Bay Area startup develops pill to change endoscopies for millions

A Bay Area startup has developed a new pill that may change what an endoscopy looks like for millions.

It’s called Endiatx. What’s in a name? In this case everything.

"For us it means to go inside the human body and to understand what’s wrong," said Endiatx CEO Torrey Smith. "The TX is medical shorthand for treatment. We want to fix it." 

Smith founded the fledging startup four years ago.  He is taking aim and the multi-billion dollar endoscopy business by creating a robotic pill camera that remotely maneuver through your G.I. tract. They hope it will detect early cancers with no prep, no sedation, no recovery time, and no hospital visit for a fraction of the cost.

"With Pill-Bot our goal is to make a pill-cam that moves under its own power that would function under a Zoom call where the patient could be in their living room of all places.  There would be no need to physically go to the hospital.  Just drink some water and get on a Zoom call.   After you swallow this little robot your doctor is basically giving you the virtual equivalent of an upper endoscopy," said Smith.

The 41-year-old Aerospace Engineer’s pill-bot has going from a large shoe sized prototype swimming in pools to a complex, high-tech mini swimming eyeball that is now months away from Institutional Review Board clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic.

"We basically have a little electric rotating motors with 6 holes in it.  It’s like a little floating eyeball that can squirt water in 6 directions.  It’s kind of like a little Apollo command module with those little thrusters moving it around inside your stomach," said Smith.

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Smith was the first to swallow pill-bot in 2020--his first of 15 trials. It has since swam inside a cadaver bodies stomach at the Mayo Clinic. The biggest hurdles now, Smith said, is improving its maneuverability and video clarity.  

"Right now a hard core gamer would grab our X-Box controller and tell me this video game sucks Torrey!  I need better optical performance and a wider field of view.  I need to focus at shorter distances relevant in the human body.  I need more optical clarity," Smith said.

Endiatx is in year 4 of a 10-year journey.  They have received 3 million in seed money, and this scrappy start-up has moved from Smith’s South Bay living room to an 8,000 plus square foot East Bay operation where his R & D crew is working around the clock to improve its software.  

A date for FDA approval is unknown, but Dr. Vivek Kumbhari the Chair of Gastroenterology at the Mayo Clinic in Florida is very encouraged.

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"All of us in the field appreciate that this is the logical path that we’ll eventually get on," said Dr. Kumbhari. "So we are eagerly awaiting it.  I think the timetable from now to the first in human studies is 18 months to 2 years away.  And this is only the start.  Starting in the stomach and hopefully move to other organ systems and eventually some surgery done through these little pill-bots." 

Smith agrees.  He believes this could be the beginning of a brand-new type of medicine. 

"Until we are actually manipulating and attacking cancer right where it lives in real time like some kind of video game, the mission of Endiatx is still unfulfilled," said Smith.