Home diagnosis tech prepares IPO for US expansion

Home diagnosis tech prepares IPO for US expansion

What the introduction of the thermometer was to checking fevers, a new series of Australian-developed tools could be for diagnosing infectious diseases like the flu and tuberculosis (TB).

Ellume managing director and founder Dr Sean Parsons is a clinician himself and has witnessed firsthand the capacity constraints at health facilities to diagnose patients during epidemics, so he decided to find a solution to the problem.

The Brisbane-based company has developed easy-to-use products that can harnessed to diagnose at home for common treatable illnesses, while Ellume also has partnerships with GlaxoSmithKline from the UK and Qiagen from Germany to introduce the technology to health professionals and labs around the globe.

"At it's absolute core the delivery of good medicine I think is about the right diagnosis and the best treatment," Parsons tells Business News Australia.

"Ellume facilitates both of those things - the first through our diagnostic tech we've created over a number of years, and the second through the software which we connect in with that result to connect that patient into the most appropriate treatment."

The company is currently undertaking a pre-IPO roadshow to raise funds to support a commercial release in the US next year, adding to an existing US$15 million investment stake Qiagen made in Ellume in January.

"We want to ensure that we can adequately fund the commercialisation of these products," says Parsons. 

"On the back of these deals and a launch of a product line coming, we thought it was an appropriate time to make sure we have sufficient capital to commercially execute."

He clarifies the group currently has a narrow shareholder base of six families including that of Paul Darrouzet and the Thorsen family.

"We as a company look beyond the ASX to the international markets where we think there's been some excellent companies that have been able to commercialise their products some of those have been private, some have been public," he says. 

"They're not necessarily examples that would be well known to the average investor here in Australia, but they've given us confidence.

"I suppose Medtech and biomedical technology, biopharma, etcetera, do pose a different risk profile...in our case investors can take some confidence that some quite big companies GSK and Qiagen - have done quite detailed due diligence and themselves have committed to Ellume."

But how does the technology work exactly? Parsons explains it as utilising what is known as a "fluorescent immunoassay system" that absorbs blue light and releases photons of red light depending on how much of any given nanoparticle, or quantum dot, is present.

"Quantum dots give us some quite fantastic advantages in terms of the performance of that system, and around those quantum dots we've developed an opto-electronic format which is really a lens system to be able to measure these tiny amounts of light that are coming from our quantum belts," he says. 

"A sample is taken from the patient. In the case of our partnership with Qiagen that's a blood sample, in the case of our partnership with Glaxo that's a swab sample, and in the case of our Ellume lab products for our flu that's a nostril swap and in our Ellume lab strip product that's a throat swab.

"We take a sample, we then apply that to the test, and if the condition is present in the case of influenza, then the fluorescent particles accumulate at the test area and we are able to measure very small amounts of that particle through our detection system."

In all the test should take 10 minutes at the most, which Parsons claims is faster than existing products in the space and with a better performance.

"The TB product we're developing with Qiagen will be used by small-to-medium sized laboratories and will also be used by clinicians in mostly we anticipate larger clinics," says Parsons.

"What we're doing is it's really democratising the diagnosis of tuberculosis by putting it in the hands of small laboratories that can do it more readily and more quickly, and putting it in the hands of clinicians so they can diagnose TB rapidly and accurately in their office.

"That won't be particularly revolutionary in disrupting the healthcare system in that it's really augmenting or giving doctors the information which they need to look after their patients as effectively as possible."

The company's second piece is the Ellume lab platform which will be the key driver in the short-term for Ellume's push into the United States.

"Those products are about the technology to enable doctors to make rapid and accurate diagnoses of common conditions such as flu and strep, and that's mostly focused on the US market," he says.

"This is where a patient goes to a clinician with severe cold or flu, the clinician performs a test for influenza and if positive the clinician makes an appropriate treatment based on the result of the clinical assessment.

Parsons is cautious about using the word 'disruptive', clarifying he does not want to take work away from his colleagues in the medical profession. His goal is ultimately to provide doctors with the best information possible to make decisions in the best interest of patients.

Whilst disruption has garnered a positive meaning in the business world its connotations used to be much more negative, such as the disruption of sick patients passing on diseases to previously uninfected individuals at hospitals.

"Telemedicine is I think part of the future of healthcare - it's growing rapidly in the US, it's starting to take a foothold here in Australia and it can certainly offer value, especially for infectious diseases where we don't really want people with flu going into the waiting rooms of emergency departments or busy general practices and transmitting it to people they come into contact with along the way," he says.

"Taking someone in with flu and sitting them beside someone who has heart failure or lung disease and increasing the risk of that person contracting flu and developing severe complications from flu is not in the best interest of the community.

"So for them to be able to diagnose themselves from home, to connect into medical care through telemedical services, to obtain early treatment without unnecessarily increasing the risk of transmission."

The company has developed a manufacturing facility in Brisbane with the capability to manufacture millions of tests, while its international partnerships and supply chain gives it the capacity to scale into "tens of millions" in the future.

For Parsons, that will truly be a positive disruption to the delivery of health case, empowering consumers with the tools to diagnose themselves and consult with doctors over telemedical services.

"The overall objective is for those [tests] to be available at the chemist," he says.

"We anticipate people will be buying the tests themselves, or a loved one if they're feeling unwell, diagnose themselves at home, connect in to a clinician remotely and then access appropriate medicine."

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