As the nation wrestles with the COVID-19 epidemic, home health monitoring, check-ups and diagnostics have never been more relevant and companies like LetsGetChecked fill a void left in an outbreak-consuming U.S. healthcare system.
The surge in demand for the company’s services has resulted in an equivalent increase in investor interest, and LetsGetChecked is one of many home health and remote diagnostics firms raising new capital during the pandemic.
The new $71 million funding for the company is not just about the services that the company will provide during the COVID-19 epidemic. According to LetsGetChecked chief executive Peter Foley, now that an growing number of Americans are using home health services, they will definitely continue to use them thanks to their comfort and ease of use.
“In COVID-19 people are very concentrated. [But] in all else we are seeing patterns of increase, “Foley said. “This situation has definitely legitimized the domestic diagnostics room. We see spikes in studies of these kinds. We’re seeing spikes in anything that needs tracking.’
Many people avoid physicians, hospitals, and clinics out of fear about the epidemic, forcing them to use telemedicine and remote testing, Foley said.
And the company has stepped up to combat the coronavirus epidemic itself. Foley said the company, which has a manufacturing facility in Queens where it manufactures its own test kits, has been unfaced by the supply chain issues that have affected other companies. And LetsGetChecked has a licensed laboratory where it can run its own tests.
The company is currently offering a serological test (sourced from a Korean laboratory and pending FDA approval) as well as a PCR test (from ThermoFisher) for SARS-CoV-2 and is looking to expand the reach of its studies.
The LetsGetChecked tests include a rapid (antibody) serology test for results within 15 minutes, followed by a PCR-based test that involves a swab sample to be obtained from a patient and subsequently processed inside the high-complexity LetsGetChecked CLIA lab in Monrovia, Calif., the firm said. Initially the study was for first responders and those most at risk from the disease but the population being tested by the organization is growing as the virus spread slows down.
“We were lucky enough to be in a position to support people right now,” Foley says.
LetsGetChecked isn’t the only company at work that produces and distributes coronavirus home testing services. Everlywell and Scanwell Health are two other companies, which have also built and sold home test kits.
Four months earlier, LetsGetChecked began fundraising and even then, the days before COVID-19 reached American shores, the climate for capital raising had tightened, Foley said.
In the days before the disease began approaching epidemic proportions in the United States. LetsGetChecked has been selling its ability to conduct cancer screening, sexual wellbeing, fertility and pharmacogenomic testing at home or through partner retailers.
Users should buy tests and collect samples at home before they are sent to LetsGetChecked’s facility. The business links its clients with board certified physicians to review irregular outcomes and to evaluate a course of action for care
The initial pitch of the business and the prospect of a large market in remote diagnostics were enough to persuade Illumina Ventures, who co-led the round with HLM Venture Partners. Deerfield, CommonFund Capital and Angeles Investment Advisors were among other new investors. The previous investors have invested in Transformation Capital, Optum Vnetures and Qiming Investment Partners USA.
According to Nick Naclerio, a founding partner at Illumina Ventures and a current director on the LetsGetChecked team, the LetsGetChecked remote testing service will serve as a platform for some of the studies under development at other healthcare portfolio companies within the company.
“Many companies that are creating new cutting edge tests have difficulties in building a path into the wider market,” Naclerio said. “This is a business that is creating the kind of potential, patient-initiated research platform that the world needs and is potentially synergistic with some of the companies that are doing next-generation research.”
These will be companies such as Serimmune, which is designing experiments to map the human immune system, or Genome Medical, which is applying the current knowledge of the human genome for care. The business also has interests in cancer screening companies such as Grail, which seek to provide an early cancer diagnosis.
In the post-COVID-19 setting, Naclerio sees also a drastic change in consumer behavior on the horizon.
“COVID poses a huge need for testing the infectious disease at home or for testing the infectious disease at work,” he said. “This breaks down many of the obstacles that previously hindered telehealth adoption … it provides an incentive for LetsGetChecked even as we get over the top of the curve. It’ll have a lasting effect.’