Interview with Filippo Bosco, CEO i BluSense Diagnostics
BluSense Diagnostics have just, by US-AID, The U.S Agency for International Development, been selected to develop a solution to combat the global zika-challence. Can you describe the solution you are in progress to develop which is intended to overcome the virus?
We are developing a point-of-care testing device which can diagnose the presence of a zika infection in patients within 10 minutes using a single drop of blood. As identifying the virus is of key importance right now, especially with regard to pregnant women, the USAID is looking for innovative technologies able to do so at the point-of-care level without the need of collecting blood from venous and send it to centralized laboratories. Currently there are no technologies able to do so in the market.
More than 900 companies, universities and researchers from all over the world have sent in suggestions in order to find a solution. Only 21 proposals were selected and provided funding. What does the economical funding mean to BluSense Diagnostics future activities?
For a small startup like BluSense, external funding is crucial in order to dedicate full-time resources to the development of a new diagnostics test as developing assays for emerging virus threats requires high initial investment. But the associated future return is highly uncertain.
With the funding scheme from USAID BluSense will be able to hire a new team to be fully dedicated to the zika assay development without compromising the current research line (focused on dengue fever).
The Zika-virus has been defined as a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)” by WHO. What does it mean for you that BluSense can potentially be a part of the solution on this global virus?
It is, of course, a big honor to have been selected by USAID as one of the most promising technologies for fighting the rise of zika. It surely confirms our belief that we are developing technology and products which can have a positive impact on the global healthcare ecosystem
The zika-virus issue exploded in the beginning of 2016. Have you been forward looking and worked on this solution for a long time or have you worked very fast in developing this solution?
The very first cases of zika-linked microcephaly started in the summer 2015, and we have followed the rise of this pathogen from the following fall.
At BluSense we have been working for years developing a new way of testing blood for dengue, a sort of “twin” virus of zika. They are both flaviviruses and have very similar characteristics and similar way of being identified by diagnostics tests. That’s why, compared with other point-of-care diagnostics companies, our experience with dengue put BluSense in a better position for developing diagnostics kits for zika virus.
BluSense Diagnostics is a relatively newly started company (2013). Can you give an advice to startup entrepreneurs which you wish you have had when you founded BluSense Diagnostics?
There are many. Really many. Probably if I have to choose one, it would be to not get too much attached to the first plan you have for your company. Very often the greatest opportunities (both technological and from a business point of view) will come from a completely different perspective and sometimes they are very different from what entrepreneurs originally designed for their own company.
As an example, BluSense’s concept was born in 2012 with the idea of becoming the new way of diagnosing diabetes type II. But years later we found our identity in building innovative ways for diagnosing mosquito-borne diseases.
Never get too stuck on your initial ideas as startups are dynamic and fluid creatures, who need space and flexibility to fully create their own identity.