Waveguide Corp. has launched the first portable, battery-powered nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) device, Waveguide Formμla, offering rapid, on-site screening and diagnostics. The Cambridge, Mass.-based startup is looking to advance the product for use in detecting infectious diseases and cancer.

About the size of an Ipad, the HIPAA-compliant Waveguide Formμla is totally portable and can be plugged in or used with its own battery, which lasts at least five hours. To perform a test, a small sample – less than 30 microliters – is loaded into a disposable cartridge and inserted into the device. Results are available in less than 10 minutes and can be immediately uploaded to a secure cloud, via an arrangement with AT&T, for real-time data gathering and analytics. In health care, such information could be used by public health entities or hospitals to monitor diseases or identify outbreaks.

Other features include little or no sample preparation, extreme selective to target compounds and characterization of the complete formulation down to parts-per-trillion detection levels, and low cost, according to the company.

Waveguide Formμla. Credit: Waveguide Corp.

“Until now, the cost and complexity of commercially available NMR platforms has limited their use to low-volume and niche applications with high fixed costs. From Waveguide’s founding in 2015, we have worked diligently to change this paradigm, partnering with Harvard University’s Department of Physics to pioneer a new class of micro NMR analyzer technology,” said Nelson Stacks, Waveguide’s president and CEO. “The Waveguide Formula is truly a revolutionary development, opening the door to a range of in-situ applications in health care, consumer products, and industrial products that were previously impractical or impossible with the existing NMR technology.”

TB and ovarian cancer

The official release, which is set for March 2-5 at Pittcon 2020 in Chicago, is an industrial product, Stacks told BioWorld, noting the company needs to raise more money to really advance any health care applications.

That said, Waveguide is already working on programs in tuberculosis and ovarian cancer. Of the first, “it’s a quick yes/no whether the patient has TB within a sputum sample,” he said, adding that the data “looks really, really encouraging.”

The ovarian cancer application uses proprietary magnetic nanoparticles, which have been tagged to bind with targets in ovarian cancer cells within a blood sample and provide a reading. The tool might be used to monitor progression of the disease or even as an initial screen for ovarian cancer, Stacks said.

A third area Waveguide is eyeing is lung cancer. “There are lots of applications in health care. It really depends on the financing,” he said.

Of the first two, TB and ovarian cancer, the latter looks to be the most promising. Stacks pointed to significant interest and “very compelling” early data, as well as discussions with the FDA about a 510(k) submission. Once the money is in hand, Waveguide could have a health care NMR on the market in 18-24 months, he said.

“We’re hopeful. We’ve discussed this with a number of our investors, and I think the ovarian cancer is the [application] that’s going to happen next,” he said. “Of the groups we’ve spoken with – investors, hospitals and the FDA – we have a lot of good indications that that is the next target for us, and we would love to begin that within the year.”

Expanding access in remote areas

Founded with IT licensed from Harvard University, Waveguide has since acquired six of its own patents and raised about $30 million to develop its NMR technology. Stacks said it will take another dedicated round of funding for the specific disease targets to “rev it up and go full speed ahead with them.” The company is planning a new funding round sometime this year, but has not yet locked into any specific programs.

Stacks said he would love to see Waveguide Formμla used in remote areas with poor diagnostics and unreliable electricity. The machine is easy to use, with minimal training required, and costs significantly less than a benchtop NMR. And Waveguide maintains that its new micro NMR performs as well or better than those larger machines.

“At a price point of under $10,000 … you’re now bringing the care to the patient as opposed to the patient having to come to the hospital,” he said. “There’s no other NMR that we know of that is in this format, this sensitive, this specific,” he said. “Even if there were, nothing is really optimized to be able to do detection in the field.”