Current allergy testing methods are painful, risky and inconclusive. Velocity Science’s first funded startup, Veriderm (formerly NewAllergy Technologies), aims to change this by developing a simple, over-the counter allergy testing patch.
Veriderm, led by Eric Blondeel and Moufeed Kaddoura, won $2,000 in funding last month from the Velocity Fund Finals. The project was voted ”Most Innovative” by judges and “Crowd Favorite” by the audience.
“When we first heard, we were beside ourselves,” said Kaddoura.
Velocity Science debuted this year with their first meeting in January and a new lab space this month. The newest Velocity program at Waterloo aims to help students develop and test their lab-based startup ideas.
Monthly meetings are organized around speakers and relevant science and business topics. Students also exchange ideas and brainstorm on their own at regularly organized social events. When an idea resonates, students can form a group, and Velocity Science is there to help find the necessary scientific, material and financial support.
Attending the monthly meetings has been a real eye-opener,” said Blondeel. “For one thing, you don’t have to have an idea to be a part of this. It’s important to become aware of the problems out there now, because problems are the key to developing any successful startup.”
For Kaddoura and Blondeel, the problem at the heart of their startup is the current protocols for allergy testing.
Allergy testing for most substances today is done by injecting a small quantity of an allergen just under a patient’s skin. The test requires supervision by a doctor in case the patient undergoes anaphylactic shock. Some patients can be subjected to up to 50 painful injections at one time if multiple allergens are being tested.
The classic skin prick method is meant to be invasive in order to induce an immune response,” said Blondeel. “Unfortunately, the response is induced in the patient themselves.”
The solution being developed by Veriderm is a small skin patch that quantitatively measures allergic reactions without discomfort to the patient. The patch is a mini-lab where the reaction takes place, rather than in the patient’s skin or system.
This means the test will be safe and can be purchased through pharmacists and administered at home. The patient avoids experiencing not only pain from the injection, but the swelling, itching and shock response from the allergens themselves.
Not only will the new patch allergy test be more accurate, it will provide quantitative results, telling the patient how allergic they are to the substance. With the current skin prick test, health care providers report simply a positive or negative allergic reaction depending on if they see a red, raised area on the skin.
Veriderm has received guidance from Dr. Harold Kim of Grand River Allergy, Pharmacy Prof. and Canada Research Chair Dr. Marianna Foldvari, Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Nardine Nakhla, and Biology Prof. and Canada Research Chair Brian Dixon.
Blondeel and Kaddoura hope to finish a prototype patch test by the end of 2014.
Velocity Science will host its first Open Lab on May 27th in the Earth Science and Chemistry Building, room 316A.