Ventures partner improving medication effectiveness, safety

Using a small blood sample, Sano detects several hundred different prescription and over-the-counter drugs

Red alert: Drugs present at dangerously high levels show up in red on Sano’s easy-to-read blood test results. The tests can help doctors better manage their patients’ health by knowing all of the medications they are taking and how those drugs are interacting.

Taking two or more drugs at the same time can have life-threatening consequences. Adverse drug interactions send 700,000 Americans to emergency rooms annually while costing the health care system about $3.5 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two perfectly legal drugs, such as Lexapro (for depression) and Tramadol (for pain) can cause high blood pressure or rapid heart rate when taken together. It’s also possible for a drug to derail the effectiveness of another.

All this became clear to Tim Ryan while he was working as a drug developer in the pharmaceutical industry. It occurred to him that, because so many Americans are taking more than one drug, much of his work could be rendered ineffective. Worse, Ryan soon learned that many doctors are often unaware of the drugs their patients are actually taking.

In response, Ryan founded Sano Informed Prescribing, a company dedicated to improving drug effectiveness by alerting health care professionals to potential adverse interactions from the drugs a patient is actually taking. Using a small blood sample, Sano detects several hundred different prescription and over-the-counter drugs, records their levels and alerts health care providers to potential problems.

“We’re an information engine,” Ryan says.

After getting the idea for his business, Ryan “defaulted to Rose-Hulman Ventures” last spring to build the software to make it work. “It wasn’t a simple project by any means, but they nailed it,” he says.

Thanks to Ventures interns, Sano can now produce easy-to-follow charts for each patient showing actual drug levels and highlighting potentially adverse interactions or other dangers. If utilized by health care professionals, Sano’s information will improve patient health and greatly reduce U.S. health care costs, Ryan says.

“This information can be very useful for the physician,” agrees Sandor Pethes, the software engineer overseeing the project at Ventures. Rose-Hulman interns worked during the spring and summer perfecting the software for Sano. “This has been a great project,” Pethes adds. “We know it will help people.”