According to the World Health Organization, at least 80 % of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes cases would be prevented by eliminating the known risk factors. By investing in chronic disease prevention, the WHO estimates that it will be possible to prevent 36 million premature deaths in the next 10 years. One of the companies focused on disease prevention is Nightingale Health, a Finnish biotech company that uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology and a quantification software to measure a panel of over 200 biomarkers from a single blood sample. Medaffcon met with the company’s CEO Teemu Suna to discuss the technology and its implications for health care.
When a standard blood sample is placed inside a Nightingale NMR instrument, the high frequency magnet in the instrument causes the molecules in the blood to resonate. The individual resonances of the molecules are recorded by the instrument, and the spikes in the spectral file representing individual molecules are automatically quantified into molar units, which can be used in medicine. Compared to other available technologies, Nightingale technology is very high through-put and fully automated, enabling the analysis of large sample sets. In fact, a grand total of 700 000 samples have been analysed in Nightingale laboratories so far, and soon also half a million samples from the UK biobank. At the moment, Nightingale has five laboratories, two in Finland, two in the UK and one in the US, and plans to open more labs in the US and Asia in the next year.
Advantages of Nightingale’s technology
According to Teemu Suna, one of the main advantages of Nightingale’s technology is its translational value. One of the biggest problems in implementing medical research results into clinical practice is that biomarker values often vary depending on the instrument and the laboratory where the tests were performed. With Nightingale, everything is standardized, so results from Nightingale labs can be combined with other Nightingale data sets as well as clinical chemistry data sets. Therefore, if you want to translate your medical research findings into clinical applications, “you can do it right away”.
He also discussed how Nightingale technology can be used to motivate people to induce changes in their lifestyle. With Nightingale technology, the tests are much more detailed than standard blood tests measuring for example LDL cholesterol. This enables patients to first of all learn about their current disease risks in more detail, and more importantly, to see the positive effects of lifestyle changes much earlier.
“First of all, we give a tool to people that they can use to learn about their current health state. And this is beyond cholesterol tests, this is beyond glucose, it’s far more detailed. And then, when you do something, because our data is far more detailed, you actually start seeing the changes that happen.”
Although research institutes and industry R&D are still the company’s biggest customers, the Nightingale test is also available to Finnish consumers as the Virta360 test (www.virta360.com). New product launches are planned for the next six months.
A different way of thinking and doing business
Nightingale Health is often compared to Theranos, a Silicon Valley based company that promised to detect more than 200 markers from a finger-prick blood sample, which turned out to be a fraud. Compared to Theranos, Nightingale Health has taken a completely different, transparent approach, and there are currently more than 200 peer-reviewed publications in top journals utilizing the Nightingale technology. According to Teemu Suna, the time for the old patent-driven strategy to do business is in the past, and instead of patents, the value of the company is in the market dynamics.
And in any case, the strategy adopted by Nightingale is good for the world. “The patent driven strategy, it leads to a situation that you protect, protect, protect. Your cost to protect is so immensely high, that when you take the product to the market it’s for the richest one percent in the world. So we turned the game around. We bring this for everyone”. The people at Nightingale believe that it is important to gain the trust of the global medical community, and this can only be done by being transparent, publishing and investing in the technology. When this has been done properly, there will be enough business to cover the costs needed to invest in the development of the technology.
To learn more about Nightingale’s technology and the panel of biomarkers, please visit the company’s website at https://nightingalehealth.com/.
The pictures on the article are provided by Nightingale Health.