Ann Arbor-based Blaze Medical Devices LLC is developing a tabletop blood analyzer measuring how much each unit of blood in the blood bank's inventory is degrading as an indicator of quality. This will allow them to shuffle the inventory to use up the blood units degrading the fastest. Currently, hospitals have not had means to know the quality of each unit and can only estimate it based on age from the date of donation, knowing all blood does degrade over time. This can be costly to patients, possibly leading to organ failure or death. With Blaze's new technology and metrics, hospitals will be able to treat their patients more effectively. "We want everyone to get the best blood possible delivered to them for their particular needs," said CEO David Weaver. Currently the company has hospitals around the world signed up to test the new devices.
Every year, 15 million units of red blood cells are transfused in the United States, and 85 million units are transfused worldwide. The current standardized way to determine blood quality is based on storage time. The assumption is that as blood ages, quality decreases. However there is another variable in assessing blood quality that is unrelated to age, which depends on the donor, processing methods and other factors. Blaze's new blood technology will factor this variable in the determination of blood quality for each individual patient.
Blaze Medical Devices' first significant funding came in a microloan from Ann Arbor SPARK. With this funding, the company was able to conduct a clinical study with Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital. Collaborating with transfusion medicine clinicians, Blaze is researching transfusion for particular units of blood. This will provide clinicians and blood bankers with newly enhanced tools to make more informed decisions for individual patients.
Weaver presented at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium in 2011 and 2012, and plans to present in 2013. "One of the benefits of presenting at the MGCS is the mixed audience of investors," he said. While he notes that his company has made a lot of progress over the past two years and has gained valuable exposure through the MGCS, he advocates more medical devices education in the investor community. "Investors don't understand the medical device sector," he said. "I think it would be helpful to educate angel investors on life sciences and devices so that they understand timetables for success and the capital these businesses need."
Blaze Medical Devices has been featured in publications such as Crain's Detroit Business, The Wall Street Journal, Science Daily and NPR.