Six percent of women, many of them healthy, develop the life-threatening condition of preeclampsia in pregnancy.An Israeli start-up has developed a breakthrough technology that could help doctors identify pregnant women at risk of developing preeclampsia, a dangerous condition of pregnancy that endangers the life of the mother and the unborn baby.
Preeclampsia, also known as toxemia of pregnancy, appears in about six percent of women worldwide, many of them healthy, and is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by sudden hypertension and an elevated protein level in urine.
Preeclampsia can intensify and cause secondary damage to the kidney, liver, eyes, and trigger blood clotting. Extremely severe consequences are brain convulsions and stroke. The disease endangers the life of the unborn baby and can cause irreversible damage and even fetal loss and death.
Symptoms of the illness include swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision,
but some women report few symptoms and this is where the danger lies.
The scientists at Yokneam-based Diagnostic Technologies have developed a new method to identify pregnant women who are at high risk of developing the disorder. Until today there was no other method to identify such women before the condition emerges.
The early detection is performed about 20 weeks before symptoms develop, and is based on the use of a simple blood test which determines the level of a protein produced by the placenta – PP13 (placenta protein 13).
Diagnostic Technologies’ scientists were able to isolate this protein in the placenta from where it reaches the maternal blood.
The test, which has already been approved for use in Israel by the Ministry of Health, can be performed from as early as the seventh week of pregnancy, and can predict the later development of preeclampsia six months down the road. The test results provide the physician with a useful tool to evaluate the surveillance and management of the pregnant woman.
“Preeclampsia is the second most frequent cause of maternal death in pregnancy, but to our disappointment the dimension of the problem is not known to the public. Many women, pregnant or not, are unaware of the real risk,” developmental neurobiologist Dr. Hamutal Meiri, CEO of Diagnostic Technologies tells ISRAEL21c. “Early detection gives rise to prevention and management of the risk due to better pregnancy management and preventive treatment.”
Diagnostic Technologies was founded in 1994 as a co-venture of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Teuza Venture Fund from Haifa and angels from Los Angeles. Leading the company with Meiri is Giora Meyuhas, a Haifa businessman.
In 2001, the company left the Technion to focus on clinical research and product development. Financing came from investment banks in London and New York. This was followed in April last year by a private placement of $1.4 million from private investors in the high tech industry in Israel, England and the US.
“The funding raised is directed towards completing the pivotal study towards FDA approval, the development of the next product dedicated to tailor medication to women at high risk for preeclampsia and identification of families with a genetic disorder that causes preeclampsia,” says Meiri.
“The new product to detect women at-risk of preeclampsia is further evidence of the quality and innovation of Israeli healthcare start-ups,” says Ken Abramowitz, a partner and founder of New York venture capital fund NGN Capital, who is on the company’s board of directors, and an investor in Diagnostic Technologies.