Diagnosis On-demand: Houston Methodist Develops V-chip Medtech Device

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launched a biochip that can spot dengue fever, malaria and 13 other diseases from blood or serum samples.

Mitchell claims, however, that none of the other point-of-care diagnostic devices on the market provide the ease of use or are as efficienct as the V-chip.

Qin at Methodist first came up with the V-chip’s design nearly four years ago and has since acquired patents on the technology and tested it using blood samples from hospital patients.

Last year, the NIH gave Methodist $2.1 million in grants to help further develop the V-chip for such uses as indicating the presence of drugs in urine and measuring blood biomarkers associated with liver cancer. Methodist says those projects are ongoing.

Ramesh Kesanupalli, founder and CEO of Sparsa, a health IT startup that is launching in August, is helping Methodist with commercialization plans of the device. “The V-chip is going to be a very critical part of what we want to do,” he says.

Kesanupalli sees the V-chip as a health management tool. Adult children could use it to make sure elderly parents are properly taking their medications, he says. Or women and their doctors could search for breast cancer biomarkers at quicker intervals than the two-year cycles that most insurers will authorize mammograms. The data, he says, would be easily uploaded and shared in Sparsa’s Web platform, which is designed to be a centralized portal of health data.

“We’re taking the prototype and talking to manufacturing partners about how to convert it to something where we can do large-scale manufacturing,” Kesanupalli says.

Kesanupalli is a longtime Silicon Valley entrepreneur—one of his companies, Network24, was bought by Akamai for $200 million in 2000—who created Sparsa after watching the inefficiency in his wife’s cancer treatment. He had moved her from a hospital in San Jose to one in Los Angeles, but she couldn’t begin treatment for three days because health records had not been transferred.

The second company Methodist is partnering with is Biomet, an Illinois company that manufactures orthopedic devices and biologics products. Adam Finley, the company’s project manager in product innovation, says the Chicago-area company is testing the chip for diagnostic abilities related to earlier detection of biomarkers in patients that might point to their needing one of the company’s prostethic devices or biologic treatments.

“It’s our goal to look at the diagnostic world to see what could help our products,” he says. “We look to foster a relationship that way. The V-chip is pretty cutting edge and cold make a great pairing with our products.”

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