BOSTON – Up at the International Space Station, the all-private crew of Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission is floating through a week of zero-gravity scientific experiments.
One of these experiments, carried to the space station by Ax-1 astronaut Eytan Stibbe, is a real-time kidney function test developed by Healthy.io. The smartphone-powered colorimetric urine analysis kit can effectively transform most smartphones into portable, clinical-grade medical devices, according to company founder and CEO Yonatan Adiri.
Speaking with News 6 from Healthy.io’s Boston headquarters, Adiri, 40, said he founded the company in 2013 after having served as chief technology officer and diplomatic adviser to former Israeli President Shimon Peres. Adiri said he took this step in order to continue his public service mission and develop new healthcare solutions for people who normally have little access to them, marketing the phrase, “Testing at the speed of life.”
Minuteful Kidney, Healthy.io’s kidney function test, uses two discrete technologies that operate in tandem. One, called “Color OS,” uses artificial intelligence to help smartphone cameras accurately read a color-coded dipstick, and the other maintains communication between Healthy.io and the patient, guiding users “ages 8 to 98″ to test correctly, Adiri said.
“For the last 35 years, there’s been an established guideline worldwide for people at risk for developing chronic kidney disease and ending up with end-stage renal disease. It’s a big problem. Just last year was more than $100 billion cost here in the U.S., and folks have a hard time getting around to doing the test. These are people who have a comorbidity, and about 60 million people in America need to get tested and don’t get tested,” Adiri said. “So at Healthy.io, the thought process was that if we can make the test available at home through a smartphone scan that is lab grade, going through the FDA, going through the German regulator in Europe, there is a good chance of when you allow for testing at the speed of life, people are more inclined to get tested and therefore find that early sign of getting degradation and treating it on time and avoiding dialysis.”
Adiri said the ability to turn a smartphone camera into a clinical grade medical device saves millions of dialysis hours, and the technology has already served hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide. Successful usage of the technology was noted in remote locations such as Ukrainian refugee camps in Poland and Bedouin tents in the Middle East, but also in more urban areas such as in the UK, where Adiri said Healthy.io was contracted to serve more than 100,000 people with its kidney tests in 2021.
The exact purpose of taking the test to the space station is twofold. Besides how sending an Israeli-designed product to space with an Israeli astronaut serves as a great source of national pride, Adiri said the philosophy of using the test in such a harsh environment is akin to the famous New York City notion, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
“That’s, if you will, the full spectrum of going all the way from the Bedouin tent to the refugee camp to, you know, any house in the UK, all the way up to the International Space Station,” Adiri said. “Space is, you know, as they say, is the final frontier, right? I mean, it is the ultimate area that inspires all of us to think, you know, beyond what we can see and dream. And for us, the promise that we give to our patients and to our partners is that wherever there’s a reasonable bandwidth and a reasonable camera, we’ll turn that location into a lab in a way, right? A clinical grade scanning site.”
According to a news release, kidney function testing in space previously comprised of collecting urine and shuttling it back to earth for analysis, making Minuteful Kidney the first system to allow astronauts to evaluate kidney function in real-time while still aboard the International Space Station. Adiri said Healthy.io will update how the test is faring on the space station after several days of use.
Minuteful Kidney is still working its way through an investigational period with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Adiri said. In Europe however, the product has already been approved for two years and for multiple types of phones, and Adiri said he expects the tests to become a commercial reality in the U.S. within the near future.