Resident Company Q&A: Accure HealthSeptember 15, 2021 | By Lindsay Crockett
Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the individual author, and not to LabCentral or the author’s employer, organization or committee.
This blog is part of our rolling series highlighting LabCentral resident and alumni companies. Today, we’re taking a closer look at Accure Health (“Accure”), a resident organization focused on developing innovative digital diagnostics technologies that improve the speed and accuracy of disease detection and treatment delivery for patients. We spoke with Founder and CEO Jessica Sang for more insight into the company’s work, including an exciting new rapid saliva test for monitoring COVID-19 immunity.
What research or scientific developments catalyzed the founding of Accure Health, and how did the company get started?
Over the years, the founders of Accure Health have developed numerous single cell and exosome liquid biopsy technologies to help advance the speed and accuracy of disease detection. One of the most robust of these technologies is the integrated magneto-electronic sensing (iMES), which can be easily integrated into clinical workflows and also utilized at the point of care. iMES was initially developed by our Cofounders, Professor Ralph Weissleder and Professor Hakho Lee, at the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Recognizing the potential of iMES and motivated by my family's struggles with cancer, I cofounded Accure with the vision to improve early detection and precision treatment of disease, and to empower doctors and patients with the most accurate information when it matters most.
Can you describe some of the breakthrough innovations of your iMES technology and next-generation TiMES system?
Accure’s iMES technology rapidly digitizes liquid biomarkers and immune signatures into quantitative, actionable information for disease detection and therapeutic monitoring. It incorporates proprietary reagents, circuits and algorithms into one compact system. By converting biomarker data from biological fluid directly into electrical signals, iMES bypasses the limitations of existing optical diagnostic devices and significantly improves the speed and sensitivity of its tests.
Our newly developed TiMES is a next-generation iMES system featuring i) an automated, multiplex assay process, and ii) real-time data analyses and secure cloud integration. TiMES is compact (~10’’ × 7’’ × 6’’) and can be easily set up in an office or home setting. Multiple samples or biomarkers can be tested in parallel using the TiMES system, including our TiMES-Now COVID-19 neutralizing antibody tests. Rather than relying on the relatively slow, cumbersome process of blood testing, TiMES-Now analyzes saliva samples. This makes the approach non-invasive, and it returns results in 30 minutes. Also, the sensitivity is 100x better than conventional lab tests, which can take days to get results.
What are some of the limitations/challenges of earlier or existing technologies that iMES/TiMES overcomes?
To detect low-abundance biomarkers, existing technologies generally have separate procedures and devices for biomarker isolation, detection and analysis. They involve complex manual procedures, relatively expensive instruments and also require large amounts of clinical samples. TiMES is a fully integrated, digital system that converts biomarker data from biological fluid directly into electrical signals, and significantly improves diagnostic speed and sensitivity.
TiMES allows rapid analysis of low-abundance immune biomarkers such as neutralizing antibodies directly in saliva samples, which fills the gap between conventional blood tests and less sensitive point-of-care tests. TiMES data capability is particularly important for assessing personalized immune response following COVID-19 infection or vaccination, monitoring temporal evolution, and developing predictive models for variant protection. We have also developed unique solutions for cancer, immune and neurodegenerative diseases.
How (and when) do you envision these therapies benefiting healthcare for both clinicians and patients?
On the diagnostics front, the TiMES technology can help equip clinicians and patients with a faster, less expensive, and fully automated solution for detecting and monitoring a range of diseases from a small quantity of biological fluid. Several disease areas have been validated, including cancer, sepsis and transplant rejection.
On the therapeutics front, the TiMES technology is being utilized to develop new therapeutic biomarkers and therapies for some of the most challenging conditions, including neurodegeneration.
But today, testing for COVID-19 immunity is among the healthcare industry’s most pressing challenges. Information about COVID-19 immunity and vaccine efficacy—which Accure can assess quickly and non-invasively—will benefit not only our healthcare system, but also schools and businesses that are attempting to reopen. Variants of the virus are further complicating an already complex situation, and the more information we can get about immunity, the quicker the world can “get back to normal”.
What role has LabCentral played in helping Accure Health establish and grow its research and technology development efforts?
Accure has been supported by LabCentral since its earliest days at the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab. The LabCentral team is fantastic, providing valuable resources to help accelerate our technology development and industry partnerships.
During the pandemic, our device development and COVID-19 clinical study were made possible through the support from LabCentral’s Shawn Ayube, Celina Chang and their teams. The LabCentral facilities are world-class, and the Harvard-LabCentral-Kendall Square ecosystem energizes us to continue innovating.
Can you tell us about the data Accure Health recently published related to cancer detection and COVID-19 immunity monitoring – and its potential impact?
The data we published on COVID-19 immune testing, A Rapid Saliva Test for Monitoring Immune Protection against SARS -CoV-2 and its Variants, shows that our novel saliva assay can assess individual immune response to COVID-19 vaccines, monitor neutralizing antibody levels over time, and model immune protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants. It also shows this can be done with a test that is less invasive, less expensive and faster than a conventional blood test.
Our paper in Nature Biomedical Engineering, An integrated magneto-electrochemical device for the rapid profiling of tumour extracellular vesicles from blood plasma, demonstrated another clinical application of the iMES technology, which enabled high-throughput detection of colorectal cancer with >96% accuracy.
What’s next for Accure Health this year and beyond?
We plan to continue working with clinical and industry partners to develop and commercialize novel diagnostic and therapeutic products in oncology, immune and neurodegenerative diseases. Accure's TiMES technology can deliver ~75% time savings and cost savings on new test development and inform therapeutic strategy.
We are also seeking partners (e.g. foundations, labs, vaccine/drug developers) to commercialize the saliva COVID-19 immunity monitoring tests. We will work closely with partners and regulators to generate high-quality data, and we intend to make our saliva tests available at a price of less than $10.