Siemens Blood Testing Spinoff Finds a 'BetterWay' to Succeed Where Theranos Failed

Babson Diagnostics is poised to flip the script on blood testing with its BetterWay service, now available in Austin, TX.

Amanda Pedersen

July 10, 2024

5 Min Read
Photograph of a woman getting her finger-stick blood sample collected at a pharmacy by a pharmacy tech, with Babson Diagnostics' BetterWay service.
Babson Diagnostics' BetterWay brings an alternative to traditional blood testing with affordable, convenient, and accurate testing in retail pharmacies.Image courtesy of Babson Diagnostics

For all its faults, Theranos did get one thing right: the now-defunct company proved that people want to have a choice of getting blood testing done in convenient, retail locations.

In 2015, shortly before the turning point in Theranos' story when it turned from fairytale to cautionary tale for all in medtech, two colleagues at Siemens Healthineers began talking about how the company could bring a better blood testing solution to market.

David Stein and Eric Olson began working with BD (Becton, Dickinson) on the sample collection end of the new venture and Siemens spun the project out. Olson left Siemens with a term sheet in hand and founded Babson Diagnostics. Siemens spun out licensing exclusivity and a cash investment into Babson, and BD also signed exclusive agreements.

I don't have any objections to people being skeptical. I think skeptical is what we need, because a lack of skepticism is what let too many things get through the cracks.

Now, Babson Diagnostics is proving there really is a ‘BetterWay’ to do blood testing – with a science-first approach.

Today, the company announced the launch of its BetterWay lab test that uses a small amount of blood (about the size of a pea) from a fingertip. Babson said BetterWay’s unique finger collection device, technology ecosystem, and microsample lab eliminate the need for a phlebotomist, needles, and the vials of blood typically required for diagnostic lab testing.

Related:It's Time to Flip the Script on Blood Testing

The company is launching BetterWay in Austin, TX at select locations, including H-E-B Pharmacy, Peoples Rx, and Lake Hills Pharmacy, where trained pharmacy staff collect samples and use automated technology to prepare and store them. Couriers transport the samples to Babson’s Austin, TX-based, CLIA-certified lab, and medically accurate, easy-to-understand test results are available within a day or two.

MD+DI sat down with Olson, Babson’s founder, ahead of the launch.

Navigating skepticism in a post-Theranos blood testing industry

Many outsiders said that what Babson is doing couldn’t be done and yet, here it is launching its BetterWay blood testing service in Austin, TX. So what does Babson’s founder, chief operating officer, and chairman say to the people who doubted the company from the beginning?

“Had you asked me 10 or 20 years ago I would have also been a skeptic,” Olson said. “And I think that skepticism is super healthy and that's what we need in diagnostics because it's an industry where there has been a lot of frustration that, ‘Can't we do better than this?’ We all feel, in the diagnostics industry, that there does have to be a better way somewhere but we've seen so many different attempts to make things better and you know all of the different efforts to get us from where we are, which we kind of collectively see as the dark ages, to the Tricorder from Star Trek ... we know there's going to be many steps between here and there and we've seen so many people try to skip steps and for it to just turn out to be nothing, for it to turn out to be false or to make compromises that are just not reasonable compromises to make.”

Related:Babson Unlocks Critical Milestone Ahead of Commercialization

As an industry veteran who has seen so many of these fly-by-night diagnostics companies come and go, Olson said it is easy to become disillusioned.

“So, I don't have any objections to people being skeptical. I think skeptical is what we need, because a lack of skepticism is what let too many things get through the cracks,” he said. “...But I would say the approach that we took, the advantage of knowing that skepticism is going to be rampant – and should be rampant – is a science first approach where rather than exaggerating the things to come we produced the data from the clinical studies that are needed to evaluate whether what we're doing works.”

So, Olson and Stein decided to be highly transparent in its public materials and with its partners and to share all the clinical data Babson has generated through clinical studies.

Related:Can Babson Succeed Where Theranos Failed?

“For a skeptic, deciding whether something works is not a matter of being persuaded that it works,” Olson said. “It's not persuasion, it's data.”

Developing an ecosystem of blood testing technologies

The reason this is a first-of-its-kind solution is because it's hard.

Olson said BetterWay has been a complex program to bring to market because it has involved multiple components.

“This is not a silver bullet story where we invented a certain thing that all of a sudden broke through and made all of this feasible,” he said. “ The Babson technology story is really about an ecosystem of technologies that goes all the way from hand warming and sample preparation, to capillary sample collection, to capillary test accuracy, test miniaturization, all the way to reporting the results in a way that makes sense to people.”

It takes all of the different pieces to make it work and to be able to run broad ranges of routine blood tests from a small sample of capillary blood.

“The reason this is a first-of-its-kind solution is because it's hard. It's technically very challenging and it's taken not one technology but dozens of technologies at the same time to transform this value chain from a venous ecosystem to a capillary ecosystem, from phlebotomist’s office to a retail store, in a way that doesn't compromise the quality of the results or the cost structure with which we can do routine testing and keep it accessible.”

Key benefits of Babson's approach:

  • Convenient:  Consumers can get tested at places where they already shop that have convenient retail hours in the evenings and on weekends. Babson's studies show a strong preference for the retail pharmacy location and pharmacy team members as collection techs.

  • Accurate: Babson conducted 44 clinical studies involving nearly 1 million blood tests to ensure that BetterWay results are equivalent to traditional blood testing methods and can be used for clinical decision-making, diagnosis, and treatment.

  • Patient-centered: BetterWay offers an extensive menu covering testing needed for annual wellness exams, chronic condition management, and screenings. Insurance is accepted for testing ordered by a clinician for medical care. Consumers can also order tests for themselves online, with pricing up to 50% less than other self-pay options.

  • Less invasive: BetterWay’s unique collection device, developed in partnership with BD, improves access for people who fear needles, have difficult veins, or faint when having blood drawn, a condition known as vasovagal syncope.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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