QLida To Present Heart Attack Detection Technology at OneMedForum SF 2012

Qlida is a Cardiovascular disease diagnostics company developing next generation, single molecule biomarker detection technology for application in the $1B cardiovascular diagnostics market. The company is a seed-stage spinout from Drexel University and is focusing its initial product development on diagnosis of myocardial infarction. Below, Michael Boyce-Jacino, CEO and Founder, talks with OneMedRadio about the technology behind his brainchild.  The company’s goal is to enable much earlier diagnosis and more accurate diagnosis of a heart attack. A “Coulter company,” Qlida  was chosen by experts who identified it as having a high likelihood of success and impact in clinical medicine. Qlida is a presenting company at OneMedForum Sf 2012.

Click below to hear audio and see full transcript below.

Brett Johnson:       Welcome, Brett Johnson here in New York City with OneMedRadio. Today, we are with Michael Boyce-Jacino who is the CEO and founder of QLIDA, a Philadelphia-based cardiovascular diagnostics firm who recently found some exciting technology. Thanks for joining us today, Michael.

Michael Boyce-Jacino:  Thank you, Brett. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.

BJ:       So can you tell us what does QLIDA do?

MBJ:      Sure. QLIDA  is a development stage cardiovascular diagnostic company. We’re relatively new. We were founded in August 2010 and did our first financing just at the end of last year. We’re a spinout of Drexel University and we’re focused on developing point-of-care diagnostics for acute myocardial infarction or heart attack diagnosis.

BJ:      And how are people diagnosing this today?

MBJ:   Today, the big challenge is that more than six million people are going into emergency rooms every year with chest pain and primary care physicians provide EKGs, electrocardiograms and a biomarker test for a protein called troponin. And the challenge is that basically both of those tests end up being normal if you will in their initial reads and the patients end up spending 9 or 12 hours in the emergency room before the current technologies allow an accurate diagnosis of a heart attack.

BJ:   And so what does your technology do?

MBJ:      Well our goal is to enable much earlier diagnosis and more accurate diagnosis of that troponin protein by providing a test that’s several orders of magnitude more sensitive than current technologies so that as soon as the heart attack occurs we can start to measure changes in the level of that troponin protein being released by tissue.

BJ:    I see. And so what is the — so it is a device then or is it — can you talk a little bit about the product itself?

MBJ:       Sure, absolutely. The goal is to have it as a point-of-care device so there will be an instrument reader and a disposable chip. You can think of it as kind of a dipstick type chip taking whole blood and then analyzing for the presence of this protein using a fluorescent detection system. So the idea is that it allows the primary care physician and we’re hoping ultimately even emergency personnel dealing with the patient having chest pain to be able to take a drop of blood, measure troponin levels, and then start to monitor changes in that troponin level over time. Because right after the heart attack, the troponin starts to increase in the blood over about a 12-hour period and it’s those first few hours where diagnosis is critically important and today that’s the big gap is that you don’t see troponin until many hours later. So our test would allow you to more quickly start to measure the level of that troponin protein and then monitor it as it increases over time to determine the status of the patient.

BJ:      Interesting. Can you talk a little bit about the size of the market and what sort of the economics are in the business of this kind of testing?

MBJ:    Absolutely. As I mentioned, that’s a huge issue of course with people having chest pain, going into the emergency room, that’s six million people a year in the US, and all of them are getting troponin tests and there’s many follow-up troponin tests for each of those patients being monitored over that period of time so it’s a big testing market even today. It’s close to $2B worldwide with at least $850M in consumables into that market. So it’s a big market. The big challenge of that market today of course is as I mentioned the sensitivity of the test. So that’s really what we’re hoping to change.

BJ:   And in terms of the technology itself, can you talk about the intellectual property and your control of that?

MBJ:     Very definitely an important point obviously as we are a spinout company and one of the advantages of working with this technology was it was funded by the Coulter Foundation as a translational medicine program at Drexel. So one of the nice things about that program is they actually focus a lot on developing good intellectual property around technologies they see as moving successfully from research into clinical medicine. So when we looked at it as a company opportunity for technology to be licensed out of the university, we’re very happy to see a strong position established. Obviously, it’s early days, but well formulated patent filings around the core technology, which is the platform if you will for detection and the method of detecting those sensitive biomarkers. And we think the advantage then is of course we can do troponin today and we can start to expand the number of biomarkers for other inflammation markers that change in cardiac disease in general as well going forward.

BJ:     So what stage is the company at now?

MBJ:     Well we’re definitely in development stage. As I mentioned, we just got our financing at the end of last year so we have four people right now working on the technology, basic biochemists and engineers developing the breadboards and establishing the sensitivity of the test. Another nice thing about the Coulter program is that they had actually done some early preclinical testing on human samples to determine the sensitivity of the test before we establish the company. So a lot of our work now is validating our ability to move that successful work out into the company and then build the breadboard to start to prototype the commercial instrument.

BJ:   What are the regulatory issues the company may face?

MBJ:    Well there’s good news about the troponin market a I mentioned is that it’s a well-established market and troponin is standard of care so it’s actually a reimbursed test today. So we see it as a 510K path to FDA approval for the test.

BJ:   I see. So the company is looking to raise some additional capital? And how will that be used?

MBJ:    Yes. We used our initial seed round to allow us to establish the breadboard and bring the team together, and then we’re looking to do the next round of financing to allow us to build the beta prototype and start to do some testing with clinical collaborators.

BJ:     And so what’s the timeline when you think that this product could be ready for the market?

MBJ:     We think the goal is certainly in 2012 to have the beta instrument and start to do the clinical testing, which would allow us to work with clinical research labs certainly in 2013 and then move quickly to commercializing the instrument after that.

BJ:    So how did you get involved in the company?

MBJ:     Well I got involved through people at Drexel University and Coulter Foundation when I was looking to do another spinout company here in the Philadelphia area. I was the founding CEO of BioNanomatrix which was spun out of Princeton University and before that I was the chief scientific officer of Orchid Biosciences in this area as well which we took public some years ago. And I was looking to do another early stage spinout and I really thought this was exciting technology with a good market application.

BJ:   Terrific. Can you talk a little bit about who your existing investors are?

MBJ:     Yes. We have two right now. We have Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which is a very active group within the Philadelphia area for early stage technology and a group called NetScientific, which is a UK-based investment fund.

BJ:   Terrific and what was your experience with the Coulter process? How did that all work and how did that affect I guess the development of this new company?

MBJ:   Well the Coulter Foundation is pretty unique in that it funds technologies that its team of industry experts choose or identify as having a high likelihood of success and impact, high impact in clinical medicine, which they refer to as translational medicine, basically taking those technologies and translating them if you will for clinical applications. And so the nice thing is that they fund this work at the universities without taking a carrying interest intellectual property or the company so it’s really just funding. And they work with the academics to teach them about clinical applications and commercialization of technology and as I mentioned intellectual property. So it’s an excellent process of moving the technology much closer to commercialization, which is a big challenge these days, as you know, Brett, because you go to universities, lots of interesting technologies and the challenge for an entrepreneur or someone interested in developing it, there’s a big gap between that interesting technology and the marketplace. And what this Coulter process does is really closes that gap quite significantly. So you can go in with high confidence on the technology, the team and the intellectual property.

BJ:   Terrific. Can you talk a little bit about like who would be the best investors for you now or corporate partners? I mean who is a good fit to help you take this company to the next level?

MBJ:     Well certainly we’re looking for good venture capital teams. There’s many out there who have excellent life sciences groups within them so I would love to bring a couple of them on board. And I think today too in this market, there’s a great opportunity to start to bring the companies in. Many of the companies are as you know more flushed with cash then typical so they’re looking to deploy some of that. And I think it’s a great time for diagnostic companies to be talking directly to the end stage companies, if you will, the early stage company is talking to the big ones like Siemens and Roche and Beckman and companies like that and starting to really see if there’s interest in investing in the early stage technology.

BJ:  Terrific. Well actually, I know you will be presenting at the OneMed Forum in San Francisco on January 9th through the 12th and in fact there’s a panel session on diagnostics that’s going to focus on some of the big new trends in diagnostics. So I believe you’ll be presenting after that session so, you know, that will give you a chance I think to get in front of some of those kinds of people. Thanks so much for joining us today, Michael. It sounds like an exciting technology and we wish you the best of luck.

MBJ:    Brett, thanks very much. It’s a pleasure to have been talking to you.

BJ:   That is Michael Boyce-Jacino who is the CEO and founder of QLIDA, an exciting company based in the Philadelphia area. He will be presenting at the OneMed Forum in San Francisco January 10th and 11th so hopefully our listeners can join us and hear more from him at that time. Brett Johnson in New York signing off for OneMed Radio.

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