Durham-Based Coprata Enables People To Learn From What Goes Into Their Toilet

Coprata's "smart toilets" will be able to tell you important health data based on your stool.

While some may be squeamish to talk about it, there’s a lot of information that our stool can tell us about our health. That’s why Durham-based Coprata exists.

CEO Chase Moyle said the toilet industry has been under-innovated for a long time. But two Duke researchers, Sonia Grego and Brian Stoner, marked new ground in “smart toilets” when they co-founded Durham-based Coprata in 2021.

Now that Moyle—a Duke alum who will also officially graduate with his MBA from Harvard Business School one week from today—has come onboard as CEO, the team is working on their go-to-market strategy.

They envision the Coprata toilet both in healthcare/clinical settings as well as in a consumer’s home. After all, there is a huge market of Americans who would like to understand the health implications of their stool. According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS alone affects at least 10 to 15 percent of adults in the U.S.

Corprata offers automated stool analysis so that users can understand their stool’s volume, consistency, color, and the presence of blood—even measuring how long they’re sitting on the toilet.

“There is a massive amount of data being flushed away every single day,” Moyle said. “We’re losing a lot of the upside that we can have, and that can stretch anywhere from treating GI issues to overall wellness, colon cancer… and we want to really have an impact there.”

Coprata has already raised a pre-seed round of funding and earned a number of grants from the National Institute of Health, North Carolina Department of Commerce and Harvard Business School. In its next round of funding, Moyle hopes the startup can raise around $2 million to help them reach key milestones. In the meantime, they are also looking to hire a product mechanical engineer.

For decades, Moyle said, toilets have stayed exactly the same. And while the toilet industry has proven resistant to innovation, there’s a significant market that can be served by understanding their GI issues better. By using Coprata, they can get answers by simply going to the bathroom, without changing their lifestyle at all. Once the toilet is commercially available, Coprata will install it and swap out the original toilet within 90 minutes.

The toilet technology is even advancing enough to monitor Covid-19 rates just from taking an automated look at the stool.

“If you want to go around, take an automated sample out of the side, you can do it on a regular basis and say, hey, where is the COVID actually coming from, if you want to track the disease,” Moyle said. “Or you can put them in the airport and say, O.K., how is it spreading? The upside there is pretty big.”

Being located in the Triangle has brought a perfect storm for Coprata as it looks to expand its team and take advantage of the research community here.

“I think it will play a bigger role going forward as we make some of these key hiring decisions,” Moyle said. “It’s a unique place to be a startup where there’s lab facilities, there’s top-level talent, and then from a commercial perspective, too.”

While there’s yet to be a mainstream acceptance of publicly discussing bowel movements and their implications on one’s health, Moyle believes there will be a greater shift in openness on how toilet technology will transform health in the future.

“A lot of people are hesitant to talk about stool and toilets,” Moyle said. “But quickly, you realize when you get over that initial hurdle that it affects a lot of people.”

As development continues, Coprata will be there to meet that gap in the market. Moyle believes it’s just the beginning of what the startup can achieve by looking at the data we flush away every day in our toilets.

“After you get over that initial hurdle, you can have a long conversation,” Moyle said. “And a lot of the outcomes have been, ‘Keep me in the loop. I want one of these.’ We’re pushing to get there, but I think that over time, we’re going to see a big shift in how people think about it.”

About Suzanne Blake 308 Articles
Suzanne profiles startups and innovation for GrepBeat. Before working at GrepBeat, Suzanne attended UNC Chapel Hill, obtaining a degree in journalism and political science. Previously, she wrote for CNBC, QSR Magazine, FSR Magazine and The Daily Tar Heel.