Sick of immunotherapy? These biotech/medtech startups are doing something different.

We’re in the era of immunotherapy, of monoclonal antibodies and anti-inflammation drugs and personalized medicine. Insert buzzword. Startups in these spaces tend to attract a sizable swath of cash, particularly if they’re in the lucrative cancer diagnostics or therapeutics space – but what else is out there? Lots. Here are some startups that pique the interest: […]

We’re in the era of immunotherapy, of monoclonal antibodies and anti-inflammation drugs and personalized medicine. Insert buzzword. Startups in these spaces tend to attract a sizable swath of cash, particularly if they’re in the lucrative cancer diagnostics or therapeutics space – but what else is out there?

Lots.

Here are some startups that pique the interest:

ZipLine Medical

Stapling up skin post-surgery is pretty much the norm to quickly seal up wounds, but it runs a risk of infection and injury from the extra damage to already sensitive skin. This Bay Area startup has a non-invasive, non-suture alternative that is meant to seal up small surgical wounds.

The product basically adheres to the skin with two sticky strips that have adjusted ratcheted ties that connect them. The strips are placed on either side of a surgical incision after the procedure is completed, then tightened to close the incision. A bandage is placed on top: QED.

SqzBiotech 

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Cambridge startup SQZ Biotech has a slick, vector-free method of introducing material into cells, squeezing them in high-pressure tubules to loosen cell membrane pores so they’ll accept the alien materials. The process is performed on microfluidic chips – or, in common parlance, they’re another form of the ever-sexy lab-on-a-chip.

With its proprietary “CellSqueeze” process, a bunch of different kinds of material can be effectively inserted into cells – proteins, nanomaterials, antibodies, RNA and DNA. This novel method is being recognized across academia as a promising alternative to more traditional methods like electroporation and cell penetrating peptides.

Cue

The sleek Cue device, for which the company is named, is still in testing and now detects and tracks five health and lifestyle indicators in mere minutes: Inflammation, vitamin D levels, fertility, testosterone and influenza.

The company also has a smartphone app called Life Feed that it says helps users visualize and quantify the daily effect of activity, food and sleep on these molecular readings as well as overall wellness.

Stroma Medical

This laser therapy company that claims it can swap your eye color from brown to blue – is in the midst of clinical trials and has raised more cash. Here’s how Stroma describes the post-laser color change process:

For the first week or so following the procedure, the irises will get darker. Thereafter, they will grow progressively lighter, revealing the underlying natural blue color. The full color change process should take two to four weeks following the procedure.

Wild. What’s next in cosmetic self-alteration?

IsoMark

This Wisconsin startup has developed a breath-based test that can detect infection within two hours of its onset. The patented concept has wide-reaching applications – for instance, it’s proposed developing a smart neonatal incubator that’s constantly checking a preemie’s breath for signs of sepsis.

The general idea, however, is that  by using the non-invasive measurement of breath-based biomarkers, patients could be diagnosed and treated much quicker than if they wait for a lab’s results of, say, a blood test. The uses for Isomark’s test include initial disease detection in a clinic and other outpatient medical services, and importantly, post-op monitoring of patients who could contract hospital-acquired infections like sepsis.

Cognoptix

Confirming an Alzheimer’s diagnosis today takes a multi-pronged approach: Doctors evaluate a patient’s mood and cognition, conduct basic neurological tests and perform brain imaging scans to gauge a patient’s likelihood of having the devastating disease.

Cognoptix’s optical scanning machine, called the Sapphire II, can detect beta amyloid in a person’s eyes. Beta amyloid is a substance that builds up in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s; it also aggregates in the lens, and its levels can be monitored non-invasively by a primary care physician with the simple eye test. The doctor just drops a beta amyloid-specific fluorescent dye into the patient’s eyes, and the likelihood of his or her having the disease is spun out of the machine.

The company says its test has 95 percent specificity in those with Alzheimer’s – which could prove important given the rate our population is aging.

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