Nfld. & Labrador

New medical tech company aims to improve customers' health — by going with their gut

Nucliq Biologics's Gutcheck test kit analyzes microbial diversity in customers' stool samples.

Nucliq Biologics's Gutcheck test kit analyzes microbial diversity in customers' stool samples

A smiling man and woman stand next to each other.
Nikitha Kendyala and Purvikalyan Pallegar moved to St. John’s for their doctoral studies at Memorial University. Now they're launching a medical technology company and raising their family here. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

After two intensive years of research, a startup medical tech company emerging from Memorial University's Genesis Centre is finally ready to put its first product into the hands — and toilets — of customers.

Nucliq Biologics, co-founded by married couple Nikitha Kendyala and Purvikalyan Pallegar, has just launched Gutcheck, an analysis kit that tests a person's stool to evaluate the health of a person's gut by analyzing the microbial diversity of a stool sample.

A microbiome is like a unique fingerprint, said Pallegar, and using the test results the company will make make food recommendations to improve customers' health.

"What they're going to get with a Gutcheck test is, what are the bacteria present in the gut? How is it impacting their overall health? And the personalized recommendations to see how they can improve their gut health," he said.

Kendyala and Pallegar launched Nucliq Biologics in 2019 and as their backgrounds are in the sciences — Pallegar has a PhD in microbiology and Kendyala has one in cancer biology — spent that first year learning more about the world of business.

Three people wearing matching blue shirts stand behind a table full of merchandise.
Nucliq Biologics started taking pre-orders at the recent Royal St. John’s Regatta, which allowed them to directly interact with people. (Submitted by Purvikalyan Pallegar)

In 2020 they joined Memorial University's innovation hub the Genesis Centre as part of the intensive eight-week startup program Evolution, and they are now in the Enterprise incubation program, said Kendyala.

They say they've also secured plenty of funding and gotten Health Canada approval for Gutcheck, and the team has grown to include six other members.

Kendyala said customers will use the equipment in the kit to collect a stool sample and ship it to Nucliq's lab, where it will be analyzed. Once the person has their results from their Gutcheck test, they can take the information to their family doctor for advice.

The company started taking preorders for the kits on Aug. 3 at a tent set up at Quidi Vidi Lake during the Royal St. John's Regatta and expect to start shipping them out Wednesday. Sales of the $199 kits have been good so far, said Kendyala.

She said their current target market is people who are interested to learn more about their gut health, as well as what preventive action they can take before ailments develop.

A blue box is open, with instructions and a small vial contained inside.
The first Gutcheck kits will be sent out at the end of August, primarily to Newfoundland and Labradorian clients. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

They're focused on reaching Newfoundlanders and Labradorians right now, and then they plan to go after the rest of Atlantic Canada and then the whole country, said Pallegar. While most of their orders have come from N.L. so far, there have been orders from Ontario and as far away as British Columbia, something they credit to Nucliq Biologics's appearance last year in a CBC documentary, Silicon Island, about Newfoundland's startup tech sector.

They also tout Gutcheck's potential to help the province's beleaguered health-care system.

"There is a lot of strain in the health-care system itself, so I think working on prevention is what we have to look upon," said Kendyala. "Which also helps people to understand what are the things they can do on their own to prevent the future coming diseases or better help overcome any illnesses they already have. And also improve if they're undergoing any treatment."

Pallegar said N.L.'s scarcity of family doctors is also a major issue across Canada. He said the medical system is working hard to treat people who are already ill, so having good gut health can prevent people having to turn to the health-care system in the first place.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Whitten

Freelance contributor

Elizabeth Whitten is a journalist and editor based in St. John's. When she’s not chasing her next story, she's cuddling with her dog and reading a good book.

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