NEW YORK (360Dx) – LetsGetChecked, an Irish at-home testing company, intends to expand its presence in the North American and European markets after closing a $12 million Series A round earlier this year.
CEO Peter Foley said that the company also intends to invest more in its consumer testing platform and will build out its data science team to improve the results it delivers to patients.
"We have collected interesting data ranging from qualitative information on patients to quantitative results," Foley said. "We can integrate that to deliver back unbelievable insights."
Foley founded LetsGetChecked in Dublin in 2014, and the company began offering a variety of tests directly to patients in more than a dozen European countries soon after. LetsGetChecked markets general wellness, reproductive health, and cancer screening assays directly to patients. Not a laboratory itself, nor wedded to any technology platform, it ships sample collection kits to customers who collect their own samples.
According to Foley, the kits are barcoded, and the process is "completely anonymous." After activating their kits online using the enclosed numeric code, customers are asked to fill out a survey concerning their symptoms, family history, and other aspects of their health. This information is then shared with a local physician affiliated with LetsGetChecked.
"If you are in Florida, we would send it to a doctor in Florida," said Foley. "They would do a complete review of that record and sign off on it."
The kits are then routed to diagnostic labs that are compliant with local clinical testing regulations. These labs have no requisition forms. They scan the barcode, pull the records from LetsGetChecked's online system, and return the results directly to the physician, who would sign off on it. The company's team of nurses would then relay the results to LetsGetChecked's clients.
"We still have the physician as the gatekeeper," noted Foley. "Our physicians do a full review of the patients before we authorize the test," he said. "When the results come in … our nurses are there to talk patients through the results. So everyone gets a call."
LetsGetChecked therefore acts as an intermediary, Foley underscored. It's a company built around the idea of making tests available to more people, but it is not a diagnostics firm.
"Infectious disease, cancers, diabetes: everything is on the rise globally, while getting access to screening and prevention is becoming increasingly difficult, due to access convenience, a shortage of physicians, not being able to get to a location, et cetera," said Foley. "The premise of LetsGetChecked was to give consumers access to screening solutions or lab diagnostic testing in their homes with a product they can manage themselves."
LetsGetChecked currently employs around 40 people, split evenly between New York and Dublin. In general, its coders, developers, data scientists, and product development specialists work out of its Irish office, while its New York team is involved in business development, sales and marketing, as well as production of collection kits and logistics. LetsGetChecked maintains ISO-certified facilities for kit manufacture in New York and in Ireland which serve the North American and European markets, respectively. Foley said that the firm began setting up operations in the US about a year ago and went live with its offering for US and Canadian customers earlier this year.
The proceeds from the recent Series A, led by Optum Ventures, will be used to continue this current trajectory rather than to take on any new projects or expand into new geographies. However, one of its investors, Qiming Venture Partners, is based in Shanghai, China. Foley acknowledged that LetsGetChecked's relationship with Qiming might assist the firm if it chooses to enter Asian markets at a later date. For now, though, the company's twin focuses are North America and Europe.
"The next 12 months are going to be critical," said Foley. "The focus is very much on consumer growth at the moment, and we need to consolidate the markets that we are in," he said. "We do have a strong European market, and we are going into North America. We have set our footprint, [and] now we are growing the brand."
For LetsGetChecked, "growing the brand" will mean investments in advertising and digital marketing strategies. The aim is to raise awareness that tests that can lead to preventive health measures are available via the company's at-home testing service.
"You can put a product on the shelf, but if no one knows it's there, they're not going to buy it," Foley said. "It takes time for someone to trust a product, particularly in the healthcare space."
There might also be some questions about the regulatory environment for at-home testing. When people think of a direct-to-consumer testing model, 23andMe, and its dealings with the US Food and Drug Administration, probably come first to mind. Yet, Foley stressed that LetsGetChecked is not itself offering any new tests to customers, but rather making existent tests, which are performed in CLIA- and CAP-compliant laboratories and which already have regulatory clearance, more widely available to customers.
"We are working within what is already allowed from a regulatory perspective," said Foley. "We are just bringing screening that is already there to the patient's home," he said. "It's just a new method of delivery."
Foley added that labs have been keen to partner with LetsGetChecked in order to boost sample volumes. "We are bringing them a new stream of samples," said Foley. "Labs have an endless capacity to receive samples but are typically reliant on a physician's office or hospital," he said. "Labs are getting access to a consumer market via our partnerships, a cohort they couldn't previously access."
LetsGetChecked will also continue to add to its menu as it works on growing its brand. Currently, it offers testing in four categories: general health, including vitamin deficiency tests, tests for Lyme disease, and others; sexual health, including tests for HIV, hepatitis C, and a range of other sexually-transmitted infections; cancer screening, including tests for BRCA mutation status and prostate specific antigen levels; and a variety of fertility and hormone tests, such as testosterone and female hormone measurement assays.
"We started with a very defined test menu, that allowed us to get comfortable in terms of what we deliver," said Foley. "As time has progressed, we have added to the menu, driven by what's the need on the market, what people have poor access to, and ultimately are we delivering results that will have a positive impact on the patient."
Foley did not elaborate on what specific tests are being ordered, or what technology platforms are being used to carry out the tests.
While Foley did not provide specific information on any new tests in development, he said that in general LetsGetChecked makes tests available that have actionable results. "We'll be adding panels based on demand and provided that they are clinically relevant and the science is robust."
Looking ahead, Foley said that LetsGetChecked may seek to close a Series B round within the next 18 months. "It's very important we continue to grow at the rate we have," he said. "That requires investment. There's a huge population that is underserved that doesn't get enough screening done."