The traditional pregnancy test hasn’t seen any innovation in over 30 years, with the exception of adding a digital component. Lia Diagnostics, launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin, wants to change that. The Lia pregnancy test will be the first-ever flushable test to hit the market, offering a more sustainable, disposable, convenient and private way for women to find out if they’re pregnant or not.
The company was founded in 2015 by Bethany Edwards and Anna Simpson, following research Edwards had worked on as part of her Master’s at the University of Pennsylvania. She was interested in innovations in material science – specifically, the idea of temporality and creating products that match up to their lifestyle, she says.
A single-use pregnancy test, for example, is made with non-biodegradable materials, so it ends up in landfills if not recycled.
“Single-use diagnostics are only used for a couple of minutes, and they’re all made out of plastic and non-sustainable materials,” explains Edwards.
She wanted to redesign how these products were made and manufactured so the product would biodegrade. The choice to launch with pregnancy tests came about because they hadn’t been updated in decades.
“It’s been the same stick test since 1987, and that’s kind of crazy,” Edwards says.
The Lia test offers an alternative to traditional tests, but works in much the same way.
Like other tests, it’s a stick that reacts to urine to determine pregnancy, and it displays results as two lines if pregnant or one line if not, as before. There’s a larger collection area on the test, which makes it easier to use, but the real change is around how the test is made.
Unlike traditional tests, Lia’s tests are made from a special paper that will disperse in water and biodegrade, allowing it to be flushed. That means women won’t have to hide the tests in the trash, take tests in public restrooms, or any of the other things they do in order to have privacy around this often anxiety-producing event – no matter what results they’re hoping for.
The tests will also appeal to those who want to buy a more natural product than one made of plastic.
The company has patented the technology around the tests themselves, including both design and utility patents, with several others still pending.
At TechCrunch Disrupt, Lia is announcing it has received FDA approval and is planning to start selling its tests online in mid-2018, initially via its own website and on Amazon. It will later evaluate its retail strategy.
The test will cost somewhere in the middle of today’s range for traditional tests – that is, between $9 and $22 (the prices for a single generic test to an advanced digital one).
Additionally, visitors to the Lia website can choose to donate a test for $10 to partner organizations the company is working with, including Planned Parenthood Global, SOS in Canada, and others.
The plan is to make the test available worldwide.
However, the company’s technology has more applications beyond pregnancy tests in the long-term, Edwards notes.
“What we’ve done here is essentially creating a new category of water-dispersable, biodegradable diagnostics,” she says. “This is just the start for us.”
Based in Philadelphia, Lia is a team of seven full-time and growing. It’s backed by seed funding from DreamIt Ventures, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and other angel investors.