Founded in 2014, the Canadian startup Qidni Labs has a bold mission: to develop the most accessible and affordable dialysis technology for millions of patients suffering from kidney failure.
In an exclusive interview with DIGITIMES on November 24, Morteza Ahmadi, the visionary founder and CEO of Qidni Labs, shared insights into the groundbreaking work of his startup. Qidni Labs joined the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) program of the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei (CTOT) to explore opportunities in the Asia Pacific market and potential partners in Taiwan.
Ahmadi underscored the dire need for innovation in dialysis, noting that existing technologies only serve a fraction of the global population in need. "There are currently around 3.5 million patients globally on dialysis, but about 10 million people require dialysis and lack access," he stated. This stark reality propelled Qidni Labs into action, identifying accessibility as a global challenge that demanded a revolutionary solution.
When asked about the background of the core team at Qidni Labs, Ahmadi revealed the multidisciplinary nature of the team. With a background in physics, Ahmadi studied biomedical technology in graduate school at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He also obtained a Nephrology fellowship at the Kidney Foundation of Canada during graduate school, and founded the company shortly after obtaining his Ph.D.
The 10-person team at Qidni Labs comprises experienced dialysis nurses, senior nephrologists, professors of medicine, veterinarians for animal studies, and experts in engineering and science. The synergy of this diverse team, coupled with decades of experience in the dialysis industry, forms the backbone of Qidni Labs' research and development efforts.
Addressing pain points in dialysis care
Qidni Labs has identified two major pain points in dialysis care on a global scale. First and foremost is accessibility, with millions lacking the means to receive necessary treatment. To address this, Qidni Labs is developing a nearly waterless and portable hemodialysis machine weighing under 10 KG. This will allow patients to perform dialysis anywhere without the infrastructure and resources required for traditional dialysis. "We are targeting a product that's portable, specifically so patients will have the freedom to travel while dialyzing," said Ahmadi. The device also utilizes a cloud-based remote monitoring system to track and manage patient data.
The second challenge lies in the affordability of treatment. The cost of dialysis is a significant barrier to receiving treatment in many countries, so Qidni Labs is dedicated to making its devices and treatment more cost-effective than other dialysis companies, particularly in emerging markets. Ahmadi emphasized the company's dual focus on enhancing access to treatment while developing technologies to reduce the cost of dialysis, opening doors to a larger demographic of patients.
Disruptive technology and market channels
Ahmadi clarified that Qidni Labs is a technology company manufacturing dialysis devices, blood purification cartridges, and accompanying software. Qidni Labs envisions diverse channels for its products, including hospitals, private dialysis service providers, independent nephrologists, and even pharmacies. Ahmadi expressed the disruptive potential of their technology with its ability to seamlessly integrate into modern healthcare settings by requiring no infrastructure to operate while filling any of the gaps in the $60 billion dialysis market. The company is poised to have a strong competitive position over large portions of the market with little to no access to dialysis.
Addressing the challenges of obtaining regulatory approvals in different countries, Ahmadi emphasized the importance of establishing partnerships with local companies in various countries. Qidni Labs has initiated contact with potential partners in various regions, recognizing the time-intensive nature of building these relationships. The company is currently navigating the regulatory process and plans to seek multiple approvals as it progresses.
Qidni Labs' hemodialysis machine is currently in the clinical stage of development. For regulatory approvals in Canada, the company is performing extensive testing on patients suffering from kidney failure, with plans for additional clinical studies in the coming year.
Efficiency and affordability of Qidni Labs' technology
Ahmadi detailed the efficiency of Qidni Labs' dialysis machine, emphasizing its portability and reduced water consumption compared to conventional machines. The current machines used by the hospitals are often the size of a fridge and require 120 L of ultra-pure water for each dialysis session, making them impractical or impossible to use in many settings. In contrast, Qidni Labs' machine requires under five liters of saline solution, which is readily available worldwide and is significantly more affordable. The ability to miniaturize their systems while reducing the fluid needed for dialysis is primarily attributed to the company's novel, disposable blood purification cartridge.
Furthermore, Qidni Labs' machine reduces the involvement of technicians, nurses, and doctors as much as possible, reducing the overall burden on the healthcare system. In general, approximately 40% of the cost of dialysis would be labor costs.
"There will be a significant global shortage of nurses in the next ten years. Qidni addresses this by empowering patients to control their care using the cloud-based remote monitoring system. With this monitoring platform, we also address instances when a machine would require repair, especially before patients perform treatment. The cost to bring in a technician is significant, normally more than $100 per hour," said Ahmadi, "and in those scenarios, it is common that patients would miss their treatment. These are just some areas where our technology can improve efficiency and reduce costs."
Expanding beyond clinic scenarios
Beyond in-center and home dialysis, the company envisions using its technology in more sensitive use cases such as emergencies, natural disasters, and battlefield scenarios. Looking ahead, Ahmadi sees Qidni Labs' technology as a platform for other blood purification applications. The core technology's ability to target various small to large molecules and remove them from large volumes of whole blood opens avenues for expansion into related medical fields such as sepsis and overdose.
Reflecting on Taiwan's role in Qidni Labs' expansion plans, Ahmadi expressed admiration for Taiwan's electronics and manufacturing capabilities. He envisions potential collaborations with Taiwanese companies for designing and manufacturing the commercial version of their dialysis machine and cartridges.
Series A fundraising plan and future expansion
Ahmadi revealed that Qidni Labs has already raised capital in seed rounds and is preparing for its Series A funding in the first quarter of 2024. The company anticipates a significant team expansion to more than 20 professionals. This expansion will focus on clinical studies and research and development, propelling Qidni Labs further into the forefront of the dialysis market.
Ahmadi highlighted the potential of Qidni Labs' technology to significantly improve the quality of life for patients suffering from kidney failure. By providing a portable and affordable solution, the company is not only addressing the current challenges related to accessibility in dialysis care but also envisioning a future where patients have greater freedom and options for treatment.
Established in which year
Company size as of December 2023
Raising Series A in 2024
Source: Qidni Labs, compiled by DIGITIMES Asia, December 2023
Credit: Qidni Labs