Scanadu scores $10.5M and paves the way for FDA trials

Scanadu, the startup out of NASA Ames Research Center that hopes to build a series of personal health-monitoring devices, has raised $10.5 million in its first round of venture funding after completing a successful Indiegogo project in July that raised almost $1.7 million.

That project was for the Scanadu Scout, a small, hockey puck-shaped device that a user holds to her head, and that determines her heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, respiratory rate and blood oxygen levels. The Scout can then send the information to an iOS or Android smartphone via Bluetooth. The device won’t be out until March, and those who signed up via the Indiegogo campaign will also be enrolled in the first FDA study on the usability of the device on an opt-in basis.

Scanadu’s goal is to develop a portfolio of products that put the diagnostic capabilities of an emergency room visit in the palm of your hand. The company is also creating a disposable urine-analysis testing platform, ScanaFlo, which works with your smartphone to offer a complete urine analysis in minutes. Once FDA-approved, it could also measure for pregnancy complications, heart-related kidney problems and urinary tract infections.

Relay Ventures led this round of funding in Scanadu. Tony Hsieh’s VegasTechFund, Jerry Yang’s Ame Cloud Ventures and others contributed. The company has raised $14.7 million so far. The funding will support Scanadu’s efforts to bring its device to market and with the FDA trials.

And the company has some good news with regard to those trials. It will conduct its first clinical trials at the Scripps Translational Science Institute as part of the Wired for Health mobile trial, which attempts to help people achieve and maintain an optimal blood pressure. However, because Scanadu has chosen to go forward with FDA approval for its device, it also means that it will have to wait before putting the Scout or ScanaFlo on the market. The Scout product at its earliest might be widely available at the end of 2014 said Walter De Brouwer, Scanadu’s founder and CEO, but in a more pessimistic tone he added, “It will probably be later.”

However, the choice to get FDA approval for the device is essential to Scanadu’s success in De Brouwer’s mind. “Everyone must make a choice about getting FDA approval or not. We have chosen to go full FDA because we believe consumers have the right to their own medical data and the right to accurate data. No one wants to collect all the data and later find out it was all bullshit.”

De Brouwer sees the FDA as the API between the consumer and the doctor, and with approval the data from his device can serve as a bridge between the doctor and patient. As for it slowing down his time to market he is philosophical, acknowledging the work that the agency does to ensure things are accurate and safe: “Yes, the fact is that it is slow, but would you really like it to be quick? Some things just have to be slow.”