Ellume: Accessible Health Diagnostics for All
Despite advances in modern medicine, infectious diseases still have a major impact on the world as we have seen over the last few years. Digital diagnostics manufacturer, Ellume, was founded to help address these problems through innovative and accessible approaches to diagnosis and treatment. We found time to catch up with Dan Mallon, Vice President of Business Development at Ellume, to discuss the company and its plans for more accessible testing.
Tell us about Ellume. What is it? What does it do?
Ellume is a digital diagnostics company that specializes in designing and manufacturing high-quality diagnostic tests for use at home, in clinic, and in laboratory settings. We’re proud to be a company that’s dedicated to improving health outcomes for people around the world, and we believe that our products can make a real difference in people’s lives.
One of our most notable achievements has been the development of the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test (ECHT), which was the first accessible at-home rapid antigen COVID test to be approved for Over-The-Counter (OTC) use by the FDA. We’re proud to have played a role in expanding access to COVID testing during the pandemic, and we believe that our test is a powerful tool in the fight against this disease.
Beyond COVID and the USA, we are passionate about improving global health. Tuberculosis carries an enormous disease burden in the developing world, and we are proud of our work to create a novel diagnostic platform which enables the diagnosis of latent tuberculosis infections in remote settings. By bringing fast and reliable TB testing to regions where laboratory infrastructure is limited, we are helping communities identify tuberculosis earlier and improve health outcomes in regions that need it most.
What is Ellume’s mission?
Ellume believes that through the creation of simple, accurate diagnostic tools, and by linking the results of those tools to the best treatment, we help people get better sooner and prevent further spread of disease in their community.
Why is this important? From the outset, we saw a clear need for a faster, simpler, and more accurate way to diagnose disease. We believed that by placing tests in the hands of the consumer and connecting patients to the most effective treatment, we could facilitate a faster recovery and enable people to lead happier, healthier lives.
The global COVID-19 pandemic certainly helped to reinforce the importance of home testing as an important tool in helping to minimize transmission as well as reducing the pressure on already-burdened healthcare systems.
Let’s talk about accessibility with covid tests. Why are these tests needed? Has that been an issue in the past?
Most non-digital OTC tests available on the market require visual interpretation of test lines. Understandably, this presents a significant barrier for people with vision impairment, who often require additional support to use these tests. It’s worth noting, however, that difficulties with result interpretation can also be experienced by people without vision impairment when interpreting faint result lines. At Ellume, we recognized this issue and have developed a COVID-19 Home Test that provides automated result generation in words that are communicated through a screen-reader compatible app on the user’s phone. Furthermore, we developed bespoke test components which are accessible by design.
Consumer-centricity is at the heart of Ellume’s product design principles. Because of the accessibility features referred to earlier, our COVID test has been made available free of charge to vision-impaired individuals as part of a US government initiative to improve the accessibility of home COVID tests. Additionally, we are proud to be part of an NIH-led initiative to further enhance the accessibility of our test, which is an ongoing process for us at Ellume. We remain committed to making sure that our products are accessible to everyone who needs them, and we’re always looking for ways to improve the accessibility and usability of our products.
You provided complimentary Covid tests to attendees at APH’s Annual Meeting. Why was that important?
There were several reasons why we thought it was important to provide attendees with complimentary tests. First, it is aligned with Ellume’s public health mission to keep individuals and their communities safe from illness. We wanted to ensure that all meeting attendees had access to tests and give attendees the peace of mind that their colleagues were not contagious. Secondly, we were able to receive valuable feedback directly from blind and low vision users, which allows us to further improve and enhance the accessibility of our COVID test. Lastly, we were able to raise awareness of the availability of Ellume’s Home COVID-19 Test (ECHT). By giving attendees the opportunity to try our test, we were able to showcase its effectiveness and demonstrate why it’s a valuable addition to any home, work environment, medical practice, or healthcare facility. Overall, it was a win-win situation for both our company and the attendees at APH’s Annual Meeting.
Are there any updates to the covid tests?
I’m excited to share some updates about our COVID tests. Currently, we’re working closely with the NIH to make our ECHT test even better. In fact, we’ve already made some improvements to our app to ensure that it’s fully compatible with screen-readers, and we’re actively collaborating with members of the low vision and blind community to optimize our instructions. We’re also developing a new version of the package carton and leaflet to improve accessibility for low vision users. These efforts are a critical step in ensuring that our COVID test is accessible and easy to use for everyone who needs it. We’re committed to delivering the highest quality product possible, and these updates are just one example of our dedication to continuous improvement.
Any other products that you have made or are planning to make accessible?
Yes, as mentioned earlier, we are continuously looking to improve our products for ease-of-use and accessibility. Harnessing the best-in-class accessibility of Ellume’s existing home COVID-19 test, Ellume’s next-generation home testing product is a multi-use (for serial testing) and multiplex (e.g. test for COVID, FluA, Flu B with one sample) digital diagnostic platform designed to address the limitations of current consumer diagnostics. Ellume’s novel platform will deliver superior accessibility at an affordable price through updates to key test components and the smartphone application.
Anything else you would like to mention about Ellume?
We’re proud to be a company that prioritizes developing user-centric diagnostic products. We firmly believe that by putting the needs of our users first, we can create products that are effective, accessible, and easy to use. In fact, we’ve found that working closely with blind and low vision user groups has been incredibly rewarding for us. By collaborating with these groups, we’ve been able to make significant improvements to our COVID test that benefit all users, regardless of their visual abilities. We’re committed to continuing this approach with all of our products, and we believe it’s what makes Ellume stand out in the industry.
Thanks, Dan, for discussing Ellume and your passion for accessibility and health equity. We’re excited to share that the Biden administration is offering a one-off free delivery of 12 Ellume COVID-19 Home Tests to Blind of Low Vision people until May 11. Ordering can be done online at: https://special.usps.com/testkits/accessible or call 1-800-232-0233. And be sure to stay tuned as Ellume continues to expand their accessible over-the-counter consumer diagnostics!