Scanadu scoops up $2M to build medical Tricorder

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 9, 2011        

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Scanadu AnalyzingScanadu, a San Francisco-based startup founded in January that aims to develop a handheld diagnostic device similar to the Star Trek Tricorder, has raised $2 million from a number of angel investors, including Playfish co-founder Sebastien De Halleux, according to TechCrunch. The company is in the process of hiring biomedical engineers, developers, and artificial intelligence specialists in addition to technology partners who can contribute telemedicine and diagnostic functions to the envisioned device.

Scanadu aims to create a “Tricorder” that “integrates health diagnostics into your smartphone with the goal of creating a non-contact and non-invasive diagnostic tool for consumers,” according the company’s website. In the longterm, “a fully-functioning Tricorder will help change user behavior which can in turn significantly impact the state of healthcare,” Scanadu states. “In the short term we plan to help parents move from anxiety to action about the health of their kids.”

The company points out that according to the Wellness Council for America some 70 percent of doctor’s visits are unnecessary.

Scanadu believes the time is ripe for this invention because of the ubiquity of smartphones, the advent of sophisticated AI systems like IBM’s Watson, low cost sensors, and new data streams (including those from Quantified Self services, data.gov, and EHRs).

In addition to the seed round of funding, Scanadu has assembled an impressive cadre of advisors and partners including Singularity University’s Dr. Daniel Kraft, Current Health’s Dr. Jordan Shlain, HealthLoop’s Dr. Benjamin Rosner, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Brett Mensh, and more. The startup recently moved into NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

Over the past year we have mentioned the X Prize Foundation’s plans to launch a new X Prize to incentive the invention of a medical Tricorder. Scanadu has been working with the foundation and plans to be the first entrant in the prize competition should it launch as planned sometime early next year. Scanadu’s website says that could be as soon as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 in Vegas. (I was a member of the X Prize Foundation’s “visioneering” team for the Tricorder X Prize).

Scanadu aims to develop the Tricorder in the next three to five years and according to a comment the company’s founder left on TechCrunch yesterday, he expects the device to be ubiquitous within 10 years. That said, the device has a number of barriers to over come first. Scanadu lists four of them, which include non-invasive (no needles, blood, or biopsies), non-sampling (no urine, stool, or saliva), non-contact (cannot touch the patient), non-cooperative (patient must not be presumed to cooperate).

For more check out the TechCrunch article here