How This Medical Research Service Company Is Making House Calls Safe in a Pandemic

Written by Leigh Buchanan, Editor-at-Large for Inc. Magazine.

After recovering from Covid-19 in April, Tom Hanks was so chuffed by the prospect of his plasma being used for medical science that he suggested calling the results a “Hank-cine.” He is not alone. Other former patients are equally enthusiastic about donating blood to the research effort. “They are very willing and motivated,” says Gerald Lee, chief product officer at Sanguine Biosciences, a business that enables patient participation in medical research. “They want to make a difference in finding a treatment.”

Those drawing the blood, however, are less excited.

As part of its service, Sanguine, which is based in Thousand Oaks, California, and had $5.9 million in revenue last year, dispatches medical technicians to collect blood and other samples from patients in their homes. The company traditionally employed 80 or 90 technicians, called phlebotomists, mostly on a contract basis. Staffing home visits was not a problem when the company’s pharmaceutical clients were studying non-communicable diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But when the pandemic erupted in the U.S. in March, Sanguine’s entire workload switched to Covid studies.

“We went through our whole Rolodex and called [the phlebotomists] one by one,” Lee says. Even though the research involved only recovered patients, “in the beginning about half said, ‘No, thank you.'”

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