the skin; and labs, where bodily fluids — blood, urine analysis, saliva — are examined.

One day, this will come together in a way that’s FDA approved, so that patients have accurate information that both they and their doctors accept and understand.

You don’t yet have FDA approval. How long do you anticipate it will take?

We’re starting our first clinical trials with [the] Scripps [Translational Science Institute] and will deliver a feasibility study to the FDA in March. Normally, [the turnaround takes] 100 days, though you can never predict, especially if there are more questions, and you have to do more trials. So our hope is to have the product out to consumers for the holidays in 2014, but our expectation is that [it will be available for sale] in 2015.

Will you try to sell to both Western and developing countries?

Because we’re small – we have 19 employees right now – we’re targeting the U.S. market for the moment.

Who will have access to your customers’ data?

Users will basically own their data, which they can send to their doctor to view, even in real time.

In summer, you raised a separate $1.6 million for Scandu in a record-breaking Indiegogo campaign, during which pre-order prices rose from $149 to $199. What are you planning to charge for your firs product?

The app will be free. But $199 is what we found consumers are willing to pay [for the device]. Over time, they can expect to pay less. The first digital thermometers cost $950.

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