Eccrine bags seed funding for Air Force-developed sweat sensor

Eccrine Systems has raised $1.5 million in seed funding to develop a sweat sensor based on know-how that originated at the University of Cincinnati and the Air Force Research Labs. The Cincinnati, Ohio-based startup will use the cash to forge ahead with the development of wearable sensor technology it plans to pitch to clinical trial sponsors.

Sweat analysis has been around for 60 years, but--with the exception of diagnosing cystic fibrosis--has struggled to establish itself as a go-to test. Eccrine co-founder Jason Heikenfeld attributes the historic lack of enthusiasm for sweat tests to the problem of fluid collection. When samples had to be taken and analyzed remotely, the fact that blood was easier to collect than sweat counted for a lot. But when the analysis is done in situ by a wearable device, the significance of the collection issue fades away. 

The patches developed by Eccrine consist of sensors and transmission capabilities, potentially giving researchers a noninvasive way to track the electrolytes, metabolites, amino acids and proteins sweated out by trial participants in real time. Other companies are developing superficially similar technologies--Wired profiled Electrozyme last year--but Eccrine is trying to differentiate itself by focusing on an oft-criticized aspect of wearables: scientific credibility.

"Our efforts are aimed at specialized and regulated medical and business markets that expect proof of data accuracy and chronological assurance, plus credible scientific studies related to physiological and economic outcomes," Eccrine co-founder Robert Beech said in a statement. All of Eccrine's target applications for the technology--which span from monitoring patients in clinical trials to assessing the combat readiness of a fighter pilot--demand a level of accuracy beyond the consumer sector.

Eccrine is open about the amount of work that must be done before its devices carry such credibility, but it now has the cash to start answering some of the big outstanding questions. Cincinnati Business Courier reports Eccrine will use some of the cash to add new hires to its team of seven people.

- read the release
- here's the Courier's take

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