Diabetes can have a major impact on patients’ lives. To maintain their health, diabetic individuals need to check glucose levels regularly. These checks are often done through invasive and painful methods like finger pricking.
ViiT Health has developed Gluco 1.0, an affordable, reusable, and non-invasive product to measure glucose levels. Patients simply rest their finger inside Gluco 1.0, and it uses spectrometry to quickly and accurately assess glucose levels. We reached out to CEO Luis Fernando to learn why diabetes hits close to home for his team and how the recently established company has come so far.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
In your own words, how would you describe viit health?
ViiT Health is a health tech company that develops computer vision software and hardware with the objective of identifying major health conditions by tracking analytes within the human body. We currently specialize in glucose measurement through a non-invasive portable device that uses near-infrared radiation (NIR) technology and proprietary computer vision software to monitor glucose levels in live tissue.
What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the world. Specifically in Mexico – where our team started it’s endeavors – diabetes is the second-largest cause of death, and it has even affected people from our product development team. However, the disease is preventable and controllable, which naturally calls for action. Since we had worked with artificial vision in the past, we did some research and understood that we could help by implementing computer vision in diabetes treatment, specifically in glucose measurement, which could lead to simpler and better prevention campaigns.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
Our team is composed of top researchers, engineers, developers, and executives committed to improving global healthcare. Some of our team members are:
Luis Gómez is the company’s founder and president of the board. He has also been a corporate lawyer and a computer vision entrepreneur. He has a JD in international law from Harvard University and was in the advanced management program at Harvard Business School. He also has experience in top corporate management at Citibank Mexico, Shearman & Sterling, AT&T, Alestra, Chrysler, Daimler, and Walmart.
Luis Fernando Maza is the company’s CEO and a serial entrepreneur and social activist from Mexico City. He created a venture builder at 20 years old, which now holds seven different companies. He was a speaker at the UN General Assembly in 2018 and winner of the Santander Global Entrepreneurship Program in 2020.
Dr. Josué Álvarez Borrego is the head of research and development at ViiT Health. A leading Researcher at the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education, he specialized in pattern recognition and image processing. He has published more than 90 academic papers and directed more than 14 PhD theses. He is also the former chairman for the National Optics Academy.
Antonio García is ViiT Health’s technology consultant and the associate dean of academic affairs at New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering. He was also a foundation professor of bioengineering at ASU. His expertise includes surface and colloid chemistry for diagnostics, drug delivery, biomolecule identification, and medical devices.
We came together in Mexico in 2012 because of previous computer vision projects developed by our background dev company called Solex Vintel.
How is viit health transforming the blood glucose and diabetic industry?
ViiT Health is revolutionizing how we address glucose monitoring. Until now, we have resorted mainly to finger pricking for regular glucose monitoring, which makes diagnosis and supervision in general painful and expensive. Our device provides a non-invasive way to monitor sugar levels using computer vision and NIR technology, which also allows for the possibility to measure other types of analytes, such as cholesterol and triglycerides.
What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?
To our knowledge, there are very few competitors developing similar devices, and none have received FDA approval and thus have no commercial devices. Furthermore, their approaches to non-invasive glucose monitoring are different since they use reflectance through laser pulses, prediction with hybrid testing (pricking for customized calibration), and graphene sensors (nanotechnology for molecule detection). Our device works with light transmittance, which allows us to have a full footprint of the analyzed tissue in order to eventually measure other substances, such as triglycerides or cholesterol. We also don’t use any type of consumables, which makes our product highly scalable.
Compared to traditional finger prick methods, how accurate would you say your technology is?
As we move forward with validation protocols for Gluco 1.0, we’ve been improving our assertiveness and are currently working with a 10% error margin for exact glucose measurement in lab tests, which we will work to improve further. Puncture glucometers currently have a positive or negative 20% error margin in glucose concentrations greater than or equal to 75 milligrams per deciliter.
Viit health was officially established a few months ago. do you have your product ready? has it gone through testing and trials?
Our background development (dev) company began attempting to identify and measure glucose in the human body in 2015. Since then, we have achieved very encouraging results, and we are currently undergoing validation protocols with the Mexican Institute for Nutrition and Mexico City’s Technology Department. Such protocols are expected to end by mid-2022. Afterwards, we will proceed for COFEPRIS (Mexico) approval by late 2022 through the Mexican Social Security Agency, which will allow us to start selling our devices. We will later move towards FDA approval, and we expect to be one of the first (if not the first) truly non-invasive glucometer to receive it.
How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
We will mainly use the capital for product validation and certification, software development, and business development. We aim to deploy a massive prevention campaign with the Mexican Social Security Agency by late 2022 and develop commercial strategies for introduction to the American market. While we prepare our product for sales, we will set up agreements with healthcare product manufacturers both in Mexico and the US.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Our technology will immediately disrupt a more than$10 billion dollar market for glucose monitoring while also paving the way for a new form of health analysis using NIR technology and computer vision, which could essentially reconfigure the way we monitor health conditions and ultimately help prevent unhealthy lifestyles. Our background dev company raised more than $2 million throughout its research and development activities since 2015, and ViiT Health is supported by Monaco Foundry and a leading American family office.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
Our preferred exit strategy is acquisition. We believe it may be faster and more likely than an initial public offering because international pharmaceutical companies may take a heavy interest in our early progress. However, both of them are viable within the next 10 years. We expect to begin selling our devices by late 2022 or early 2023 and experience significant growth over the first five years. By the end of 2027, we expect to have more than 230,000 devices in the market, have active operations in more than four countries, and achieve annual sales of more than $60 million (forward-looking projections are not guaranteed).
As a minority and underrepresented founder, what difficulties have you encountered working on your company? what advice would you give to minority founders?
We have experienced difficulties when exploring international markets, particularly when identifying new commercial opportunities. It’s important to seek assistance through government programs and look for alliances with startup accelerators that know and understand the country’s market and behavior. The best advice I could give is to understand the benefits and opportunities offered to minority entrepreneurs. There’s a lot of help and resources through government programs and international startup networks.
We are excited to see where Luis and his team take the company. ViiT Health is currently raising on Wefunder.