• Chongo Bwalya

KovaDx


KovaDx is health tech startup on a mission to increase health equity by building at-home blood monitoring solutions to improve the quality of life of those living with Sickle Cell Disease.


The Problem

Sickle Cell Disease is a genetic disorder that affects 30 million people worldwide, including over 100,000 Americans. As a disease that disproportionately affects the Black community, Sickle Cell Disease exacerbates the already stark disparity in health care access and outcomes for Black individuals as compared to the rest of the population.

In the U.S., Sickle Cell Disease can result in 13+ days of hospitalization on a yearly basis, up to $9M of lifetime treatment costs, and a reduction in one’s life expectancy by 33 years. Additionally, frequent emergency room visits and hospitalization cause significant economic, social, and psychological burdens.


The Founder

The idea for KovaDx came to Founder Dr. Yaw Ansong Jr. during his clinical practice in Ghana. As he began to treat various patients, he realized that there were no existing low-cost diagnostic tools for his patients who suffered from Sickle Cell Disease.


Over time, Yaw also discovered that the limitations of Sickle Cell Disease were not unique to Sub-Saharan Africa. Upon moving to the United States, he identified a severe lack of monitoring tools for US individuals suffering from Sickle Cell Disease. For individuals with Sickle Cell Disease, he observed that many suffered from unpredictable sickling crises which were often painful and debilitating. These patients were often rushed to the ER and admitted for days. Upon this realization, he forced a team and began a collaboration with Duke University to address the significant problem.


The Business

KovaDx is a medical diagnostics startup focused on leveraging AI to transform the diagnosis and treatment of Sickle Cell Disease. Specifically, it provides an at-home blood monitoring solution that provides actionable insights to prevent sickling crises; thereby helping manage the health of people living with Sickle Cell Disease.


How it Works

KovaDx is building a tool that will allow for the ongoing monitoring and preventative care for individuals with Sickle Cell Disease by using 3D Quantitative Phase Imaging to obtain data about cells. This data is run through its proprietary deep learning models for a monitoring classification based on cell features.

The tool requires patients to place a blood sample into patented cartridges. Shortly afterwards, the cartridge would be inserted into the machine, which would then image the red blood cells. The 3D images would then be analyzed in the devices deep learning algorithm, which would then provide a diagnostic and monitoring classification. Results would then be displayed and sent to the secure server in under 2 minutes.


The tool itself contains a quantitative phase imaging microscope that images live unstained samples by recording the inference pattern between light that has interacted with the sample and a reference wave. The images are then used by their deep learning models that reside on the device and perform both diagnosis and provide an index of the health of the red blood cells.


The team at KovaDx have also developed a special red-blood cell health index that allows its artificial-intelligence assisted technology to measure cell quality, such as thickness and rigidity, which then allows them to assess sickle-cell disease progression.


The Team


Yaw and his team bring unique and complimentary skills to KovaDx and each share a passion for uplifting those from marginalized communities. In addition to an MD from the University of Cape Coast and an MS from the University of New Haven, Yaw is currently pursuing a PhD in Bioengineering at UC Berkeley and has published peer-reviewed papers on the use of 3D Quantitative Phase Imaging and Machine Learning in medical diagnostics. KovaDx’s COO, Song Kim, received her MBA from the Yale School of Management, JD from NYU School of Law, and BA in Sociology from USC. Lastly, KovaDx’s CTO Tim Adamson obtained his MS in Computer Science from Yale University and his BS in Civil Engineering at the University of Washington.


The team also benefits from several key advisors, each of whom bring expertise in Sickle Cell Disease, biomedical engineering, genetics and computer science, and health care.


The Future

To date, the KovaDx team has developed the first prototype of its device using $150K in grants and awards that it received from Yale, Berkeley, Blackstone, and other sources. Moving forward, the team will direct its efforts towards conducting clinical trials for FDA approval. The team will also be raising its first seed round and continuing to establish key partnerships.


In the long run, the team has a goal of expanding the use of its tool to address additional blood diseases and has a goal of one day bringing the device to Sub-Saharan Africa to be used as an affordable diagnostic tool for those who need it most.


If interested in learning more about KovaDx, feel free to reach out to Yaw at yaw@kovadx.com.