Velano raises $10M to take the needle out of blood draws

Steven Loeb · May 8, 2019 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4de8

Rather than sticking patients with needles, Velano's technology takes blood from a peripheral IV

Nobody likes getting a blood test; at least I can say that I've never met anyone who does. Beyond just being unpleasant, though, they're also outdated, with the same method of puncturing a vein having been used for centuries. Not to mention how invasive they are. 

Unfortunately, blood tests are also critical to healthcare diagnoses, with around 70 percent of medical decisions requiring them, Eric M. Stone, Chief Executive of medical device company Velano Vascular, told me. 

"Often, these hospital-based blood draws occur in the middle of the night or early morning, awakening patients for their 'sticks' to secure a blood sample. In many instances this practice happens multiple times a day, and sometimes multiple times per instance. For the roughly 30 percent of inpatients deemed Difficult Venous Access (DVA) due to age, weight, chronic disease and more, it can mean many more needle sticks because of trouble accessing their veins," he explained.

"Beyond the pain and fear of needles, there are added risks of injury or infection to the patient or practitioner. And nearly 10 percent of patients possess a clinical fear of needles."

Given how important blood tests are, combined with all the issues that come with them, that's why Velano company has developed a way to draw blood in the hospital that isn't invasive. Rather than using a needle, Velano's technology, called PIVO, allows practitioners to use the peripheral IV that most hospital patients already have in their arms to draw blood.

"The aim is to avoid repeat needle sticks, to reduce the fear and anxiety that comes from blood draws, and to help reduce risks of injury or infection, all while promoting quality and efficiency in hospitals," said Stone. 

On Wednesday, the company announced that it raised $10 million from investors that include Intermountain Healthcare; Becton Dickinson’s former Chairman and CEO Edward Ludwig; Marc Benioff; Baxter International’s former Chairman and CEO Robert Parkinson; and other undisclosed investors. This round brings Velano’s total investment to more than $37 million.

"Velano has remained committed to raising funding from aligned and caring investors, from hospitals who have adopted PIVO to industry veterans who themselves have previously embraced the hard, pioneering work of establishing new standards of care," Stone told me.

"By partnering with change agents like Intermountain Healthcare; visionary industry leaders like Ed Ludwig and Bob Parkinson; and committed and passionate entrepreneurs like Marc Benioff and Kapor Capital, we can ensure our mission-driven charter remains core to our efforts while building a company equipped to deliver on a global vision."

The idea for Velano came from the company's co-founder and Chief Medical Officer Pitou Devgon, and his experience with elderly patient who asked him, “Hey doctor, why are you sticking me with needles? Why don’t you just draw blood out of this thing?" while pointing to the peripheral IV catheter in her arm.

"Since that very initial impetus, we’ve informed product design and product development decisions by interacting with patients and practitioners in the very place that they reside,the hospital, versus where a great deal of ‘innovation’ is birthed, the conference room or office," said Stone.

Velano's customers are hospital or health systems, which purchase the device, and then train their staff, meaning phlebotomists and nurses, how to properly use the technology. In addition to leading the funding round, Intermountain was also the first health system in the United States to deploy PIVO systemwide as a standard of care, and their use of the technology was what led other health systems to do the same, Stone told me.

"Intermountain Healthcare is nationally recognized for its commitment to patient-centered care and its embrace of innovative new technologies and advancements in service to those patients. It was an enormous vote of confidence to have the system roll out our technology systemwide, and instructive to be able to learn with them about the challenges, and opportunities, related to inpatient vascular access and blood drawing during our four-plus year collaboration," he said.

"Since the beginning of the PIVO rollout in late 2017, and through to its completion in 2018, we have seen other progressive hospitals and health systems join them in the movement for a one-stick hospitalization."

The PIVO technology has been used hundreds of thousands of times by Velano's hospital partners, and the feedback from patients and nurses "has been overwhelming," while also resulting in reduced hemolysis rates, and improvements in patient experience.

While there are a number of devices and technologies currently on the market with a similar aim of making blood drawing less painful, or at least looking to require less blood to make diagnosis, Stone doesn't see anything out there right now that is doing what Velano is doing. 

"Most of these are intended for doctor’s office use or outpatient lab settings and, other than needles, we have yet to see a direct competitor to our novel procedure. Velano is unique in its focus on the hospital inpatient setting drawing venous blood. The only real alternative to PIVO in a hospital remains the traditional needle, or drawing labs off of large lumen catheters."

Part of the new funding will go towards a a new facility that is already under construction, and will begin production later this year. The funding will also go toward Velano's geographic expansion.

"Since our launch, the demand continues to grow across the U.S. and now even abroad. These funds will be used to help expand the use of PIVO in new states across the country, finalize our new domestic manufacturing line to keep up with hospital demand, and continue expanding our family of vascular access products. The company also has its eye on expansion opportunities outside the United States and will be in a position to share more later this year," said Stone. 

While he believes that healthcare innovation has become a "buzzword," Stone also noted that "the effort required to affect change in one of the most loathe industries to change is not to be underestimated."

"Our vision for effective innovation, the antithesis of innovation for innovation’s sake, is steeped in the fundamentals of ethnographic research and immersion," he told me.

"Velano will continue to remain immersed in the clinical setting, close to those who deliver and those we benefit from health care. We will continue to respectfully challenge the status quo – but always through an intellectually curious lens to understand why we do things the way we do, and as importantly, why we do not do things a certain way."

The ultimate goal for Velano is to have PIVO be adopted as standard-of-care for inpatient blood draws, while also standardizing the approach to lab collection. 

"We are creating a new, more humane standard of care for medicine’s most common invasive procedure. Everyone on the planet will experience a hospital stay at some point on their journey of life. It is our sincere wish to touch every one of those lives in a more compassionate way by ensuring they do not experience a needle stick for a blood draw during that stay."

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Velano Vascular

Startup/Business

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Velano is a medical device innovator committed to reducing the pain, risk and inefficiencies of traditional blood collection practices while enhancing the clinical domain of vascular access. The company’s revolutionary FDA-cleared PIVO device expands the use of peripheral IV lines for frequent, high quality blood draws, aiming to deliver painless, compassionate care for hospital inpatients, a safer practice for caregivers, and a more financially responsible alternative for health systems. The company was founded by a physician and a patient committed to revolutionizing the vascular access industry and practice.

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Eric M Stone

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20-year entrepreneur and social sector change agent with passion for starting and leading growth organizations across healthcare and technology. Advisor, investor and board member to multiple upstarts.