Imagine completing your maiden voyage to create the healthiest you possible — what would you bring? To Harry Gandhi, Co-founder & CEO of Voyage Labs, the answer is sensors. To be more specific, a sensor platform that can detect multiple biomarkers. Gandhi believes that access to such a platform can radically change a person’s health journey and deliver potentially superior health outcomes.
“An accessible health data collection solution is what our current reactionary healthcare system needs in order to transition to a more preventive system. Outcome-driven healthcare policies are being put in place by governments in the United States and Canada. It’s now up to the healthcare providers, practitioners, and innovators to deliver,” says Gandhi.
Founded by Harry Gandhi, Huayi Gao, and Maarij Baig, Voyage Labs (formerly Medella Health) joined Velocity in 2015. Gandhi was also a recipient of the Thiel Fellowship in 2015. The startup initially targeted the diabetes management market with a smart contact lens for glucose monitoring. Voyage Labs’ innovation was named Canada’s national winner and international runner-up for the James Dyson Award in 2016. While glucose monitoring is a pressing issue, it was considered more of a feature instead of a full-fledged product by the rapidly evolving healthcare market. According to Voyage Labs, the growth of health sensing market verticals, such as glucose monitoring, never quite materialized (as predicted by experts).
Pivoting from building feature to building platform
For sensing companies, the ability to detect a panel of biomarkers can potentially be game-changing. Let’s take stroke as an example – the third leading cause of death in the US and Canada. A stroke is a heterogeneous condition, and understanding multiple biomarkers associated with stroke (instead of a single biomarker) could improve everything from personalized therapy to predicting stroke outcome.
Once the Voyage Labs team recognized that pivoting would actually result in greater impact and a larger multi-billion-dollar market opportunity, they leveraged their sensor building know-how and quickly deployed their resources to develop a robust sensor platform that could be used to detect multiple biomarkers. This pivot resulted in both a rebrand and a new strategy.
Gandhi credits his startup’s ability to pivot “on a dime” to the Waterloo Region tech ecosystem. “When early-stage companies want to pivot, many incubators would shy away or exit them. Velocity actually doubled down and continued to support us through mentorship, lab access, and their network,” remarks Gandhi. “The engineering talent that we have access to, thanks to the University of Waterloo, is phenomenal.”
The startup has now successfully built a sensor platform for monitoring multiple biomarkers simultaneously. This includes a wide range of small molecules, lipids, and proteins through a variety of mediums including blood, saliva, and urine.
The health sensing platform opportunity
The startup targeted the emerging cannabis drug monitoring market in North America, as multiple jurisdictions have begun legalizing marijuana. Over the last six months, they have secured a government-funded grant to develop and pilot their sensors with regional police units.
With customers and the new platform in place, Voyage Labs is strategically positioned to scale into multiple health market verticals. The potential to re-shape the drug sensing and health monitoring ecosystem will have significant implications for human health and beyond.
Time will tell whether the sensor platform from Voyage Labs can evolve into the de-facto accessible health data collection solution, catalyze the creation of a preventive health system, and slow the ballooning healthcare cost. The healthiest you should always be within your reach.
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