Medivolve, a company solely focused on commercializing technology for the COVID-19 pandemic, announced a $1 million investment in BlowFISH in January 2021. With BlowFISH currently undergoing clinical trials, the companies aim to obtain emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Marvel Diagnostics developed the BlowFISH technology not only for SARS-CoV-2 testing purposes, but to improve testing methods for different respiratory illnesses, making testing more comfortable, convenient, and accessible, according to the company’s cofounder, Pirouz Kavehpour, MD. With the BlowFISH technology, patients breathe into a whistle-like device that collects sample droplets from the patient’s lungs and returns results in about 10 minutes. According to the partners, the technology will be used as an alternative to the nasal swab samples commonly used to test for the virus.

“Making testing more accessible to populations, such as children and the elderly, where it may be difficult to administer a nasopharyngeal swab test, will become important in our transition to resuming daily life in the ‘new normal,’” said Medivolve CEO David Preiner. “Data obtained from BlowFISH powered testing will also further Medivolve’s mission to use innovation and artificial intelligence to close the loop in health management for every American.”

Phenomix and Mayo Clinic Determine Obesity Risk Through Phenotypes

Phenomix Sciences and Mayo Clinic have signed an exclusive technology licensing agreement for a blood test that has the ability to detect four common phenotypes predicting obesity in patients.

Using one patient blood sample, the MyPhenome test developed by Mayo Clinic employs an artificial intelligence-based algorithm to analyze a patient’s DNA as well as metabolomic and hormone markers related to obesity. The companies expect it to help clinicians provide earlier diagnosis and better anti-obesity treatment options, including drugs, devices, or surgeries, by analyzing the phenotypes identified from the test.

According to Phenomix, a patient can fall under four primary phenotypes they have classified as: hungry brain, a defect of satiation; hungry gut, a defect of satiety; emotional hunger, an emotional reward from eating; and slow burn, a defect in energy expenditure.

The test was developed based on a recent study led by Phenomix founders Andres Acosta, MD, and Michael Camilleri, MD, which concluded that knowing a patient’s obesity phenotype allowed that patient to lose double the amount of weight after only 12 months of treatment. MyPhenome aims to launch the test before 2022.

Fujifilm and Helio Health Collaborate on Liver Cancer Screening

To improve early detection of liver cancer, Fujifilm Medical Systems and Helio Health are collaborating to market the Helio Liver test, a blood-based test that aims to diagnose liver cancer patients early for better treatment options. Through the partnership, the Helio Liver test will leverage Fujifilm’s µTASWako i30 Immunological test system, a microfluidic-based clinical immunoanalyzer for in vitro diagnostic use.

The Helio Liver test works by collecting a 10-mL tube of a patient's blood sample, extracting cell free DNA, and performing a bisulfate conversion step to differentiate unmethylated versus methylated cytosines. The sample is then run on Fujifilm’s µTASWako i30 Immunological test system to detect early biomarkers of liver cancer.

Over time, studies have shown that detecting liver cancer in the early stages results in a survival rate 12 times higher than if detected at a later stage. The companies hope that the Helio Liver test will simplify cancer screening by providing a convenient, noninvasive form of testing as opposed to the imaging tests, MRIs and ultrasounds, that are typically used.

The Helio Liver test is currently under regulatory review for registration by the China National Medical Products Administration. Through the partnership, Helio Health also aims to use Fujifilm’s established network to market the test in the United States.

DermTech and Stanford Study Skin Condition Test

DermTech, a company that specializes in precision dermatology, announced a partnership with a team of researchers from the Stanford School of Medicine on a research study that aims to improve analysis of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), a chronic skin condition made up of swollen lesions in the armpit, groin, anal, and breast regions of the body. The study, “A Study of Longitudinal Noninvasive Cytokine Monitoring in Patients With Hidradenitis Suppurativa,” will be a 3-year evaluation to ultimately improve diagnostic turnaround times and provide better treatment options for HS.

Through the course of the study, researchers will utilize DermTech’s noninvasive sample collection and precision genomics platform to identify and evaluate biomarkers in patients with HS. DermTech has developed a noninvasive skin genomics platform that collects RNA, DNA, and protein from a lesion through a “Smart Sticker.” The sticker is first placed on the lesion, then analyzed to phenotypically characterize HS, identify potential subsets of HS, and assist clinicians in treatment decisions.

Previous studies have shown that because the direct cause of HS is unclear, it can take more than 7 years for an accurate diagnosis.

BBI, Illumina, GeneDx Join Forces for Whole-Genome Sequencing Project

Brotman Baty Institute, Illumina, and GeneDx are teaming up on a project to improve detection of developmental differences in children through whole-genome sequencing (WGS).

Called SeqFirst, the 3-year project will begin by offering WGS to 100 children showing signs of developmental differences, and over the course of the study, researchers will continuously review the medical records of each participant. As part of the agreement, Illumina will provide advanced sequencing reagents for the study, while GeneDx will perform WGS. Through SeqFirst, the companies hope to emphasize the importance of early genetic sequencing for children with developmental disorders.

“WGS can dramatically reduce the time it takes to diagnose genetic conditions, which can improve patient outcomes," said Jeremy Preston, vice president for regional and segment marketing at Illumina. “We are proud to support the University of Washington and GeneDx and help families find the peace-of-mind that comes with a diagnosis for their child."