NEW YORK (360Dx) – Engineering for All (EFA), an Israeli diagnostics company, is moving ahead with plans to debut a portable diagnostic system to the clinical market within the next two years.
The firm recently received an ILS 1 million ($280,000) investment from Merchavia, an Israeli investment company that supports early-stage life sciences companies. CEO Yoel Ezra said the firm plans to deploy a prototype in pilot studies next year, and is eyeing opportunities in the US, Europe, India, and the Middle East.
"Our idea is to make laboratory facilities more accessible for everyone," said Ezra, who founded EFA three years ago. The company is based in Caesarea, a coastal city equidistant between Haifa and Tel-Aviv. "We decided to focus on developing a portable lab, and we decided to start with the basic application, which is CBC, complete blood count," he said. "This is the most common test you do when you have to manage an infection, anemia, or some other condition."
The company's first test has multiple applications. EFA is positioning the test as a means to reduce the overprescription of antibiotics, which are often administered while physicians await test results. Using such a test could also reduce the development of drug-resistant bacteria. A portable CBC test could also be used to diagnose leukemia as well.
Ezra started EFA after spending several decades in the Israeli Defense Forces where he served as an engineer and physicist in an operational technology unit. The firm was able to kickstart its activities in 2016 when it received an award from the Israel Innovation Authority worth roughly $60,000.
In December, the company gained another $900,000 in seed funding from eHealth Ventures — a technology incubator that involves Maccabi, Israel's leading healthcare management organization — Amgen, the Cleveland Clinic, and others.
The company has not yet published data related to the platform or discussed the technology in publications. Ezra described it as a multichannel device that is not based around any one particular technology, but rather could integrate multiple techniques and sample types, though the first test will rely on a blood sample.
The tool combines opto-mechanics, electrochemistry, and bioengineering approaches, and is focused on imaging technologies, Ezra said. "It's connected to the microscopy space. We plan to add other technologies to do other tests that we cannot do with imaging," he added. "It's a modular system."
According to Ezra, EFA may work through its partners in eHealth Ventures as it pursues pilot studies for its testing platform, which it calls RevDx. The handheld test platform is accompanied by internally developed software called RevDx IT. The company has only made limited information available about both tools.
"With the funding now, we are accelerating our R&D," Ezra said. "The target is to be ready for a pilot next year." The company is considering working with Maccabi in Israel to carry out the pilot study but is also looking at the US. Indeed, though EFA was founded to bring portable testing to remote areas, it also sees the primary care market in the US as a major opportunity.
"We think this is the most relevant market for us," said Ezra. "We want our system to be used first in primary care, at the community level," he said. "Instead of sending the patient to the lab, waiting for 24 hours or sometimes more, or prescribing an unnecessary antibiotic, you will be able to do a five-minute test and you will get a better understanding of the situation," he said.
To engage the US market, Ezra suggested that the firm could work through its eHealth partners, like the Cleveland Clinic or Amgen.
In addition to the US, Ezra said that EFA is also pursuing opportunities for collaboration with Indian partners. Israel and its neighbors also remain an immediate opportunity for RevDx, he noted. According to Ezra, the Israeli government has been encouraging so-called home hospitalization, where patients receive care from physicians at home in order to deal with the problem of hospital overcrowding. Some healthcare companies specialize in treating patients at home. Such a scenario lends itself to the use of a portable testing device like RevDx, he said.
"We have great advantage to use our platform in such a model," he said.
While CBC will be EFA's initial application, the company has a second test in its pipeline. Ezra said the company is also developing an assay for parasitic infections, such as malaria. "In infectious diseases, CBC is the most basic test, but we want to do parasite analysis, which is another reason for infectious diseases worldwide," Ezra said. He did not say when the test would become available.
The concept of delivering to market a portable testing system capable of reaching patients in remote areas is not novel. Antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases are also common targets for companies operating in the decentralized lab testing space. Newcastle, UK-based QuantuMDx, for instance, has developed a microfluidics-based, multiplex PCR platform for human papillomavirus testing, among other indications.
In the past year, Leuven, Belgium-based MiDiagnostics and Princeton, NJ-based Essenlix have discussed plans to launch CBC assays, while Sight Diagnostics, an Israeli company, launched a point-of-care system for CBC in Europe. Yokneam, Israel-based PixCell last year received an EU grant to support the development of a POC device for carrying out CBC analysis.
Without naming competitors, Ezra said that most of the other devices in development or on the market are either desktop devices that must have an electrical connection or are based around a particular chemistry.
"Our system is modular," he stressed. "We are not looking at one technology. We are looking at using several technologies, so that any decisions made will be based on several indications."