Startups, Devices & Diagnostics

GE Ventures spinoff wants to take the sting out of blood tests

GE Ventures has been incubating Drawbridge Health for two years. With its pain-free blood draw device, the business seeks to increase patient compliance and simplify the diagnostic workflow.


Drawbridge Health blood collection device

Drawbridge Health is looking for a better way to get blood. Funded by General Electric’s entrepreneurial arm, GE Ventures, the company is working on a device that draws blood without the associated pain and anxiety and chemically stabilizes it for transport. The business believes this friendlier approach will increase patient compliance and simplify the diagnostic workflow.

“Drawbridge has taken blood chemistry stabilization technology from GE, and that is the heart of the device,” said CEO Lee McCracken in a phone interview. “Our handheld device is applied to the upper arm. Two buttons are pushed, the device pricks the skin and a few drops of blood flow into the device. It draws the blood, collects it into the chamber and allows it to go onto the strip of paper.”

The paper stabilizes the blood, eliminating the need for refrigeration and significantly extending the sample’s shelf life.

Current methods can put patients into low-level purgatory. Their physician sends them to an off-site lab, where they often wait. Many experience intense anxiety, some faint during the procedure. This can be problematic for patients who need serial blood draws.

“If you think of the spectrum of testing that is done to understand what is going on with a patient, it ends up being a lot of blood samples taken,” said McCracken. “One of the real challenges is compliance. Some people are so concerned about the process that they actually do not get their blood tested.”

If successful, the device could eliminate much of the inconvenience associated with blood diagnostics. The procedure could be done in a doctor’s office or even a patient’s home. The pain could be greatly reduced: McCracken describes a slight pinch.

GE Ventures has been incubating Drawbridge for two years, but now the company is ready to go into the world, find additional financing and take its product through the regulatory process. They are poised to begin clinical studies and eventually get FDA 510(k) clearance.

Drawbridge regards its technology as a niche product and not likely to appear at the local LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics facility anytime soon. There are around a billion blood draws in the U.S. each year, according to McCracken. The company hopes that, once approved, the device will handle a small but significant portion, perhaps in the millions.

“There’s an interesting subset of the market: specialty diagnostics, companies that are addressing reproductive health, chronic disease management, genetic testing, wellness,” said McCracken. “They’re already running samples, looking for a better experience that’s easier for a patient or consumer of diagnostics.”

Drawbridge is not the only company looking to improve blood draws. Seventh Sense Biosystems markets a painless system. Velano Vascular has a needle-free approach. But Drawbridge believes their stabilization technology gives them an edge.

“That cartridge can go in the regular mail” said McCracken. “It does not need to be Fed Ex’d, it does not need to be in cold storage. There’s none of that required because of the blood chemistry stabilization.”

Photo: Drawbridge Health