NEW YORK – Binx Health is renewing its focus on the point-of-care sexually transmitted diseases market after divesting its digital health business.
Boston-based Binx has long been oriented toward the point-of-care market with its Binx io platform, a portable molecular diagnostic instrument that can return results in 30 minutes. It also, however, had a digital health business that provided at-home sample collection kits to universities, businesses, and public health departments that were then sent to Binx's central laboratory partners for testing. The company's offering encompassed a full suite of tests across a variety of areas, including sexually transmitted infections and COVID-19.
Last week, the company announced that Austin, Texas-based digital health firm Imaware had acquired Binx's consumer health business for an undisclosed amount. In an interview, Binx CEO Jeff Luber said the firm's consumer health business was largely "about meeting the needs of rural communities." In particular, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were largely unable to visit doctors' offices or travel, the business processed more than two million total tests, including a substantial spike during the pandemic, generating tens of millions in revenue, Luber added.
But while it is a "really good total story" to have both the point-of-care offerings and the consumer health business, he said the firm's point-of-care business is growing so quickly that it needs the "full focus" of Binx's small team. Luber had proposed a spinoff of the consumer health business to the board of the directors, and when the opportunity arose to sell the business to Imaware, a deal was struck.
Luber said he was "looking for a partner … to continue to nurture" the digital health business and its customers. Through the digital health business, Binx provided technology and logistics capabilities to allow businesses to offer at-home collection kits to patients. The digital, logistics, and technical elements were key components of the acquisition, along with the business's existing customers, such as Alabama's Department of Health.
The divestment was a clean cut that required no restructuring and only minor adjustments to Binx's existing business, Luber noted, because the firm was "essentially running two businesses under one roof."
Imaware, meantime, was interested in pursuing STI testing on its end and had already launched its own direct-to-consumer STD test. The firm previously offered tests for a variety of chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, and CEO Jani Tuomi said that with the increasing rates of STIs in the US, the company wanted to "go all in" on STI testing. A mutual acquaintance introduced Tuomi to Luber, eventually leading to the acquisition of Binx's business, which will help Imaware gain credibility in a market it's less familiar with while also providing access to Binx's existing customers and partnerships, including its partnerships with public health departments, Tuomi said.
Now that its consumer health business is off its hands, Binx can put its full efforts in the point-of-care STI testing business, Luber said. Both the Binx io platform, which uses PCR amplification and electrochemical detection, and its combination chlamydia and gonorrhea test have received regulatory clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration for urine samples and vaginal swabs and CLIA waiver.
While the company only has 10 full-time sales representatives, it will soon expand the sales force to "thousands," thanks to distribution deals with a handful of large diagnostic players, including Thermo Fisher Scientific. Those 10 representatives will then serve as product specialists, overseeing up to 90 sales reps for different regions across the US.
The firm also has several hundred instruments under contract, in addition to an undisclosed amount of active instrument placements today, Luber said. The firm's instruments are manufactured in Germany, while its tests cartridges are manufactured in Ireland and China, and the company has built up inventories in each area to ensure it is prepared for growth, he added.
Binx is also working to lower its cost of goods for the test cartridges, saying that the firm has already reduced it by 50 percent. Luber said he thinks the firm will be able to lower its cost of goods for the cartridge to $20 by next year, and then below $20 in the future.
Although Luber declined to share how much the platform and cartridges cost, he noted that most of its platforms are placed under multi-year reagent rental contracts, meaning there is no upfront cost for the instrument but that it is paid for by the purchase of a certain number of test cartridges. That model allows for additional visibility into recurring revenues, Luber noted.
STI testing, and specifically chlamydia and gonorrhea testing, will remain Binx's priority for now. The company has internal data on a trichomonas test it is developing that will probably be the next product brought to a clinical study, and the firm may expand beyond STI testing, but it plans to stay in the women's health space "for the foreseeable future," Luber said.
Binx also has global aspirations, although those aspirations are not on the near-term horizon, with the commercial focus remaining on the US. However, the company has a "very strong interest" in companies with less access to laboratory testing and is working with Massachusetts General Hospital on a study using its platform for testing in Africa, Luber said.
Binx operates in a crowded field: multiple companies offer molecular point-of-care STI tests, such as Cepheid, and many other commercially established companies that offer small molecular diagnostic platforms are looking to enter the STI market. Cue Health is developing a combined chlamydia and gonorrhea assay, and Visby Medical currently offers STI tests with its portable, single-use PCR cartridge. However, Luber said that he believes point-of-care offerings will further increase the STI testing market and that there is "plenty of room for two or three winners in this space."
In addition, he noted that the Binx io instrument was "designed for mass adoption" because it does not require calibration or maintenance and can connect with electronic medical records. And as the company continues its attempts to lower its cost of goods, that will provide a further competitive advantage, he said.