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This app provides an anemia screening from a fingernail selfie

Sanguina recently launched a premium subscription for its AnemoCheck app. CEO Erika Tyburski talks about blending digital access, science and entrepreneurship.

A finger pointing at an app

AnemoCheck provides an instant anemia screening from an app. (Courtesy of Sanguina)

Growing up, Erika Tyburski battled anemia. She would frequently pass out at school, and have to go to the emergency room.

She often wanted a tool that could help her better prepare for her day-to-day. Tyburski has a form of anemia caused by nutrition deficiency. Fairly common among women worldwide, it’s marked by low levels of hemoglobin in the blood, which cuts off oxygen to tissue.

“When you have less of it, your body has to work harder. You become tired,” Tyburski said of hemoglobin.

While at school, Tyburski saw how people with diabetes could test their insulin levels at home, and take steps accordingly. For people living with anemia, being able to track and monitor hemoglobin levels is valuable to understanding how it is affecting them day-to-day.

This inspired her to look for solutions that could help people with anemia – a common issue affecting more than 130 million people worldwide. She knew that technology could help improve the quality of life for people with anemia by making it easier for them to monitor their condition and make care decisions

While at school, Tyburski saw how people with diabetes could test their insulin levels at home, and take steps accordingly.

As a biomedical engineering student at Georgia Tech, Tyburski met Rob Mannino in 2011, who is anemic as a result of a genetic blood disease. They were both seeking similar kinds of tools, and knew there were over 80 million Americans at risk of anemia, including women, pregnant women, seniors, vegetarians, vegans and athletes.

“I was looking for something to track at home, in between doctor's visits and in between any specialty visits.. With healthcare in general, we now have technology that can enable that to happen,” Tyburski said.

Together with Dr. Wilbur Lam, Tyburski and Mannino set out to develop technology that could enable home diagnostics for anemia through the company Sanguina.

One result of that work available on the market today is AnemoCheck. It’s an app that provides instant hemoglobin estimation from a “fingernail selfie” taken by the user. The app is available through the iOS App Store and Google Play. Designed to be a “companion” for people in long stints between medical visits, the app has attracted over 110,000 users since a relaunch in 2021.

AnemoCheck's subscription offering. AnemoCheck's subscription offering. (Courtesy photo)

“In general, the smartphone app is actually looking at the paleness of your fingernail beds,” Tyburski said. “So we ask a user to take an image of their nail beds – no nail polish. It then correlates the paleness of the nail beds to an algorithm that we developed, and outputs a hemoglobin level estimate.”

Late last year, Sanguina launched a premium subscription for the app which improves accuracy by 50%. Using lab data provided by the user, the app can learn a user’s baseline and create a personalized algorithm.

The subscription also provides access to unlimited tests and history storage, as well as data insights from past results that track trends such as mood and supplement use.

The feature paved the way for Sanguina to generate new revenue. It took a tiered approach to pricing: The subscription is available for $5.99 a month, semi-annually for $29.99, or annually for $49.99.

“The mission of our company is to provide accessible technology powered by science, wherever, whenever,” Tyburski said. “We understand that we need to create accessible technology, so we did it at a price point that we thought was very competitive.”

erika tyburski Erika Tyburski. (Courtesy photo)

Science is the foundation of the company, Tyburski said, and this was evident in the development of the new feature. Over the last year, the company conducted a study to show proof of concept that the algorithm worked and improved performance.

The company’s work has been bolstered by a mix of grants and seed funding totaling $5.8 million. It also received support from the accelerator program of retail tech and consumer goods-focused venture capital firm XRC Labs.

This won’t be Sanguina's only product. It is also developing a home test kit that allows people to understand their hemoglobin levels by taking a small blood sample, similar to diabetes. This will be distributed through a direct-to-consumer website. The company is currently seeking FDA clearance for the kit.

Sanguina also wants to expand to other use cases.

“As a company, anemia is our first set of technologies, but we do intend on expanding outside of that for both wellness and health and clinical related applications,” Tyburski said.

In recent years, a wave of innovation is making it possible for individuals to track metrics around their health and wellness, and getting them involved by gamifying the experience.

What started with tracking 10,000 steps for general wellness is now moving into technology that can provide particular healthcare needs. Layer on the tools of digital commerce that enable wide distribution and home delivery, and there is the opportunity to take tools that were once available at the clinic, and make them everyday products.

This article was updated at 1:30 p.m. on 1/25/23.

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