For more than a decade, Ativa Medical has been developing technology to quickly and effectively diagnose conditions ranging from arthritis to cancer. As it prepares to close on a fresh round of funding, the St. Paul-based startup is turning its attention to a disease at the forefront of everyone’s mind: Covid-19.
“Your blood goes everywhere in your body and creates a fingerprint for almost every event that happens to you,” explained David Deetz, CEO of Ativa Medical. “Your cells change to reflect these events. They’re like a mirror. We’ve developed a way to look at that mirror.”
Ativa runs diagnostic tests on tiny samples of blood inside a doctor’s office or hospital in around five minutes. The company’s device accesses a huge database of cellular research to look for the unique fingerprints of diseases.
Late last September, Ativa began a study in Florida examining the cellular patterns of people that have contracted Covid-19. There are currently 40 people involved in the study. Once it collects enough data, Ativa hopes to be able to determine if a person has Covid-19, how infectious they are or when they will become infectious.
“This is a big play on a $150 billion market that hasn’t changed in 50 years,” Deetz said.
Many companies have tried and failed to create and cash in on advanced diagnostic technology. The most infamous being Theranos. Initially touted as a breakthrough, the Silicon Valley-based startup claimed it could diagnose dozens of diseases with little more than a drop of blood.
“Theranos really hurt us because it sounded like they were so far ahead,” Deetz said. “And when they failed, it made it very hard for us to raise money. It was perceived as a dirty field by a lot of people, and at the time we had to go to China in order to get any funding.”
It was later revealed in an investigation by the Wall Street Journal that Theranos had vastly overpromised and underdelivered on its technology. The company, once valued at $9 billion, eventually shut down and its founders faced fraud charges.
“In every company, there’s always a major disaster that occurs,” Deetz said. “Theranos dried up the whole market, but we survived. We found a way through and today we have a lot of exciting things we’re working on.”
Ativa is currently in the process of raising between $20 to $50 million in capital. Deetz said the funding comes from both strategic and private equity investment sources, including the largest private hospital network in Asia.
By Maddy Kennedy for UEL