After a conversation about how bad men can be at seeking medical help, Luke Heron and his team came up with the idea of TestCard, an at-home urine test that can flag conditions from UTIs to prostate problems. After being crowned the winner of the very first Digital Health Rewired Pitchfest 2019, Luke explains more about his innovation and how he found taking part in the competition.
Tell us about your innovation and what it does.
TestCard is an at-home urine test kit that partners with an accompanying mobile app that turns a phone’s camera into a clinical grade scanner.
We have been able to create a mobile app that removes interfering and ambient light and effectively simulates the same conditions that would be present in a fixed terminal scanner used in hospitals. This means TestCard can be used in pretty much any lighting condition.
In conjunction with a number of controls we have put in place, we can effectively provide users with a mechanism to deliver clinical grade results for a number of diseases and conditions in the privacy, comfort and convenience of home.
What gave you the idea for your product?
The genesis moment was a conversation between the two co-founders around how bad men can be at seeking medical help. TestCard was created following a reimagining of how a healthcare pathway might ideally work with regards to prostate health.
Specifically, the founders imagined a new way of measuring prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels via a non-invasive and non-intimidating at-home test on a periodic basis as an early intervention tool.
How have you got to where you are now?
TestCard is two years old, during which time it has won a scattering of industry and tech sector awards highlighting the pioneering work it has done in facilitating earlier diagnosis at home.
The company has recently completed a pilot which pitched its product against a Roche fixed terminal urinalysis reader. It fared particularly well, indicating that it was actually able to deliver a greater reliability in its results.
The first of its at-home products will come to market later in 2019 in the UK, with continental Europe following on in the first half of 2020. The company will be taking residence within the world’s largest medical complex, the Texas Medical Centre (TMC), from August 2019 as it prepares for bringing its products to market in the US in 2020.
But 2019 is all about commercialisation of its first three products; UTI, pregnancy and glucose.
Why did you decide to enter the health start-up space?
Founders of start-ups need to balance common sense with a delusional ambition. Our delusional ambition is to disrupt healthcare by facilitating earlier diagnosis for common conditions at home – that was the reason we entered the space and the disruption of healthcare remains our rather grandiose goal.
Ultimately, TestCard believes there is a paradigm shift away from curative medicine towards predictive pre-emptive healthcare and it believes it can be one of the key players in that movement.
Have you faced any barriers?
Plenty, but nothing that cannot be overcome by persistence and influential cheerleaders that willingly advocate for you. TestCard has worked with some of the largest healthcare companies in the world over the past few months and is actively engaged with the largest healthcare providers and insurers worldwide.
Staying relevant will be reliant on continuous innovation, which will be an ever constant feature of our business well into the future.
The most difficult barriers have been those we choose to enforce on ourselves. For example, earlier this year we choose to prioritise a pilot with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies that, if successful, would evidence and promote our technology within a company we ultimately wished to partner with.
It was a gamble that paid off and we are now in discussions for a commercial collaboration with that company.
Why did you decide to enter the Digital Health Rewired Pitchfest?
It’s a credible event and obtaining validation from leaders, influencers and innovators within the healthcare innovation field is always of value.
How did you find the experience?
Great fun – but then we did win! We enjoyed the event and spending time with the other pitching businesses was also profitable.
Looking to the future, what do you hope your product will achieve and what’s the next step in achieving that goal?
TestCard expects to achieve broad retail adoption both at home and overseas. The company is already working with some of the largest companies in the world on partnerships and collaborations, each of which bring TestCard to large and highly scaleable audiences.
We want to disrupt healthcare by providing an improved pathway for those isolated from access – isolation is the biggest issue confronting healthcare worldwide, whether social, frailty and mental health conditions making access difficult, or economic or geographic isolation making access difficult or impossible.
TestCard is a low cost solution that leverages the technology all of us carry in our pockets to deliver an improved level of precision in the comfort, convenience and immediacy of home.
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the health start-up space?
Focus is key. Our business has been presented with opportunities in every continent and offered partnerships in multiple verticals – the most common question we are asked is “Can TestCard do X?” – the literal answer is invariably “yes”, but its important to remember that “no” (or “not just yet”) is also a perfectly acceptable answer.
Scaling quickly is key but also ensuring you scale with the right partners in the right geographies to ensure you last the course is a discipline that is difficult to master. Just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should do it – focus on your core competencies and don’t deviate that course.
The Digital Health Rewired Pitchfest competition gives innovators from across health and social care the chance to pitch their idea to sector leaders. Over 70 start-ups applied to take part in the 2019 event, sponsored by Silver Buck, with the final taking place at Digital Health Rewired on 26 March.
Want to pitch your start-up or idea to NHS IT leaders and investors? Entries for Rewired Pitchfest 2020 are now open; you can apply here.