CINCINNATI -- It sounds very much like something out of Star Trek -- a machine that scans patients and makes an accurate diagnosis without ever touching them.
That futuristic technology is now for Over-the-Rhine-based Genetesis, a business that’s devised a way to use the human heart’s magnetic field to measure its electrical activity and map what’s happening inside it.
The idea is to give physicians and emergency room technicians a noninvasive way to treat cardiovascular disease, said cofounder Peeyush Shrivastava. It’s kind of the opposite of an MRI, he said, since it doesn’t emit a magnetic field but measures one.
The prototype isn’t hand-held, like a Star Trek "tricorder," but it is mobile -- it’s a device on wheels with a long arm that’s placed over the patient’s chest to take measurements.
How’d the company get started?
While most of their fellow students at Mason High School were playing video games and obsessing over the opposite sex, Shrivastava and Genetesis co-founders Vineet Erasala and Manny Setegn were investigating bioelectricity.
It was something Shrivastava became interested in after his grandfather was diagnosed in 2006 with several neurological conditions. Shrivastava became very excited when he learned that the heart generates a tiny magnetic field.
Along with Shrivastava’s father, Chandan Srivastava, the three young men started the company in 2013, after Shrivastava graduated from high school. The company got a big boost in late 2014, when their company was a finalist at 43North, a business completion in Buffalo, New York that bills itself as the world’s biggest. Genetesis took home $250,000 from that competition, which the company used to make a prototype and start clinical trials.
The money also enabled Shrivastava to take leave from Ohio State University and spend all his time on Genetesis, which led to him creating Genetesis’ proprietary mapping system in early 2015.
The company got an even bigger boost in May of this year, when billionaire Mark Cuban, a regular on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” invested $350,000, Shrivastava said.
Does Genetesis have employees?
Five full time, including the founders, who normally work at Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine. The engineering staff works in Columbus, where most of the clinical trials are happening.
The company plans to hire five more employees by the first quarter of next year, most of them engineers, Shrivastava said.
The company also has a large advisory board, most of whose members are much older than Shrivastava, Erasala and Setegn, who are all 30.
Board members include Alisa Niksch, director of the pediatric electrophysiology and exercise stress lab at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, who’s received a stake in the company in exchange for her expertise. Knowing of her interest in biotechnology and entrepreneurship, Shrivastava reached out to her initially through LinkedIn.
She gave Shrivastava props for recognizing that he needed on the advisory board people with experience in selling devices to healthcare providers, and with experience navigating the regulatory process for those devices.
“So many startups rely on a group of engineers coming together and hope it all works,” she said. “That, unfortunately, is an often-failing strategy.”
There’s something very special about Shrivastava’s assertiveness and his ability to make decisions for the company, Niksch said.
“He’s a great cheerleader for everyone in the company,” she said. “He has no fear of interfacing with some of the most prestigious organizations in the country.”
Pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Genetesis hopes to start selling its first units in early 2018, Shrivastava said. Meanwhile, clinical trials aimed at proving the technology works will continue.
Interested providers are always contacting Genetesis about the technology, he said. He declined to say how much he thought the machines would cost when brought to market.
What’s owning a business like?
It’s just as much work as Shrivastava thought it would be, he said, if not more.
“You have this sense of responsibility to the investors, to the team and to the customers you -- one day -- hope to reach,” he said. “That’s a humbling feeling.”