It has long been known that yellow urine can indicate imminent dehydration while transparent urine is much healthier. But color is not the only attribute of urine that can provide real time health alerts.
Israeli company Olive Diagnostics has developed a toilet-mounted passive sensor, which monitors and analyzes urine and provides automatic early detection of diseases, often before we even suspect there is a problem. The company was founded by CEO Guy Goldman and Corey Katz.
Goldman, who grew up in Israel and the US, served in management positions in both countries as well as the UK, where he managed a public transport company. While he was busy developing his international career, his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "She underwent surgery and chemotherapy and every day I called to find out how she was doing. My brothers told me that it's nice that I care but either stop calling or come home." That's when I first realized how important a remote monitoring device could be."
He thought it would be easy to develop one. "In 2017, the subject of quantified self, independent continuous measurement, was in the headlines, but when I wanted to implement this for my mother, I saw that there wasn't really any independent monitoring. Just for the pulse and number of steps. I understood that it wasn't just my problem. Many children live far from their parents and don't know how they are faring."
Goldman sought a product that would work continuously and completely passively in terms of the user. "My mother for example would not urinate in a cup, if I wanted to know how she was feeling. And I knew that only urine can provide a passive measurement. Urine is the regulator - the body excretes everything that is excessive, from which it is possible to learn a lot."
Goldman began to examine how to measure urine passively and understood that it needed to be done optically through spectroscopy, a known method for analyzing the composition of materials by striking with light energy, and examining the absorbed spectrum versus the reflected spectrum. "For example, if we put 100 energy units in a molecule in 1,000 wavelengths and you get back 70, then you know it is water."
Spectrometers are large and expensive devices. Materials to be examined are placed in the device, in which a noise reduction process occurs, "And we want this in the toilet which is surrounded by endless noise. There were scientists who told me, "It's impossible to conduct spectrometry in an open place," but they were not able to show me3 why it is not possible. So we tried to do this and lower the noise through algorithms for processing signals and additional methods for reducing noise. And we were successful. We invented new math. We had to invent new functions that did not exist. There was no book on spectrometry in an open place.
"I was convinced at first that we were buying their device and converting it for our needs. But this device needs contact and has to be half a millimeter from what it is checking. Now you have a product that requires putting a sample within a framework that has no light and in my opinion it catually works."
Now there was the need to decide what to monitor. "They suggested a million ideas to me. Preeclampsia, pregnancy diabetes, monitoring drugs and alcohol, drugs in sport, date rape drugs in pubs. Each one of them is a huge market but I defined my own market, monitoring the elderly, in order to reach one market, institutions for the elderly and home hospitalization. This approach allows us to sell all our capabilities to one place."
Goldman said that the system can monitor red blood cells, proteins, ketones and creatinine as well as urine color the pressure and the density. The company has initially validated the capabilities of the product in a trial conducted in Hadassah Hospital by the clinical trial company TechnoSTAT. In the trial, the device successfully detected proteins in 900 urine samples with a sensitivity of 98.7% (only 1.3% of patients were missed), and specifically 100% (no healthy patient was identified as ill). The company said that this is a higher rate of accuracy than the devices for testing proteins in the urine that the health system uses today.
These trials also examined the ability of the system to detect certain types of cancer, for example in the prostate gland, ovaries and kidneys, heart failure, dehydration, kidney stones, urinary tract infection and other medical problems.
The company will soon start the process of gaining FDA clearance. Not every medical check in the US requires FDA approval but such a device requires FDA clearance to be accepted by the medical community and to achieve medical insurance indemnity. Meanwhile the device is already installed in nursing homes for the elderly in the Netherlands and in Israel, Maccabi Health Services, one of its investors, is preparing for a pilot trial for patients hospitalized at home.
Goldman believes in the ability of the product to save resources for medical services. For example, he said that for men the device detects kidney stones several weeks before they begin hurting and at a stage when it can be treated more easily and less painfully, without the need for an urgent doctor's appointment and hospitalization. Early detection of cancer provides similar and even more valuable benefits but the validation the system has to undergo for this is far more substantial.
To date the company has raised $4 million in pre-seed and seed financing rounds from Maccabi Health Services, Cleveland Clinic, Dutch fund Venturing and the Israel Innovation Authority. The company is currently raising a large financing round.
Goldman said that he called the company Olive to associate it with Israel's image. "We chose an Israeli and Middle Eastern name and also because olive oil is similar in color to urine.
"My mother eventually died from dehydration," he relates. "She was sleeping 22 hours a day and we didn't know that she wasn't okay."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 22, 2022.
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