Bold Diagnostics wins big at Rice Business Plan Competition
Wearable blood pressure monitor attracts attention at world's largest student startup challenge
Patients typically get their blood pressure checked with a bulky arm cuff during sporadic visits to the doctor, making it possible for inaccurate readings and false diagnoses. New technology developed by Northwestern startup Bold Diagnostics, LLC could change that by producing a comfortable, wearable device for 24/7 monitoring in real time and under real conditions.
Bold Diagnostics is a venture formed through the Center for Device Development (CD2) at Northwestern’s Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO). The team’s innovation fellows (pictured above from left to right) include Sean Connell, Jay Pandit, Kyle Miller and Andrew Wu.
Bold emerged from a highly competitive field of startups to take fourth place and $128,000 in the recent 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition. With nearly $1.7 million awarded to 42 companies, the annual event is the world’s richest and largest student startup competition.
The Bold system records blood pressure and sends daily reports directly to electronic medical charts, enabling doctors to observe how a patient’s blood pressure is influenced by routine life factors like work, stress, caffeine and even sleep.
“There is a major clinical need for long-term, accurate blood pressure trends,” said Pandit, CD2 clinical fellow and cardiology fellow at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH). “Our group saw this firsthand during observations in the hospital.”
Bold Bands — wristbands worn on each arm — use sensors to determine the difference in pulse wave arrival times between the right and left hands to obtain real-time blood pressure trends. Preliminary clinical studies demonstrate a consistent difference in pulse arrival times and a strong correlation to changes in blood pressure.
“We are designing a comfortable diagnostic set of wristbands that monitor patients for long periods of time so that doctors can make pinpoint diagnoses for hypertension and cardiovascular disease,” said Connell, a CD2 engineering fellow. “We currently have a working alpha prototype with excellent data demonstrating proof of concept.”
The group is currently conducting a feasibility study at NMH.
“Your Fitbit or Apple Watch can give you feedback on activity and heart rate,” said Miller, a CD2 clinical fellow and general surgery resident at NMH. “But these devices cannot provide blood pressure measurements. Bold anticipates being one of the first companies to bring cuffless blood pressure monitoring technology to market.”
Tapping the Northwestern network
“Bold Diagnostics created the technology, established proof of concept, started an IRB-approved clinical study and attracted interest from investors, all within a year,” said Sonia Kim, managing director of marketing and commercialization education at INVO.
Team members leveraged several Northwestern resources on their road to success. They tapped faculty expertise at the Feinberg School of Medicine and the McCormick School of Engineering, and they utilized campus resources like The Garage entrepreneurship space.
“Our team has benefited from being able to reach out to engineering and business professors,” said Wu, a CD2 engineering fellow. “We even have key thought leaders in cardiology from NMH mentoring the company on our advisory board.”