The National Institutes of Health (NIH) granted a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award to the Austin-based medical device company Spot On Sciences for its HemaSpot device, developed for collection and analysis of time-relevant blood samples for medical research in chronic disease and population studies. The company’s device was developed in collaboration with researchers from the University of Vigo, in Spain.
HemaSpot is a device that uses a fingerstick to collect blood samples at home, in order to save patients from having to find a certified phlebotomist and go to a laboratory or doctor’s office to perform a venipuncture blood collection. It was created based on dried blood spot (DBS) technology, which is used in newborn screening, and it collects multiple samples per day and dries two drops of blood within a protective cartridge. After being dried, the samples are stabled at room temperature, in order to be sent for diagnosis at an analysis site.
The collection of multiple samples a day allows the measurement of disease biomarkers that can be altered depending on daily circadian rhythms, providing physicians with data for predicting, diagnosing, and treating chronic diseases, such as diabetes, kidney, and cardiovascular disease. The traditional DBS technology, on the other hand, is a multi-step process susceptible to moisture, contamination, or loss of the samples. HemaSpot also aims to reduce these problems, in addition to analyzing parameters like proteins, nucleic acids, and small molecule levels.
Dr. Michael Smolensky, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Texas-Austin and past editor of the academic journal Chronobiology International, believes that the device “is the tool we’ve been waiting for.” “HemaSpot sets the stage for large-scale, low-cost patient studies in blood pressure and hypertension that we hope to initiate next year,” said Smolensky, who is collaborating with Dr. Ramon Hermida from the University of Vigo and Spot On Sciences in the study.
“We are very excited to work with Drs. Hermida and Smolensky, well known experts in the chronobiology area, on this study. Discovering the underlying causes of the intriguing findings of Dr. Hermida’s study can point to new diagnostic tests and treatments for high burden diseases,” stated Spot On Sciences’ founder, Dr. Jeanette Hill.
A recent study conducted by Dr. Ramon Hermida revealed that by taking blood pressure medication at bedtime and not during the morning, patients could increase survival rates by five times. However, the scientists weren’t able to determine the reasons, which may be related to the body’s circadian rhythm, due to difficulty in obtaining blood samples at specific time points such as early morning and late evening.
“We’ve known for a long time that the body’s circadian time structure, i.e., circadian rhythms, can have a significant effect on day-night variation in the symptoms intensity of disease and effectiveness of medication. HemaSpot makes it possible for new research into this intriguing area of medical chronobiology,” explained Dr. Hill.
The company was also recently granted a two-year, $750,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract from the Federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for the research and development of HemaSpot. DARPA supported the research, since it anticipated the device’s possible uses in improving diagnosis within the armed forces.