FK Meets | Featuring Yossi Pollak, Founder & CEO, Sight Diagnostics
29th March 2020
Sight Diagnostics is often defined by what it isn’t. The Israeli blood diagnostics company, founded by Yossi Pollak and Danny Levner eight years ago, is making blood diagnostic testing more efficient, accurate and affordable through the deployment of a compact, state of the art diagnostics device powered by transformative AI algorithms. As their FDA approval, exceptional clinical accuracy and global buzz prove, this is no Theranos.
Yossi Pollak, Sight Diagnostic Founder & CEO
Now in the global deployment phase of their groundbreaking OLO device, Sight’s team – based in Israel, the UK and US, have signed partnerships with hospitals and public and private health providers across Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Australia.
Beyond creating efficiency and accuracy, Sight’s AI-powered technology could help to diagnose blood conditions previously untraceable to medics. Given they are focusing their energies on the Complete Blood Count test, administered around four billion times per year, it’s just possible that Sight Diagnostics will fundamentally improve global medicine.
We caught up with Yossi to learn more about Sight’s mission, vision and progress to date.
What is Sight Diagnostic’s mission, and how are you progressing in achieving it?
Our mission is to transform health systems and patient outcomes through accurate, fast and pain-free blood diagnostic testing.
When we started the company almost a decade ago, we set our sights on malaria detection, delivering nearly one million tests across Europe, Asia and Africa. We’ve now focused our tech to tackle the Complete Blood Count (CBC) test – the most commonly ordered blood test, carried out around four billion times a year.
What does the OLO machine do that other diagnostic devices can’t?
Through digitising blood samples and using our proprietary AI and machine vision algorithms, we can automate the identification and counting of different blood cell types and anomalies. The rich dataset of blood imagery we’re creating is helping to test the diagnostic potential of our tech for the early detection of serious health conditions like sepsis, cancer and stroke.
OLO’s size and compact design mean it can be easily situated in a crowded clinic where space may be a premium. It’s also completely “dry”, meaning the patient’s two drops of blood never touch the inside of the device, preventing contamination of blood samples and removing the need for expensive cleaning solutions.
What additional benefits can OLO bring beyond the individual user?
OLO helps reduce costs for health systems by removing the need to outsource blood work to an external lab, a process that is both expensive and time-intensive. This makes the treatment experience much more efficient, by reducing the steps needed to treat patients.
For example, oncology patients need to get a CBC test before each chemo treatment to monitor their white blood cell count. With the old method, this process could take hours to draw the blood, ship it off to get tested, wait for the results, notify the patient when it’s ready and then provide the treatment. With OLO, the same healthcare worker can draw the blood, run the test, analyse the results within minutes, allowing for much quicker and more efficient treatment.
At the micro-level, OLO can also be a lot less painful for patients by requiring less blood than a traditional venous test. This is especially beneficial for children or adults who are afraid of needles as OLO can run on just a finger prick sample of blood rather than a venous blood draw.
Is Sight assisting with the fight against the Coronavirus?
Sight is committed to supporting health institutions in fighting COVID-19 in any way we can. We have already begun helping through our partnership with Sheba Tel Hashomer, a top hospital in Israel which has also been ranked #9 in the world by Newsweek. Sheba has deployed OLO in their coronavirus quarantine lab to help run CBC tests for infected patients. While CBC does not detect COVID-19, it can provide key insights like red blood cell count, white blood cell count, and more which can give doctors a strong indicator of the patient’s immune system and overall health.
Placing OLO in a quarantine lab is one of the ways to help mitigate the risk of spreading the virus among healthcare workers and hospital patients. During an outbreak like this, reducing contact with infected blood samples is important in preventing further transmission.
Our goal is to ensure more health facilities have access to accurate, fast and convenient CBC testing in this unprecedented health crisis. We continue to work tirelessly with our contacts in health institutions around the world to make OLO available in as many locations as possible.
Sight is not the first company to attempt point of care blood diagnostics. What do you do differently to those that have come before you, and have their high profile troubles helped or hindered you?
We’re committed to clinical evidence and excellence. We spent nearly a decade developing and rigorously testing our technology, deliberately holding off on any commercialisation or marketing activities until the technology was proven and validated by leading regulatory agencies and academic research institutions.
If there is any opportunity that has come of these high profile failures, it’s that they have allowed Sight to show the world a model for how to responsibly develop and commercialise blood testing and biotech products.
What does the company look like today, in terms of size, skill sets and locations, and what is the growth plan for the coming year?
Sight has around 95 employees spread across three offices in Israel, the UK and the US. Our team is comprised of researchers and experts who are at the forefront of their fields in physics and computer science, as well as chemistry and biology.
We have a very diverse team, all with unique backgrounds, experiences, and skills. When interviewing candidates, we look for someone who is creative, intelligent, compassionate and ethical, with a special quality of over-achieving in everything they do.
How do you bring in the talent you need to successfully scale a company that incorporates innovation, manufacture, R&D, regulation, distribution, marketing, medical bodies, retail and all the aspects associated with a global health tech scaleup?
All candidates go through a multi-stage hiring process that rigorously validates their expertise, experiences and qualifications, and equally importantly, their fit with our organisational culture. The people who make up Sight share our mission driven purpose and collaborative work environment, which serve as important elements to help us continue to motivate and retain talents.
We’ve found that top talent loves working with other top talent, so we have been fortunate to hire through employee recommendations. In many cases, our most valuable employees sought us out because they heard about the exciting work we’re doing and wanted to help us achieve our mission.
*”OLO has the CE Mark registration from the European directive for performing CBC tests in point of care settings. In the United States, OLO is 510(k) cleared for use in moderate complexity laboratories; it has not yet been cleared for point of care use.”