San Francisco-based Kenzen, which is developing a peel-and-stick wearable for athletes that measures, among other things, electrolytes in sweat, has raised $5 million from a stable of mostly strategic investors. Backers include Digitalis Ventures, Flex (formerly Flextronics), the San Francisco 49ers football team, Hickory Ventures, and the Women’s Capital Connection.
“Kenzen brings connected, clinical relevance to wearables by measuring and delivering predictive analytics that are critical to wellness and can improve physical performance,” Kenzen CEO Dr. Sonia Sousa said in a statement. “We are marrying connected wearables with fluidics analysis to deliver real-time precision medicine to healthcare communities.”
Kenzen’s first product, still under development, is called the ECHO Smart Patch. Worn on the torso, it measures motion and key vital signs. But where the company innovates over existing wearables is in its purported ability to measure a number of biomarkers from a single drop of sweat.
This will allow the device to deliver feedback on hydration, as well as particular electrolytes such as sodium, metabolites, and glucose. All the data will be available to users via a mobile app.
Right now the company’s focus is pretty clearly on sports medicine, and the support of the 49ers shows they already have some professional clients lined up.
"Kenzen has tremendous technology that can help sports teams, and impact fitness and health overall,” Paraag Marathe, chief strategy officer and EVP of football operations for the 49ers, said in a statement. “As both an investor and customer, we are big fans of Kenzen and appreciate the team’s down-to-earth, honest and very intellectual approach to things. They’ve been a great partner in building a breakthrough product for athletes.”
But the technology could certainly expand into the general wellness or even the medical space in the future. Lately the scientific literature has been rife with proof-of-concept sweat sensors, and many believe sweat to be the next frontier in health monitoring, or even a future direction for continuous glucose monitoring.
“Technology continually improves people’s lives and wearables represent the next great shift that will boost precision medicine,” Digitalis cofounder Steve Allen said in a statement. “Digitalis recognizes that Kenzen, led by its dynamic executive team, is in great position to address digital health initiatives promoting wellness and safety.”
According to the company, it is currently completing product development, field-testing prototypes, and exploring manufacturing options. The company did not confirm, but manufacturing could well end up being done by strategic investor Flex, which manufactures a number of existing digital health and consumer fitness wearables.