Waterloo Region medtech startup Kenota Health Inc., which specializes in rapid allergy testing, has raised a US$9-million Series A investment round led by Draper Associates, a California venture firm with names such as Tesla, Skype and Twitch in its portfolio.
Kenota (formerly ExVivo Labs) aims to provide “rapid and reliable allergy testing for physicians to test and treat more patients within a single clinic visit,” the company said in a release this week.
The new investment will help Kenota complete development of its technology and begin the regulatory review process. The company is focusing on the U.S. and Canada.
“Each year, more than 200,000 Americans are rushed to the emergency department as a result of food allergies, so building a tool that can help doctors identify allergies more rapidly and treat more patients is critical,” said Moufeed Kaddoura, Kenota’s founder and CEO. “I feel honoured to be working with a world-class group of investors who utilize their position to shape a better future for healthcare.”
In addition to Draper Associates, participants in the round include Y Combinator, OS Fund, BDC Capital (Bridge Financing Program), BoxOne Ventures, Dr. Collin Terpstra (allergy specialist), 1517 Fund and Fifty Years Capital.
Kenota raised a US$2-million seed round in 2016 when it began working on a proof of concept to validate its testing system with doctors across the U.S. and Canada. In 2014, as ExVivo Labs, the company won $25,000 in the Velocity Fund Finals at the University of Waterloo.
Allergy specialists currently use either a skin prick test or a lab-based blood test to determine a patient’s allergies. The skin prick test works by applying an allergen (such as peanut or milk) to the patient’s skin and pricking the area to check for a reaction. Alternatively, the patient might be sent to a lab to give a large blood sample, and results can take up to a few weeks to process.
Kenota’s system brings lab testing to the allergy specialist’s clinic. It takes less than 30 minutes and requires just a few drops of blood from a quick finger prick.
“We’re very excited to back Kenota’s mission,” said Tim Draper, founder and Managing Partner at Draper Associates. “We were impressed with the quality of the team, their focus on a better user experience in the allergy market, and their commitment to working with the FDA early to get their product on the market.”
With allergies on the rise worldwide, rapid testing with data and the specialist’s oversight is key to more people getting diagnosed early, the company said. Faster testing also means greater clarity and improved advice and treatment, which is especially important for life-threatening allergies, a key focus area for Kenota.
It can be difficult to collect blood from children, yet they are often most affected by serious allergies. The Kenota system makes sample collection faster and easier, allowing more children to be diagnosed earlier and given immunotherapy treatment, where small amounts of an allergen, such as peanuts, are introduced over a prolonged period. The patient gradually develops tolerance towards the allergens, helping them become less reactive and in some cases, they may completely outgrow their life-threatening allergies, the company said.
Kenota said it has consulted with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from the early stages of development of its testing technology to ensure it meets the needs of regulators as well as patients.