Aalto University: Portable and quick analytics tool can revolutionise the pain killer diagnostics market

The effect of a pain killer can be studied by determining its concentration in the blood. Currently, this is only possible using slow and laborious laboratory methods. Fepod Oy Ltd, an Aalto University based start-up, has developed an analysis tool that allows healthcare professionals to measure the concentration of paracetamol, opioids and other painkillers real concentration in a single drop of blood.

The testing process is fast and simple, and the result is available in seconds. This solution would allow improved and more personalised patient care. The testing equipment consists of mass-producible, disposable sampling sensors that are read by an affordable and portable analytical device attached to a standard smartphone.

The company has just received €750 000 in seed funding from Almaral Oy to continue clinical trials and develop sensor technology and a software platform.

‘For the last two years we’ve been able to run our project at the Aalto University with Research to Business funding from Business Finland, Aalto University and University of Helsinki. This new seed investment from Almaral will help us to finalise the technology so that we can apply for regulatory approval in the US and EU. Therefore, we are very thankful for the trust and support Almaral is showing towards the technology and the team developing it,’ says Jussi Pyysalo, the founder & CEO of the start-up company.

Strong research base
There are more than 165M opioid prescriptions and over 100 000 paracetamol poisoning cases annually in the US alone. In Finland, nearly 200 people die from opioid overdose every year, which is the largest proportion of all poisoning deaths in the country.

The innovations bear the expertise of carbon nanomaterials and electrochemical sensing which have been the field of research in several academic projects across Aalto University lead by professors Jari Koskinen, Tomi Laurila and Esko Kauppinen. The research has been carried out in Aalto University and University of Helsinki and pre-clinical studies have been carried out at HUS. Many companies in the sector have also been involved in the development work.

The Fepod method is what is known as in vitro diagnostics, where tests are performed non-invasively, outside the patient’s body, on blood or other bodily secretions and tissues. The Fepod-technology is tapping into an almost 100 billion US dollar global in vitro diagnostics market where point-of-care solutions currently have a share of about 43% and the market is growing rapidly.

‘Almaral has selected Fepod for investment because we believe in the company’s technology and business opportunities, and we trust that Almaral’s investment will help Fepod to commercialize technology in the most efficient and fast way’ says Maria Severina, CEO of Almaral.

This investment deal also triggers the technology transfer from Aalto University to Fepod, and at the same time Aalto becomes a minority shareholder of the company. ‘Accelerating research-based business is an important task for Aalto University. Our goal is to advance entrepreneurial capabilities throughout Aalto and to foster opportunities to create economic and social value,’ says Janne Laine, Vice President, Innovation at Aalto University.