Flu-diagnostics startup Ellume raises $5 million as it gears up for IPO


Doctor Sean Parsons, founder of Ellume. Source: supplied.

Brisbane Medtech startup Ellume has secured $5 million in funding for commercialising and developing its diagnostics products as it ramps up to listing on the ASX.

Speaking to StartupSmart, Ellume founder and chief Doctor Sean Parsons did not reveal who his investors are, but said the startup is “well-supported institutionally”.

Founded in 2010, Ellume creates digitally connected diagnostics devices, allowing consumers to self-test for diseases like the flu through their smartphones.

The device and app are intended to empower consumers to manage their illness themselves, connecting them to a clinician and offering advice and even prescriptions.

“Telemedicine connectivity is the key thing that we’re achieving there,” Parsons says.

There’s an element of health education here, which, combined with the data collected, can help stem the spread of contagious diseases like the flu.

“We make those results and the data that comes out of our diagnostics as useful as possible,” Parsons says.

“That puts us in this crossover of being a diagnostics business and a digital business.”

Ellume also has a professional-use platform, helping clinicians to diagnose common infectious diseases, as well as a commercial partnership with German pharmaceuticals giant QIAGEN.

QIAGEN’s biggest product is a technology focused on diagnosing latent tuberculosis.

Now, it’s working with Ellume to bring “the next generation of that product” to market.

This is a global public health solution, and “a really big, important part of our company”, Parsons says.

“Ellume is now much bigger than just a self-test or a consumer test business,”

All of the products are on track to be launched into the market within the next 18 months, Parsons explains. However, the nature of the product means there are inevitable regulatory hurdles.

“That’s one of the challenges in working in the medical diagnostics sphere.”

Some of the products have already been approved in Europe, the founder explains. But the main focus for growth is in the US market.

“The FDA doesn’t regulate most apps,” Parsons says.

“But our product is not really just as app.”

All the app does is allow the user to engage with the diagnostic device, he explains.

“That very much falls into an FDA-regulated category … it’s not a pure software play.”

IPO on the cards

This latest funding will be used for commercialising the products and bringing them to market, and to support further development.

However, the investment is also about growing the register of Ellume “so that we’re in a position to transition into a publicly listed company in the future”, Parsons says.

While there’s no official timeline in place, he says he plans to list on the ASX in the not-too-distant future.

“We want to have access to capital to be able to grow the company aggressively,” he explains.

While he says it’s an important milestone for the startup to reach, for Parsons, a listing wasn’t something he had in mind as an end goal.

The listing “doesn’t have a personal motivation to it”, he says.

“I never imagined that I would be taking a company through to IPO on the ASX … it’s never really been a dream of mine.”

In fact, he says he’s been advised that “being CEO of a publicly-listed company is not all that much fun”.

Having dreamt up Ellume as a doctor, Parsons isn’t a business person who always had aspirations to run a global business.

“It is what it is,” he says.

“And if that’s what it takes for Ellume to be well capitalised and to successfully execute … then we will be pursuing that.”

Finding idols

While Parsons doesn’t like to dish out advice, he does have one pointer for other founders, and that’s to look up to others, and figure out what has worked for them.

“When I look around at companies that I admire, quite often they’re led by technical founders who have done quite fantastic things through their products and through the successful execution of those products,” he says.

In the software and biomedical space in Silicon Valley, for example, there are successful businesses headed up by non-technical founders who “figure out the business over time”.

Founders should look up to others they consider successful, and who they admire, and try to learn from them, Parsons advises.

“Contemplate the reasons for those people succeeding, and contemplate whether or not you could share some of those characteristics to lead to your product, concept or business also becoming a success,” he says.

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