Tasso, a Seattle-based telemedicine company that specializes in remote, self-sampled blood collection, has raised $17 million in a series A round of funding.
The telehealth market has boomed over the past few months due to social distancing measures enforced by the COVID-19 crisis. Virtual health consultations rose by 50% in the first month of lockdown alone, according to Frost and Sullivan research, and general online medical visits are currently on course to hit 200 million this year — up significantly from the anticipated 36 million before COVID-19 struck.
Founded in 2011, Tasso offers two blood-sampling devices — the Tasso-M20 collects dry blood samples, and the Tasso-SST collects liquid blood samples — that are being validated for use across a range of applications. These include disease surveillance, diagnostics, chronic disease monitoring, anti-doping testing in sports, and more. The kits are dispatched directly by Tasso’s health care customers, which include pharmaceutical organizations, insurance payors, academic medical institutions, government agencies, and medical centers.
The user sticks the Tasso device to their arm, presses the button, and sets a five-minute timer to give the device a chance to collect the required capillary blood.
This is distinct from venous blood sampling, which usually requires a medical professional to insert a needle into the patient’s vein. But for many situations, venous blood collection may not offer a huge advantage.
“Tasso is generating validations that demonstrate that the capillary blood we collect is equivalent to venous blood,” Tasso CEO Ben Casavant told VentureBeat. “We have a submission with the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] and a pipeline of clinical studies that will expand the number of tests that we are able to validate on our platform.”
Social distancing measures aside, Tasso could be well-positioned to support testing across a number of scenarios, such as for patients who don’t live near health care centers or are otherwise unable to show up for a physical test.
“We are looking at those that either have poor access to diagnostic testing, like rural or underserved communities; those with chronic diseases that require frequent trips to the clinic; and people who avoid diagnostic testing due to fear of needles or fear of visiting a clinic for exposure risk,” Casavant added.
For now, Tasso doesn’t offer much in the way of digital — the largely manual process involves sending physical devices to patients, who send those devices back to a CLIA-certified laboratory for analysis. However, Casavant is planning what it calls a “digital pipeline,” which includes a patient-focused mobile app that asks questions during the blood collection process while giving patients crucial data.
“We have recently hired a VP of product from Amazon, who is leading these digital connectivity efforts, both on the app side but more importantly [for] the logistics and interoperability of the Tasso kits in the diagnostic testing and medical care infrastructure,” Casavant said.
Tasso is one of a number of companies to benefit from the rapid adoption of at-home testing and diagnostic kits. New York-based Tyto Health recently locked down $50 million in funding for a software and hardware platform that enables doctors to examine patients’ lungs, heart, throat, ears, skin, abdomen, and body temperature from afar. And LetsGetChecked secured $71 million for at-home coronavirus test kits.
The surge in remote medical service extends to just about every area of health care, including online pharmacies — in the past few weeks alone, Medly and Truepill secured around $125 million between them.
Techstars alum Tasso had previously raised around $19 million in a mixture of grants and equity funding, and with another $17 million in the bank the company will now “scale manufacturing and operations” to meet the increasing demand for its Tasso OnDemand devices — particularly in the COVID-19 era.
“Tasso has seen a huge influx in demand due to COVID-19, both for at-home COVID antibody testing and from medical centers that are having difficulty accessing their patients who critically need diagnostic testing,” Casavant added. “We received one large contract for kits for testing from the DoD [Department of Defense], and are working on expanding our capacity to meet a growing need.”
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