Over a year ago I reached out to this startup’s founder in pure curiosity about its service.
More recently fate brought us together again when he introduced himself at a healthtech event in Sydney.
Prix Testing was founded by UK-born Alexander Concannon and as they explain on their website, “Using blood from a finger prick, we monitor key health indicators like cholesterol, liver function, and vitamin levels so you can keep track of your body’s well-being”.
Admittedly the first thought into my head when I heard the words “blood-test” and “startup” was the infamous Theranos, founded and “led” by Elizabeth Holmes. Being an obsessive about this notorious fraud (to put it lightly) I was more than eager to find out more about Prix from Alexander.
I am sure you have this question a thousand times – BUT, why is Prix not the same as Theranos?
I have lost count of the number of times people have sent me links to “Bad Blood”!
How we operate and what Theranos were trying to do are completely different - the fact blood is involved is the only thing we have in common.
Theranos was trying to revolutionise the analysis of blood through new hardware, we are not developing any of this kind of tech.
Prix operates as a direct-to-consumer (DTC) service designed to make it easier for people to track and take care of their health from home. While we provide the “front-end” that people use and interact with, all the analysis of samples is left to accredited laboratory partners that use proven technology and processes.
People send off blood samples in their own time using our at home blood collection kits. Once the lab has analysed the samples, results are reviewed by GPs affiliated with Prix, and visualised through our platform for people to keep track of.
Why did you choose blood testing specifically?
There is a lot of really useful information in our blood that is really hard for people to access regularly because of how we interact with the healthcare system.
Most of us have developed a very reactive relationship with our doctors. Some of the reasons why are cultural and social, others are built into how the healthcare system is designed.
I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing - we want to be able to treat the sick instead of clogging up hospitals and medical centres with healthy patients, but it does play a role in discouraging a “healthier” relationship with healthcare, and raises barriers to maintaining peoples' health as effectively as we could.
I will openly admit I have an “unhealthy” relationship with my GP - only going to the doctor when I feel like I’m on my deathbed. This would be less of an issue if I did not have high cholesterol, and was not supposed to get it checked regularly.
However, putting it bluntly, the process of getting a blood test sucks. I would have to book an appointment, go to the GP, sit in the waiting room, get a referral, get a blood test, and have to repeat the whole process again just to get my results.
It is time consuming and does not fit into the demands of our everyday lives. It often results in missing large chunks of work, causes issues if you are juggling kids and ultimately ends up in appointments being put on the back-burner or missed.
If I had this problem I imagined so did others and I looked for alternative solutions. I wanted to create something that made it easier to track general health indicators from my blood, was able to be done in my own time, could deliver useful results, and did not cut out doctors.
I know that there are arguments for and against with these models but DTC testing is gaining a lot of traction in Europe and the US as more evidence is coming out on the long term social and economic benefits of preventative health.
I noted recently you were recruiting for a Medical Director to come on board. Were you successful and what has that brought to the operation?
Yes we did. Firstly medical oversight is a critical component of what we offer and ensures users can make better sense of their results.
Secondly, I am not a doctor and, while developing Prix from a patient centric perspective has been really important to addressing peoples' barriers to testing, it has been great to have another perspective from the medical profession.
We are already talking about future functionality that would really benefit GPs.
Where do Doctors fit into the model and service, if at all?
Doctors play a massive role in our service - directly and indirectly. As I mentioned earlier people still need doctors to help make sense of their results. We are just creating a new means for GPs to engage with these people.
Indirectly, Prix is not designed to replace regular GP visits. We hope our service is a catalyst for people to visit their doctor more regularly - as opposed to only when they are really sick.
How we work is that if a result is flagged outside of the norms we tell all our users to confirm results with their regular GP and work through treatment plans.
We are still developing our offering so if any doctors are interested in working with Prix, or have ideas on how Prix could work better with the medical community we love to hear from them at firstname.lastname@example.org
How are you going to market PRIX to the public?
Initially we are focusing on those who are attracted to the idea of the “quantified self”.
This is a market that have a real interest in self-knowledge through numbers and they already use technology to track their health (Fitbits, iWatches, etc).
There is a really strong product fit with what we offer and what they are looking for. Long term we want this to be seen as a service for everyone - our philosophy that prevention is better than cure should have universal appeal.
Will you look to raise external funding to grow?
Definitely. We’ve been bootstrapping things until now but, as we get closer to launch, we will be looking for investors to further develop the product and accelerate growth.
It is challenging however. DTC medtech is an area unfamiliar to a lot of investors (at least the ones I have spoken to locally) and this is something we are working through.
Tell us one piece of wisdom you wish you had known before embarking on this startup?
I wish I had known more about the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration), their processes and how they operate - particularly timelines.
Everyone I have dealt with at the TGA has been unbelievably helpful, but coming into the industry as a person with no experience with medical devices definitely slowed things down.
How many time have you had to draw your own blood as a guinea pig?
A fair few! The thing is I can say with good authority now that it does not really hurt so everyone should try it.
You can check out more about PRIX at https://www.prixtesting.com
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