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Diabetic foot ulcers and amputations cost the U.S. healthcare system over $17 billion a year
Diabetes is one area of the healthcare space that seems to have become a particular area of focus for technology companies, and for good reason. According to the American Diabetes Association, 30 million people in the U.S. have it, while another 84 million are at risk. The cost of that care comes to $322 billion a year.
That represents an enormous opportunity, even if you're only taking on a subset of the problem. For example, the cost of diabetic foot ulcers and amputations alone costs over $17 billion annually.
"That is more expensive than any form of cancer. It's the most costly and deadly complication of diabetes," Ran Ma, founder and CEO of Siren, told VatorNews. Siren is a health technology company and the maker of Neurofabric which it calls "machine-washable, machine-dryable smart textiles that don’t need to be charged."
On Wednesday, the company launched its first product, Siren Diabetic Socks, which are designed to help people with diabetes avoid amputations, while at the same time announcing that it raised a $3.4 million round of seed funding.
Investors in the round were DCM, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund. with participation from Liquid2. Prior to this round, Siren previously raised $400,000 from 500 Startups and angels.
Founded in 2015, Siren is trying to solve diabetic foot ulcers and amputations through the use of its Neurofabric technology which allows it to embed tiny temperature sensors directly inside of fabric of the Siren Diabetic Sock. That technology is combined with its Foot Monitoring System, allowing the company to alert people with diabetes when their feet are injured. Temperature sensors send a signal to a small tag in the sock and the tag then wirelessly transmits the temperature data via Bluetooth to the Siren app and Siren Hub.
"Temperature monitoring is clinically proven to reduce foot ulcers by up to 87.5 percent. When the body is injured, the skin heats up, meaning inflammation, we pick up on this heat signal and let the user know about a this temperature change via the Siren App," Ma said.
She explained how easy it is for someone with diabetes to lose a foot or a leg due to even a small injury.
"Many people with diabetes develop nerve damage, also known as neuropathy, so they lose sensation in their feet and are unable to feel pain. So a small injury can go unnoticed and become an ulcer, infection and ultimately an amputation."
As it stand right now, over half of all diabetic foot ulcers wind up infected, and 20 percent of those people with infected foot wounds end up needing to have an amputation, resulting in more than 100,000 legs lost to diabetes each year in the US. Even worse, up to 80 percent of people who have a foot amputation due to diabetes pass away within five years of the operation.
While there are other diabetic socks out there, and good ones, Ma told me, the technology in them hasn't been up dated for half a century; the old models don't have the same monitoring and alerts that Siren include for giving the user the information regarding a potential injury.
"Our socks do everything that today’s traditional diabetic socks do, but we take it a step further by embedding microsensors directly into the fabric to continuously monitor temperature. Temperature monitoring is the only clinically proven way to reduce foot ulcers," Ma said.
As for other ways to detect injuries, those "have limitations" that Ma says Siren's socks do not encounter.
Pressure monitoring, for example, lacks clinical evidence to show that it reduces ulcers and amputations. Other temperature monitoring devices, such as sticks, carpets, scales, etc. are not portable, too expensive, and do not measure continuously."
The company ships five pairs of sock at once, so that they can be easily rotated and wore consistently. Tey are meant to last for six months before being replaced. Pricing for the socks is currently $19.95 with free shipping.
Siren will be using the money to deepen its product development, which means adding more sensors and improving scaling capacity, while also improving the algorithms to improve early detection mechanisms. In addition, the funding will go toward continued research and development of Neurofabric, a clinical trial, and expanding Siren's 10 person team, specifically to hire more engineers.
Going forward, while Siren will continue to tackle the problem of diabetic amputations, there is also the potential for branching out and including the sensors in other types of products that can provide wearers with information about a slew of other diseases .
"The possibilities of our technology are endless, and any product we make will be seamless and easy-to-use, as well as add real value to people’s lives. As a company, we’re focused on prevention of complications of chronic disease and aging, because it’s the biggest problem facing healthcare today," said Ma.
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