The Silicon Review
The world needs cheap, advanced healthcare that is rapidly available to all. Redwood City, CA-headquartered Endiatx seeks to change the status quo by creating technology that does a given job at least 10x faster, better, and cheaper. To Endiatx, this means robot pills.
If we look at a typical upper endoscopy patient, say someone who is suffering from repeated and undiagnosed stomach pain, a typical story would include multiple hospital visits and gatekeeping because knocking you out and jamming a tube into your body is a non-trivial thing to do. What if you could simply swallow a cheap pill in your living room and let your doctor drive it around your stomach over a video call?
Endiatx’s technology centers around its unique propulsion system, which allows its pill robots to actively navigate inside the stomach with real-time control and a live video feed. This allows its device to compete directly with traditional endoscopes for many upper endoscopy patients.
We recently interviewed Torrey Smith, Co-founder and CEO of Endiatx, to know more about the company. In this interview, he gave us a glimpse of the work that the company does and its future. Read on for the excerpts from the interview.
Q. Could you tell us about the journey of the company so far?
We realized that the existing healthcare startup ecosystem had certain limits with regards to how much innovation could be realized, so we decided to establish a company focused on frontier health tech from the outset. We are a relentlessly creative group of makers and hackers who to date have sent 23 of these robots through our own bodies. We started as a classic Silicon Valley garage-style startup, but we are very excited to be securing the funding that can take us to the next level.
We believe that openness and transparency are critical to earning the public trust, so rather than operating in stealth mode, you can find videos of our R&D process right on YouTube. It feels good to realize that you don't have to be perfect at any given moment in time- you just have to be real. And these robot pills are real!
Q. How are you revolutionizing the diagnostic and interventional medicine space?
Our goal is to drastically lower the cost of advanced procedures while expanding access to the patient population in ways never imagined. The name Endiatx (pronounced “ehn-dee-ah-tix”) is a combination of three critical concepts: To go within the human body, to diagnose what is wrong, and the “Tx” is shorthand for treatment: to fix it. We believe that the time has come for tiny robot surgeons to create a new standard of care without the risks and hassles associated with knocking people out and jamming tubes into their bodies. Furthermore, we think that for many patients, we can do so without the constraint of being inside a hospital or clinic.
We have trademarked PillBot™ as our first product line, which can be thought of as a “moving eyeball in the stomach”, and Pill Surgeon™ as the follow-on which will then use that moving platform as a basis for surgical intervention. This is a very exciting time for us.
We decided from the outset that we wanted to operate free of any capital equipment. There is a lot of good work being done in actuation of robotic elements inside the human body with external magnetic fields, but this approach means that patients will have to wait in line to get inside the expensive machine. Since our robots don’t need any of that, they can be operated remotely from almost anywhere. To prove that point we operated PillBot™ in the cockpit of a Cessna 310 in a ballistic dive from 11,000 ft (we were doing some weightless testing on our patented quad-pumpjet propulsion system). You might think of Endiatx as the ultimate telemedicine.
Q. How have you innovated to adapt since the onset of the pandemic?
COVID led to a massive cancellation of procedures like the upper endoscopy due to the risks of doctor-patient contact. It really drove home the value of telemedicine, and it rendered the fundraising landscape relatively location agnostic. The challenges we faced with the pandemic mainly stemmed from the fact that we are a hardware company in addition to being a software company, so we had to plan our isolation pods very carefully.
Q. Do you have any new technology/services ready to be launched?
We are incredibly excited to see the Gastroenterology community warming up to the possibilities that PillBot™ unlocks. Our next step is locking down our MVP and proving it in limited clinical trials. I don’t think most GI’s have allowed themselves to imagine what they could do with a platform that makes active internal examination this easy. Imagine seeing a ski-lift for the first time when all your life you had to climb the mountain step-by-step. We are taking you to the top cheap and easy. It’s a new paradigm
Q. What does the future look like for your platform?
Well we have to put that “Tx” in Endiatx! We have to put surgical tools on it, if only because we currently have a lot of unused buttons on that Xbox controller! I think it makes sense to get the purely diagnostic PillBot™ through FDA as a first step, and then use it as a predicate platform for Pill Surgeon™. There is just as much innovation on the Regulatory side as anywhere else, and all FDA are asking on a fundamental level is that you prove that you are more safe and effective for a given indication for use than the status quo. And we believe that we will be. Profoundly so.
We are also incredibly excited about putting two cameras on PillBot™ and unlocking 3D stereoscopic vision. Imagine donning an oculus headset and finding yourself inside a giant stomach that you can freely swim around in. Imagine donning AR goggles and seeing the real-time glowing hologram of the patient’s anatomy inside them! This is so unbelievably fun, and we are barely scratching the surface.