Cnoga Medical Ltd. was conceived in China. Dr. Yosef Segman, a mathematician, resided in China after the company he had previously founded, OPlus Technologies, was sold to Intel Corporation (Nasdaq: INTC) in 2005. He went to China to set up a factory to build televisions that were embedded with OPlus's processors.
The skin color of the Chinese is as varied as the skin color of Israelis. "In my free time," says Segman, "I took pictures of people with all kinds of skin colors. I asked myself, 'What, nonetheless, is the similarity between them?' I tried to find all kinds of common denominators for all people's skin."
Segman learned that of the three pigments which mix to create human skin color, red is dominant, followed by green and blue. Sometimes, blue is more dominant than green. "When hemoglobin combines with oxygen, it creates red. There is only one animal in nature, the horseshoe crab, which has blue blood," he says.
60-70 years ago, before diagnostic devices were invented, medical diagnoses was largely based on looking at skin color.
"Every one of the measurements that our device monitors, except for maybe oxygen, is like the parting of the Red Sea for monitoring. Sugar is the most difficult, because it must be measured precisely to avoid administering a too small dosage of insulin, or an overdose, which can be lethal," says Segman.
A great many companies, including Israeli companies, have tried and failed to make this measurement.
"A type 1 diabetic (juvenile diabetes) knows that blood sugar levels can vary widely within a short time, and that their lives can depend on it. Since they were children, they have also gotten used to measuring their sugar levels by pricking their fingers. That is why they stick with it. Type 2 diabetics (adult onset diabetes) require less accuracy, but they avoid the monitoring because of the pricking, and can end up in critical condition. Our product is particularly designed for them," says Segman.
"The blood test can also be misleading, if the paper on which the blood sample is spread is damp, or if the fingertip is dirty. There are differences even between two drops of blood taken from the same finger."
Meanwhile, the idea of imaging skin color for diagnostic purposes was copied by others. "We believe that they are infringing on our patent," says Segman. However, the others are not yet measuring blood sugar levels.
Segman decided to develop algorithms to analyze facial pictures in order to obtain chemical and physiological measurements. Later, he decided that a better method than photographing the face would be to photograph a finger when it is inside a closed space. At the next stage, it was decided to fix the finger so it could not move.
"The first prototype was the most jerry-rigged, made out of a wedding ring box. I brought this product to a meeting with Texas Instruments, and it suddenly produced results that were similar to all the sophisticated monitors."
The original device monitored heartbeat, skin resistance, the quality of skin collagen, and even blood sugar levels - the dream of every non-invasive monitor.
Cnoga Medical has raised $8 million to date from Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXM), Israel-United States Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD-F), and private investors, including Sasson Yona, who co-founded OPlus with Segman.
Cnoga Medical's monitor has US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, and the company has begun sales in the US market through distributors. Texas Instruments makes the processors that underpin the monitor.
The monitor is not approved in the US for measuring blood sugar, which holds back the company's growth. Approval of monitoring blood sugar levels will probably require a small clinical trial. "We want to conquer the home blood pressure and blood sugar markets, which are huge markets," says Segman. "We're selling the monitors in Europe, and no one has asked for their money back. We're the first company in the world to sell non-invasive blood sugar monitors."
Later, Cnoga Medical is considering developing the monitor for the cosmetics market, to diagnose skin health to decide on the appropriate treatment, and for homeland security market, to identify nervous people