Someone dies from sepsis every two minutes in the United States, according to non-profit Sepsis Alliance. For reasons researchers are still trying to understand, sepsis occurs when the body reacts adversely to infection, attacking the immune system rather than the germs causing the infection.
Houston-based medical startup Luminare aims to change the landscape and save lives. CEO Sarma Velamuri, M.D., gives insight into the company’s founding and tells us where it’s headed next.
Your company was created out of something deeply personal you experienced. Could you describe how you made the decision to go from doctor to company founder?
Sepsis is the number one cause of death in the hospital, and one in three people who die in a hospital die of sepsis. Most of the tools available commercially have to be shoe-horned in to be usable, and they never really adequately address the problems we face. The hospital is a very complex system and building a fix requires one to have fought in the proverbial trenches first.
Marcus [Rydberg, Co-Founder and CTO] and I started Luminare to build software that would read the existing Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system to help better identify which patients had sepsis. A few months after we started the company, my friend’s daughter passed away from sepsis and I had to break the news to him. Even though I wasn’t her doctor, it felt like I failed my friend, his daughter, and the vast numbers of others who were losing family from sepsis. We realized that even the best software in the world would not work without good processes in hospitals and an environment in which technology works for you, not the other way around. That was transformative, and we went from just building software to building an end-to-end solution that would allow us to take co-ownership of the sepsis space for our customers and help them achieve the best possible outcomes.
What does Luminare provide to customers? To stakeholders?
Luminare’s core value is to innovate and alleviate the unnecessary suffering of our loved ones, impacting the lives of both patients and providers for better. Luminare provides hospitals a business intelligence platform that helps them address all areas of sepsis care from detection to intervention and analytic reporting. Our software “Sagitta” is deployed at bedside and makes the nurses’ jobs easier and makes their workflow faster, helping them provide better, improved care; our business-process-intelligence software “Sagitta Analytics” puts actionable data at hospital leaderships’ fingertips so that they can spend more time as leaders affecting change as opposed to manually gathering data. In short, we eliminate guesswork, help hospitals make care faster, and reinforce critical thinking at bedside.
How did you come up with the name?
Luminare means “to shed light upon” in Latin. The problem of sepsis in healthcare is like a burden of darkness spread upon patients, their families & providers who are being crushed systematically. We wanted to bring answers and solutions, i.e. light, to the problem.
“Sagitta,” our anti-sepsis product, is Latin for arrow. For sepsis you must hit the bullseye on the first attempt or bad things happen to people who have trusted their lives to us.
I’m a nerd and sci-fi fan, so we have a space theme going in the company, and Sagitta is also a star constellation.
Why did you feel the Houston ecosystem was the right fit for your company?
Houston is a fantastic place to be. It’s one of the most diverse places in the world, has the country’s largest medical center with over 21 institutions, and it’s easy to travel to and from, which is important when you are building a company that will have an international presence. There is no better place to put down roots. Currently the work being done in the emerging company ecosystem with TMCx, HX, Station Houston makes it the place to continue to build and grow. Also, Houston has the best Indian food places.
What are your next steps? Anything new and exciting coming up you want to share?
We’re adding to our team and growing. We’re excited about the upcoming hospital deployments in 2019 and always excited to see the number of patients we helped grow. We also just announced our next funding round with Carnrite Ventures leading the charge as our lead investor.