UrSure Inc. drives adherence to the HIV preventive drug, PrEP, with noninvasive, painless, cheap urine tests. Team members: Giffin Daughtridge, Helen Koenig
How did the idea for your company come about?
In 2013, Helen and I founded an HIV prevention program for HIV negative, high-risk youth in Philadelphia. In our program, we prescribed a medication called PrEP, which is 99% effective at preventing HIV if taken daily. Because adherence to the pill is so important, we wanted to monitor our patients' compliance, but the only way to do it was a blood test, and our guys hated needles. As a result, we developed a urine test that could detect how recently the patient had taken their medication. By monitoring adherence with this patient friendly, painless and noninvasive test, we empowered our doctors to better care for their high-risk patients, and we found that adherence levels to PrEP in our patients were twice the national average. As a result, we decided to scale our urine adherence tests to doctors and patients both in the US and worldwide, and we formed UrSure Inc. as the company to do that.
What does your company do? How is it distinct in its product/service category?
We make urine tests that let doctors see how often their patients are taking their HIV preventive PrEP medication. This empowers the doctor to monitor the patients' adherence and counsel them more effectively if they aren't taking their medication, and it makes the patient accountable to taking their medication. We currently have a validated lab based test, and we are developing a point of care test that would allow the doctor and patients to have the results of the test during the clinical visit.
Where do you hope to take it in the future?
In the future, we hope to produce our point of care test and then distribute it worldwide. We firmly believe that therapeutic drug monitoring motivates adherence to PrEP, and PrEP adherence prevents HIV infections. Our goal is to stop all new HIV infections worldwide. We also recognize the power of urine point of care testing to drive adherence, and we want to expand our platform to make more point of care urine tests that are critical for boosting compliance to preventive medications.
How has your time at Harvard influenced your efforts on your company?
I can't imagine a more resource rich environment in which to launch a life sciences company than Harvard. From visiting an HIV prevention clinic at the medical school, to a free consultation on intellectual property at the law school, to discussing how to measure the impact of our interventions with a statistician at the Kennedy School, to reviewing my financial models at the business school, to attending a talk on fundraising at the innovation lab, there is limitless knowledge and advice to be had here, and I could not be more grateful for the community that has fostered our initial growth.
Any advice you’d offer to other young entrepreneurs?
Take advantage of the resources and people around you. People love sharing advice on their experiences, successes, and failures, so give them the opportunity to do what they love!