Mercer Innovation Center fellow creates quick, painless blood collection device

Alan Kalinda in front of brick wall

Imagine walking into a health kiosk at your local pharmacy and doing a quick, painless blood test that measures your risk for heart disease and diabetes. 

That’s how Alan Kalinda envisions people using his blood collection device, the flagship product of his company KalMed Healthcare, a Mercer Innovation Center fellow. 

The device uses a microneedle that painlessly extracts a small amount of blood — about three drops — within three to five seconds, Kalinda said. The idea is that the blood then would undergo a glucose test and lipid panel, which measures high- and low-density lipoproteins, also known as HDL and LDL cholesterol. 

“My hope is that people, after receiving these blood tests, will take their health a lot more seriously and be able to go to a physician and get a diagnosis to catch disease early,” he said. 

Cardiovascular diseases, which cause heart attack and stroke, are the No. 1 cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization. 

“The goal is to encourage preventive care by incentivizing people with low-cost and painless blood tests,” Kalinda said. 

The blood collection device has undergone bench and animal testing, though official animal testing must be completed before the product can move on to clinical trials. That will hopefully happen later this year, Kalinda said. After clinical trials, the device will need to be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Inspiration strikes in Rwanda

In 2019, KalMed Healthcare was named to the Mercer Innovation Center’s fourth class of fellows. As a fellow, the company receives funding, office space, paid student interns, mentoring and more to help grow the business. 

The interns have been especially helpful to the startup, Kalinda said. 

“We were able to have interns helping us with finance and marketing,” he said. “That’s definitely something we lacked in expertise because we never really focused on it.”

Kalinda developed the idea for a blood collection device after he took a trip to visit family in Rwanda. While on safari, he fell ill and had trouble finding a doctor’s office and medication. 

At the time, he envisioned a kiosk where people could interact with a physician via telemedicine. With the help of mentors, he refined the idea to get to the blood collection device. 

One of those mentors was Dr. Khan Siddiqui, founder and chief medical officer of Higi, whom Kalinda reached out to on LinkedIn. Higi is a consumer health engagement company and has over 10,000 Smart Health Station kiosks nationwide. Siddiqui now serves on KalMed Healthcare’s advisory board. 

Looking toward the future, Kalinda would like to develop a blood analyzer that could run more than 100 tests using just a small amount of blood. 

“That’s when things can really change in terms of the affordability of blood tests and really homing in on preventive care,” he said. 

Jennifer Falk is director of digital communications at Mercer. She edits and writes feature stories for The Den and examines web data and analytics to drive content decisions. She also creates and supervises the creation of content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters.