By Scott Meacham
Copyright © (2017), The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
The holiday season is a time of hope, optimism, and belief in all possibilities and, for some, even the belief in impossibilities.
In our line of business at i2E, we regularly work shoulder to shoulder with Oklahoma-based startups and entrepreneurs who battle the seemingly impossible all year long. These people don’t take no for an answer. They don’t stop, and they don’t quit.
That’s why it is so rewarding for i2E to be the lead investor on a first-round funding to assist Progentec Diagnostics in moving its technology for predicting the onset of lupus flares closer to commercialization. Even more satisfying is that Mayo Clinic Ventures is a co-investor in the round.
Progentec’s technologies, which have been licensed from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), are used to create highly accurate tests for early diagnosis of lupus as well as predictive tests for lupus flares.
“There is a big unmet need in screening the right people and managing them early,” said Progentec CEO and President Mohan Purushothaman. “It is very tough today; there is no good screening test to classify whether a patient has lupus or not. Most people only know they have lupus when they get a flare or when their doctor finds something indicative of lupus as part of their physical.”
This viciously painful, chronic autoimmune disease generally surfaces in women in their midteens to forties and is with them for the rest of their lives. Once a patient knows they have lupus, the chance of a debilitating flare hangs over them constantly.
“If you are a lupus patient you don’t know whether you are going to have a flare up two days before your daughter’s wedding or while you are on vacation,” said Sanjiv Sharma, co-founder and board chair of Progentec. “Imagine when this test is available, and a patient knows that a flare is now very likely to happen or not likely to happen. Can you imagine how relieved this person would be? It will change people’s lives.”
Progentec is now aggressively embarking on clinical studies with Mayo and OMRF to validate their platform. The firm is working toward providing a set of comprehensive tests ranging from flare prediction, to lupus classification, to a new disease activity index, which is expected to help classify patients based on severity and track progression of disease and the response to treatment.
With technology from OMRF (one of 11 Autoimmunity Centers of Excellence in the U.S.), clinical and investment relationships with Mayo, and syndicated investment led by i2E with a $240,000 grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), Progentec is a remarkable example of how the ecosystem works together accelerating Oklahoma innovation.
This is how startups like Progentec change the world — with optimism, a belief in possibilities, and a willingness to overturn the seemingly impossible.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.