Health IT

Mobile health startup sees opportunities for salivary diagnostic platform for diabetics, cancer

mouth, teeth, tongueA mobile health startup co-founded by emergency room physicians is developing a liquid- based diagnostics platform. The tests would use saliva and, in some cases, urine for rapid, noninvasive tests that could transform the way diabetics monitor ketone levels, how chemotherapy levels for cancer patients are measured, along with alcohol and marijuana detection.

Dr. Ron Clark, the co-founder of QUICK, told MedCity News in a phone interview that he came up with the idea to develop a smartphone diagnostic last year, based on how frequently he was using his smartphone for various tasks around the Hospital of Central Connecticut. Colleague and co-founder Dr. David Mucci developed the diagnostic platform that uses chemistry ad physics to measure concentrations of substances in liquids. They have since added a patent lawyer and financial executive and are working with companies across the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries. The nine month old startup’s name reflects the speed the company says its diagnostic results can be determined.

One of the initial tests would be to use saliva to measure ketone levels in diabetics. Raised levels can indicate diabetic ketoacidosis. The life threatening condition occurs when energy can’t be created by breaking down glucose because there’s not enough insulin. So fat is broken down instead, which causes a buildup of fat byproducts — ketones. The condition requires patients to seek immediate treatment. Ketone levels typically are assessed with blood tests.

Another interesting application would be for cancer patients on chemotherapy. It’s developing a diagnostic that could  assess whether the levels of chemotherapy are appropriate for that patient or if they are below or above what they should be. There’s also potential to measure medication levels for other drugs. The platform is also attracting interest as a potential way to measure alcohol levels, which has caught the interest of some beverage companies who are in talks with the startup. Using the platform to test for steroids, marijuana and cocaine are also being explored. A pregnancy test using urine is also in the works.


The diagnostic tool uses a small reusable component on which to gather the sample. That should be a significant saving for those who have to check their glucose levels with throwaway strips.  One of the cool things about using saliva is that the test can be done easily and discretely.

It’s also developing a pregnancy test developing a second prototype to capture vital signs and provide analysis on a smart phone or tablet.

The experience of becoming an entrepreneur from pitching companies to negotiating with manufacturers has been a transformative one said Clark. “In my life this has been one of the most exciting things, short of the birth of my children. I am really happy about where I work. Every day we think of something new we want to measure.”


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