Nathan Keele is a health care innovator and serial entrepreneur on a mission to change health care across North America. As the co-founder and CEO of Vanguard Laboratories and Keele Medical, he’s leading the revolution of saliva testing in the clinical testing industry and the movement to bring humans back into the customer service model. He’s delivering both through a group of companies that are blazing a trail in next-generation testing with the world’s first split-sample oral-fluid drug test, EZ Saliva-II, while reviving the concept of “human interaction.”
Welcome to the future, where heart and science come together in Vanguard’s motto: “Love Your Lab.” Given the confidence and trust from their swelling number of clients—from police departments, private employers, and pain management clinics to doctors’ offices and long-term care facilities—it seems the love is spreading, and quickly.
Founded in October 2021, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Vanguard Laboratories is Nate’s second successful venture in the health care space, launched just 18 months after he opened Keele Medical—both driven by his lifelong passion for helping people. “I saw an opportunity to make an impact and help people during COVID, and I ran with it,” he says.
Vanguard Laboratories—Revolutionizing the Toxicology Testing Industry
Vanguard Laboratories specializes in state-of-the-art testing methods to reimagine the toxicology testing industry. With an emphasis on technology and human-to-human communication, they treat clients the way they want to be treated. In addition to typical toxicology and infectious disease testing, Vanguard is revolutionizing the industry with the introduction of EZ Saliva-II, invented by Nathan’s partner, Dr. Raouf Guirguis. The innovative handheld device allows for testing and confirmation of up to 46 illicit drugs (including Fentanyl), and alcohol, with results in five minutes—all from a single mouth swab. “Almost all tests currently used in the market require urine or blood samples, which take days to test and confirm, so there’s no way for police officers or employers to know if someone is under the influence at that given moment,” Nate explains. “We’re removing the risk and uncertainty with an easy-to-use device that accurately detects these substances immediately.”
As Nate drives the rapid ascension of Vanguard, we spoke with him to learn more about his background—and how five dark days of COVID compelled him to lead a pair of movements that are transforming the health care space.
Vanguard is leading the way in the revolution of saliva testing in the clinical testing industry with your EZ Saliva-II test. Tell us more about the device and who can benefit from it.
It truly is a gamechanger in toxicology testing. We launched it last fall, and the Bakersfield, CA, Police Department is using our devices in the field for our pilot program, and dozens of businesses across the country have already adopted it since then. It’s the first test that allows for on-the-spot testing, and delivers accurate results immediately. Until now, if a police officer or an employer suspected someone was under the influence, they’d have to send them to a hospital or doctor’s office to have them tested using blood or urine, and then wait days for the results. Police officers are particularly excited about this because it removes the risk or danger of not knowing if they’re engaging with a person who is on drugs while they’re working in the field. District attorney's offices, construction site managers, large machine operators, and professional drivers find it’s ideal for pre-employment and post-accident testing, or for ensuring workplace safety.
How does it work?
It fits in the palm of your hand and it’s easy to use. The device allows for dual testing, both pre-screen (immediate results) and lab confirmatory testing—with a single mouth swab. That’s it! Users can customize what drugs they’d like to test for and get accurate rapid-screen results in as little as five minutes, and the second can be sent to our CLIA-certified lab for confirmation.
Your movement to bring humans back to customer service began with Keele Medical and became the catalyst for founding Vanguard Labs as the result of a personal experience during COVID. Will you share this story with us?
As an industry, we’ve gone so far into the tech side to cut down costs that we’ve all but removed humans from customer service. How many times have you called a company and gotten a robot instead of a person? That’s just not okay in any industry, but especially in health care, when time is critical and people’s lives are at stake. When I started Keele Medical, we were providing customer service support to a laboratory, and we realized that most labs had very little visibility and customer interaction. The consequences of this really hit home for me during COVID when my friend’s mother was kept in the COVID wing of a hospital for five days before she got a negative test. During that time, they’d asked the nurse to call the lab, and she said she couldn’t, that they’d send the results when they got them. Turns out, the test was sitting untested the entire time. This is the result of the absence of human-to-human communication, with the patient hanging helplessly in the middle.
That’s why I started Vanguard Labs—to bring the best products to our clients and restore human-to-human communication. We assign an account manager to each client from the first day that they sign up with our lab, who they can call, text, email anytime; they’re available six days a week and we respond immediately. This is what we believe customer service should look like, and we’re dedicated to delivering it.
Founder & CEO — Vanguard Laboratories