A pre-revenue Ohio start-up could be on the way to creating a significant breakthrough in the blood diagnostics market, but it’ll be a little while before we know how likely American Health Technology Corp. is to get there.
The three-employee company developed technology that analyzes scanned blood samples and diagnoses whether the samples indicate diseases, such as leukemia and tuberculosis. The company’s software has the potential to boost the speed and accuracy of diagnosis, automating a process that often requires a heavy dose of human labor, according to Joe Borovsky, an entrepreneur who’s the New Albany, Ohio-based company’s president.
The first big test of the company‘s technology involves evaluating its ability to identify malaria parasites in blood samples. The “gold standard” for diagnosing malaria is the same as it was 100 years ago — a trained diagnostician examines samples under a microscope, said Roy Prescott, president of Hydas World Health a Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, nonprofit created to address the void in malaria diagnostics.
That’s risky because the process relies entirely on the skill of the scientist examining the samples. “The diagnostics have’t entered the 21st Century” when it comes to malaria, Prescott said.
Borovsky approached Prescott because Hydas has a large sample set of malaria slides that could be used to validate American Health’s technology. The Ohio company’s technology holds lots of potential — if it works as advertised, Prescott said. “If a computer can be trained to recognize the parasite in its myriad presentations … that would be very significant.”
In a cursory early test, the technology performed well enough to pique Prescott’s interest and make him eager to subject the software to a more formal, rigorous analysis, he said.
While malaria will provide an indication of the software’s capabilities, it isn’t necessarily where the short-term market potential lies. Analyzing samples from veterinary labs may wind up as the first commercial application of American Health’s software, Borovsky said.
The plan is to sign a deal with a major diagnostics company that analyzes samples sent by veterinarians, charging a per-sample fee. That arrangement would provide the diagnostics firm with cost savings as well as greater diagnostic accuracy, Borovsky said. He is in discussions with a few such companies, though he declined to provide names. “We only need one or two to say yes," he said.
In the meantime, the self-funded company has secured a state tax break for technology firms that figures to make it more attractive to Ohio-based investors. Borovsky would like to fund the company’s growth with revenues as long as he can. “At what point do you need that big investment to scale up?” he asked.
If the company’s technology shows enough promise, the answer may come sooner than later.