August 20, 2013

ASU spinout HealthTell raises $4M for innovative cancer tests

Posted: August 20, 2013

HealthTell Inc., a biotech spinout from Arizona State University, has raised $4 million in new funding over the past few months to help commercialize a new test for lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.

“Last year, more than 270,000 Americans died from lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers – the top four cancers worldwide,” said Bill Colston, co-founder and CEO of HealthTell. “This $4 million in new funding will help HealthTell demonstrate the ability of its test to provide reproducible detection of these tumors at an early stage, when treatment outcomes are significantly improved.”

HealthTell, which employs more than 20 people at the Innovations Incubator in Chandler, is developing an array of new tools to help individuals monitor their health status.

The HealthTell diagnostics technology was developed at the ASU Biodesign Institute by Stephen A. Johnston and Neal Woodbury, and licensed through Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), the technology transfer arm of ASU. This technology has already been demonstrated to work for more than 30 diverse illnesses, ranging from cancer to infectious disease.

One of the largest challenges in modern medicine is the early detection of diseases, before they spread or become difficult to treat. This generally requires complex, expensive monitoring systems capable of detecting small numbers of cancer cells, viruses or other pathogens in the bloodstream.

HealthTell has taken a radically different approach to solving this problem. Instead of trying to measure the pathogen directly, the company measures the body’s unique response (its “immunosignature”) to a given disease or disease state. By understanding what each immunosignature means and how it changes over time, HealthTell can provide a broad menu of highly accurate tests that are capable of detecting diseases much earlier and less invasively than is possible today.

HealthTell is also supplying chips for two ASU projects funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and its Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). DTRA is interested in using the diagnostic test to check the health of soldiers in the field. HealthTell also won the 2012 Governor’s Award for Innovation in Arizona.

“HealthTell exemplifies the quality of use-inspired research that is happening daily at ASU,” said Charlie Lewis, vice president of venture development for Arizona Technology Enterprises. “This technology developed at the ASU Biodesign Institute could potentially have a significant impact on early disease detection and treatment."

Molly Brush, Molly.Brush@asu.edu
Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development