Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects over 1.5 million people in America. That’s the same number of people who have type one diabetes. For Lupus, there’s with no reliable treatment, no cure, and only one effective drug on the market; it costs $30k/year and it’s administered only via IV in a hospital. One thing that makes the condition particularly difficult to manage is that UV radiation can trigger debilitating and life-threatening symptoms.
In many cases, Lupus patients are unable to go out during the day because they are afraid of absorbing too much UV radiation—access to technology that helps them accurately track exposure is limited. To help overcome this problem, a ten-person team based out of Manhattan, NY has developed a smartphone-connected wearble UV sensor that they are claiming is the world’s “first affordable and accurate sensor to measure and manage” radiation exposure for Lupus patients. It’s the only UV-sensor-and-software pairing specifically designed for Lupus patients. It is appropriately named, Shade.
The UV sensor tracks daily cumulative daily UV exposure, and the companion app enables users to record their symptoms. With those two sets of information next to each other, the user is able to make educated decisions about how much UV exposure is safe for them (their personal UV threshold). Once the UV threshold is set, the app will track what percentage of allowed UV exposure they have had throughout the day, and will send a notification every 20%, keeping them informed and safe.
“Patients need to keep track of their cumulative exposure over the day,” explains Dr. Emmanuel Dumont, PhD in biophysics and founder of Shade, “an arduous task given the high variations of UV exposure inside a car, in the shade, in direct sunlight.”
The full team behind Shade, alongside an impressive medical board, is comprised of scientists and engineers with a deep expertise in semiconductors, artificial intelligence, manufacturing, and epidemiology. In addition to their in-house resources, they also have clinical partnerships with UCSF, Weill-Cornell Medicine, Hospital for Special Surgery, and Hopital Europeen de Marseille in France.
The group has been working on the solution for the past two years, and over the past six months, Shade has undergone rigorous beta-testing with several users including US Olympic Gold Medalist Shannon Boxx. The test results have so far been positive.
While there are two other wearable UV sensors on the market, Shade has shown to be 25x more accurate than the closest competitor—which just happens to be Microsoft.
Shade is piercing the market with a Lupus-specific wearable, but they have clear plans to expand their reach and their opportunity for assistance. “In 5 years, we plan to be the center of the lupus management market,” a representative from Shade told me. “In addition, because UV monitoring is so crucial in the skin cancer community, we plan to expand to the skin cancer market, too. In 5 years, we anticipate that we will have a deeper understanding of the combined action of environmental factors (such as UV) and genome expression, which is key in understanding complex diseases such as lupus.”
The device features a five-day battery life with charging via micro-USB cable, Bluetooth connectivity to smartphones, standardized information reporting for sharing with a physician, and a magnetic fastener that works with virtually all types of clothing.
“Our early users have described feeling that Shade feels like a friend watching out for them,” the company describes, “and allowing them to now step outside with confidence.” That new friend is currently planned to introduce itself in November. You can visit the company’s website to sign up for their wait list.
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