Media Coverage

ClueJay Seizes New Level of Demand for At-Home Lab Diagnostics, Open to Acquisition

Sep 13, 2021 - IHS Markit

US pet health diagnostics specialist ClueJay is aiming to scale up its portfolio of at-home reference laboratory test kits.

Speaking at the recent Kansas City Animal Health Corridor 2021 Digital Animal Health Summit, the company’s chief executive and co-founder Dennis Chmiel described ClueJay as a tech-enabled animal health company with an innovative online diagnostic platform. The firm claims to offer veterinary laboratory testing with kits that can be used from the comfort of home.

ClueJay derives its name from ‘clue’ and ‘blue jay’, as the company’s goal is to detect health clues from samples flown to its lab from across the US.

Dr Chmiel pointed out getting to a veterinarian is not always easy for pet owners, who may be impacted by traffic, parking limitations, lack of transportation, distance to their nearest clinic and limited appointment availability, among other things. He also said costs, clinic waiting times and pet stress are all additional factors that may make going to the veterinarian difficult. Dr Chmiel noted the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is still making access to clinics harder.

He said: “These barriers to visiting the vet prevent pets from getting the crucial health tests they need to detect and treat underlying problems fast. In fact, it’s estimated 75 million pets won’t have the vet care they need by 2030. We must make trusted healthcare easier to access.”

Dr Chmiel remarked it is “not hyperbole that traditional access has been bottlenecked and even gridlocked”, highlighting data on various clinics in several different areas of the northwest US that currently have long wait times, restricted access or issues with over-capacity.

He stated: “All of this has propelled many pet owners to connect with vets for advice virtually, catalyzing a crucial new need – pet testing from home. The solution to this new tele-testing need is ClueJay. Pet parents now have a simple and convenient from-home way to collect pet samples for testing, with access to a 24/7, 365 [days a year] online results dashboard, and an easy to understand electronic test report they can share with their local or virtual vet.”

First tests on market

The first tests brought to market by ClueJay are dog and cat fecal tests for diagnosis of intestinal parasites like worms, Giardia and other microbes. These are available in three levels of comprehensiveness. The firm advises these tests should be done twice yearly to detect parasites that can harm animals and potentially their owners.

Pet owners order a test, which ships in one business day. They then activate the test via ClueJay’s website, collect a sample and mail it to the company’s central laboratory. The firm claims its Denver, Colorado-based lab is the first direct-to-consumer, Veterinary Lab Association-certified national veterinary reference lab in the US. Test results are delivered to pet owners within days, alongside “consumer-friendly” educational content to support any findings.

Dr Chmiel commented: “It’s important to recognize not all pet tests are created equal. It comes down to both the reliability and clinical usefulness of the test. There are some direct-to-consumer tests on the market today that are not accepted by vets and should be avoided. Tests based on DNA, on the other hand, have high reliability, although they are not yet fully embraced by veterinarians for their clinical value. While in-clinic benchtop tests like fecals are performed regularly by vets, their reliability is often much lower than reference lab versions.”

Well-positioned to compete

ClueJay is part of pet health technologies specialist Maranda, which is also home to the Maranda Veterinary Laboratories business. ClueJay believes it is “positioned perfectly” alongside other reference lab specialists like IDEXX Laboratories, to deliver testing that is both highly reliable and has high clinical value. Dr Chmiel claims the business is well protected with intellectual property, veterinary credibility, scalability of its test service, proprietary technology, an integrated lab, exclusive partnerships, B2B sales alliances and unique tele-test data.

While ClueJay has initially focused on fecal testing, the firm plans to expand into other areas such as urine testing, ear and skin diagnosis, as well as testing for colds and influenza. It already has tests in the first three areas lined up for launches in the near future. Longer term, it also has its eye on expansion to other species such as equines and poultry.

Dr Chmiel said: “Our scope is ready to quickly expand with many new test offerings. As the tree of ClueJay tests grows, we unlock a new direct-to-consumer retail diagnostics market for pets in the US that will quickly flourish.”

ClueJay’s own online channel was opened in mid-2020, followed by a launch with Amazon in the fall. This year, the company is expecting to bolster its sales through both Chewy and general retailer Target.

ClueJay recently closed a seed funding round of $1 million, following on from its pre-seed finance of $0.8m in 2019. The company plans to kick-off a series A – the funding goal of which is yet to be determined – in the fourth quarter of 2021. Ultimately, the firm anticipates acquisition by a strategic partner who “desires to be the market-leader in pet retail diagnostics delivery”.

Dr Chmiel said: “We are an emerging company with real sales traction. That traction continues to gain momentum through e-commerce sales and, soon, partnerships with both leading and emerging televet companies. We’re also exploring a variety of synergies with brick-and-mortar pet specialty and other types of pet service providers, including traditional vets, to reach our $2.2m revenue goal for 2022.

“On-demand access is the surging new normal in human healthcare and is the future of pet testing and wellness, specifically putting pet owners at the center of the testing experience – from test selection to collection, to results interpretation and re-engagement with their veterinarian. ClueJay doesn’t disintermediate the pet owner form the vet. We create new ways that connect pets back to their vets, both locally and virtually.”

Reprinted with permission of IHS Markit




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