Seventh Sense Biosystems Developing Tech Akin to Check-Engine Light for the Body
Imagine if we could monitor complex health conditions with a decal on our skin as easily as we look at our check-engine lights to learn of car trouble. Seventh Sense Biosystems, a secretive startup based in Cambridge, MA, tells Xconomy that its technology could transform this vision into reality.
It was reported in December that Seventh Sense had raised $4.75 million in a first-round financing from top life sciences investors Flagship Ventures, of Cambridge, Boston’s Third Rock Ventures, and Polaris Venture Partners, in Waltham, MA. But the company waited until our recent talk with company co-founder and CEO Doug Levinson to share details about its technology and current operations with the press. Levinson, who is also a partner at Flagship Ventures, says that the company is developing products that help people monitor their health continuously, but without intruding on their lifestyles.
“When we were forming this company,” Levinson says, “I was intrigued with the question of how simple can we make a health monitor.”
In fact, Levinson envisions patients being able to apply a health monitor no more intrusive than an imprint on the skin. The monitor could easily alert a patient about a health problem—or alternatively, help them adopt a health behavior—by changing its appearance in response to some measurable change in body chemistry. The CEO declined to say which specific health conditions his firm would develop products to monitor, but he did offer one example to illustrate its utility. Think of a simple mark on the skin turning a certain color to indicate that a patient has too little or too much of a drug in her system.
At the heart of the proposed monitors at the startup are “bioactive pigments,” which are polymer particles designed to change their color or other aspects of their appearance when they come into contact with specific molecular indicators in blood and other bodily fluids. The particles, as pictured on Seventh Sense’s website, each have two separate hemispheres loaded with two different colored dyes. Surface ligands on the particles are designed to bind to certain molecules in the body, causing the pigments to move into a position that shows one of the colors. The appearance of a certain color would indicate the presence of a health-related molecule such as a virus, drug, or disease-related cell.
The bioactive pigments are based on technologies developed by prolific MIT inventor Bob Langer, Joerg Lahann, of the University of Michigan, and Samir Mitragotri, at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Lahann and Mitragotri, who are both professors of chemical engineering, completed research in Langer’s lab at MIT prior to taking their current academic posts. Last year Levinson, who … Next Page »