Madison’s Tasso looks to offer solution to easy, painless blood collection sampling

Tasso Inc. is working on a method to allow patients to draw blood and send samples to a lab in the convenience of their own home.

HemoLink is a product that connects patients to the clinical lab by replacing expensive and time-consuming visits to the clinic with an affordable, two-step, at-home device. Not only is it simple for any person to use, but it also helps doctors monitor treatment more consistently.

“The HemoLink is delivered to your home, self-applied and shipped to a laboratory via standard mail. The user places the device on the arm or stomach and removes it two minutes later,” said Ben Moga, president of Tasso, Inc.

The idea may seem simple but the hope is to change the way patients view health care and the way doctors monitor treatment. “Tasso is the Netflix of blood sampling,” Moga said.

Tasso is based in Madison and was co-founded in 2011 by Moga, Dr. Erwin Berthier and Dr. Ben Casavant, who have experience in medical equipment, microfluidics and entrepreneurship, respectively. Moga and his team at Tasso develop blood collection products to improve the blood sampling process in order to “expand the reach of healthcare.”

In other words, they envision an environment in which people will not have to worry about taking time out of their busy schedules or think twice about having to wait at the clinic.

HemoLink focuses on people with HIV because frequent monitoring of HIV viral load is critical in evaluating how well treatment is working. People with HIV need this test done every two to eight weeks at the start of treatment, in addition to every three to six months.

Viral load testing estimates how much of the virus is in the blood and doctors need this information to check progression of the disease. The purpose of treatment is to reach an undetectable viral load, meaning there is less HIV in the body and thus, the person has a greater chance of living longer and has a reduced transmission risk. The process requires a lot of blood samples.

With HemoLink, people are more likely to get tested and thus, continue to improve their health. Moreover, Tasso is “the only company in the industry that has demonstrated blood draws of greater than 100 microliters,” which is a required sample volume.

Tasso hopes to reach the market by the end of 2015. The company has secured $2.3 million in funding and is anticipating another award of $1.6 million by the end of June. Additionally, the company is seeking an angel or venture seed round of $1.5 million.

Upon FDA clearance, Tasso will partner with an established distributor as well as market directly to health care providers and consumers. With the successful launch of HemoLink, the company’s founders also look forward to applying its use to more diagnostic areas including infectious disease, organ transplant and genetic screening. By reaching out to wider array of consumers and payers, Tasso can transform the process of blood collection sampling in order to make it more approachable.

The company is a finalist in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate June 3-4 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Madison.

— By Jamie Liang, for Liang is a senior in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.