Dr. Winnnie Wan, Executive Chair and CEO of OncoHealth http://oncohealthcorp.com/diagnosis.html and Dan Ross, Board Director of Sand Hill Angels and Member of Life Science Angels gave an interesting presentation on Tuesday, April 12 at www.bio2devicegroup.org. The presentation focused on OncoHealth’s technology and their successfully overcoming the challenge of raising significant money during market downturn.
OncoHealth technology focuses around more accurate and non invasive detection of E6E& oncoproteins as biomarkers to differentiate between HPV infection and precancerous lesions for early cervical cancer diagnosis. Wan shared staggering facts that cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in women with about half million new cases each year. The death rate climbs staggeringly high among women in developing countries. Wan compared the current standards of detection with OncoHealth technology. Standard first line method of detection is pap smear. Each year, 4M women have pap abnormal results and that leads to great anxiety, fear, unnecessary repeat testing, coloscopy, and biopsy resulting in over $2B dollars. DNA testing is more sensitive than pap smear but does not differentiate pre cancerous and cancerous stage from benign infections. Coloscopy and biopsy are more accurate but are invasive procedures and expensive. OncoHealth (OH) testing gets higher accuracy at low cost. OH technology is centered around proprietary HPV E6E7 protein novel detection system. HPV contributes to cancer development through E6E7 oncogenes. These oncoproteins inactivate tumor suppressor genes. In precancerous and cancerous lesions, E6 and E7 proteins are expressed at much higher levels than found in benign lesions.
Total estimated market share is $3B. Wan said their strategy was to enter the market quickly and they focused on ELISA kits that can go to the CLIA labs in the first year. Wan said it would have been very challenging to consider going through clinical trials, especially with their decision to rely upon Angels financing. Therefore, they decided to go through strategic corporate partnerships. Eventually, they were able to raise money from 8 Angel groups within a short period of 6 months.
Don Ross began by sharing about the focus of the different Angel groups that he serves on. Life Science Angels focus on medical device, diagnostics, and biotech. The focus of Sand Hill Angels is 1/3 life science, and 2/3 focuses on other technologies including hardware, telecom, and cleantech. Health Tech Capital focuses on intersection of information technology and health care. Generally FFF (Friends, Family, Fools), people who believe in the founder and/or technology may fork up to 25,000 to 100,000 and Angle Groups may go up to 750,000. VCs on the other hand, are often less interested in financing less than $5M which creates a gap and a challenge for anyone looking for couple of million dollars of funding for instance. However, now Angel syndication is coming up to fill this gap, besides grant funding, which also remains huge. Ross shared examples of companies like OncoHealth that were funded through Angel syndicates. Some of the attributes that Angels find attractive include management experience, team is often considered more important than technology, if marketing and sales is addressed, and clear and quick exit strategy.
Wan and Ross answered many interesting questions from the audience members after the presentation. Answering the question if mass vaccinations for cervical cancer will eventually wipe out the market for diagnosis, Wan said that day would be too far away considering that older people who have been exposed to the virus do not benefit from the vaccination and vaccine only protects against 2 of the 13 high risk HPV types and hence there is still a need to be screened on a regular basis. Can E6E7 be detected through blood draw? Wan said, if it can, it would be too late to treat the cancer. These proteins are expressed in the nucleus and best way to detect them currently is through a cervical swab.