By J.D. Harrison
We’re live in Austin this week, and every day, we’ll introduce you to one of the most outside-the-box finalists in the SXSW Accelerator Competition – the premier start-up showcase at the annual South by Southwest festival.
Who: MobileODT Co-founders Ariel Beery and David Levitz, as well as Amit Safir, director of strategy and operations — the latter of whom presented the company’s technology in Austin.
Where: Tel Aviv, Israel
When: Started in 2012
Caital raised: Raised $950,000 from angel investors including Mark Cuban, and currently raising an additional $2 million to $3 million round of financing.
What’s the pitch?
Safir: “Our product uses a smartphone to help detect cervical cancer, which kills more than a quarter million women every year, many of them living in areas without access to screenings. Our product brings cervical cancer screenings to anywhere with access to a smartphone. What we’re building is a low-cost, mobile colposcope device that’s equivalent to a regular colposcope by leveraging the optics, connectivity and the processing power of today’s mobile phones. So our device basically consists of a powerful light source on one side of the phone, and on the other side, we have built a lens that aligns with the camera on the phone. This allows health care providers to image the cervix in a much easier way using some of the technology many of them already have in their hand.”
How did your team come up with the idea?
Safir: “So the core of our company is around biophotonics and the use of light and the analysis of the absorption of lights. One of our founders, Dr. Levitz, has a Ph.D in biophotonics and medical optics, and he started to realize that a lot of the technology currently used in labs and hospitals relies on camera sensors that are not more advanced than the camera sensors in today’s mobile phones. So he started looking for ways to leverage the power in those smartphones to make these devices cheaper and more portable.”
What has the experience been like at SXSW?
Safir: “It has been a fantastic experience. We went in looking to expand our network of medical partners and commercial partners, maybe meet some new investors. I think we made some really good connections that will be helpful going forward.”
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By Even Schuman
Mobile apps for health care have broken new ground in monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment. Next week, some of the most advanced will be highlighted at the SXSW Accelerator competition.
These apps have the potential to advance health care, especially in parts of the world where quality care is distant. But they first have to overcome a huge obstacle. In addition to the funding challenges and routine tech hurdles that every startup must clear, healthcare apps have to wrestle with 19-year-old federal HIPAA guidelines, which often frustrate developers, who see the rules as impractical in the mobile world of 2015.
Consider MobileODT, which makes a device that leverages a phone’s capabilities to make cervical cancer diagnosis easier and much less expensive. Its device, according to CEO Ariel Beery, “transforms the phone into a long-range microscope” by physically attaching a specialized lens with a light-source and a battery pack.
“We’re adding an additional lens to (the phone’s) lens, making it a mix of a telescope and a microscope. The physician can then see a distance of 30 centimeters away at a magnification of between 10 and 25 times.”
The $1,800 device replaces the standard hospital-based mechanism, which costs more than 10 times as much, Beery said. But in many of the areas MobileODT focuses on, the mobile apparatus wouldn’t replace that large hospital equipment — because in those areas, there is no equipment. Instead, health workers make diagnoses with a flashlight and the naked eye.
Such diagnoses “are more often than not wrong,” resulting in a high rate of miscarriages and infections, Beery said. “They are treating five out of six women unnecessarily.”
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