“Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow.” This holdover from the Victorian era may be guilty of splitting hairs at the expense of science, but the fact remains that the natural secretions of human skin are much more than just salt water. They are a complex and ever-changing mix of chemicals. These compounds can serve as biomarkers to provide data on a wide range of conditions and diseases.
Eccrine Systems is a company created to develop research done by the University of Cincinnati and the Air Force Research Labs at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The business model is to develop applications for intellectual property (IP) that was created by this research, and to license it to partners who will bring products to market. One key aspect of their technology is that they can create wearable devices that are self-contained and that provide real-time analysis of target compounds in the wearer’s sweat. Their system can analyze the presence of several different biomarkers at the same time.
Sweat monitoring has a number of important advantages as a source of biomarker data. It’s non-invasive; you do not have to pierce the skin which greatly reduces the chances of infection. Sweat is produced just about all over the body, presenting many opportunities to collect sweat for analysis. Sweat is produced more or less uniformly, and is not likely to be affected by other influences in the way that saliva or breath content can be altered by food that has been eaten. And sweat can contain a wide range of chemicals of interest, from metabolic by-products to pharmaceutical traces, and even environmental factors such as metals or pesticides.
Eccrine Systems just closed a Series A Funding round of $5.5 million. The company also has received a $3.96 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. It is conceivable that sweat analysis could be a common component of wearable devices and smart garments in the very near future.