By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
At i2E, we love it when a plan comes together. By plan, we usually mean business plan.
And a coalescing business plan is exactly what’s happening with Moleculera Labs, the Oklahoma City firm co-founded by Dr. Craig Shimasaki and Dr. Madeleine Cunningham.
About 2 million to 3 million children in the U.S. suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and motor tics. Moleculera provides a laboratory test panel that predicts a patient’s likelihood of having Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococci (PANDAS), a neurological disorder of OCD and motor tics that is often associated with autism.
When it comes to biotech companies, business plans are particularly tough. Scientific discovery and its commercial application take multiple years and millions of dollars. To make things even more challenging, bootstrapping — finding ways to cover early costs with early revenues — isn’t usually an option.
Instead of trying to raise millions to build out their own lab, Shimasaki and Cunningham took a unique approach. They worked with the University of Oklahoma to rent lab space — cutting their seed capital requirements by nearly three-fourths.
i2E, SeedStep Angels and others invested $540,000. The plan was to use that funding to complete laboratory trials and meet the required federal certifications and state approvals.
Moleculera opened its doors for business in late April. In the first 90 days, business plan milestones are already being met. The firm has achieved licensing approval in 47 states, received nearly 360 physician orders from 114 different doctors, and taken in nearly $80,000 in deposits for testing.
About 100 diagnostic reports have been completed. Nearly 400 patients and physicians have signed up to receive update notifications. Moleculera has inked international laboratory agreements with Sweden and Denmark and has requests from Spain, Canada, Australia, and Italy.
About 70 percent of the patients tested have been defined as likely or highly likely to have PANDAS. Once a patient is diagnosed, doctors have established protocols for treating PANDAS.
Perhaps Moleculera’s most significant milestone is parent feedback.
“I had one father, after we sent the results to his doctor, crying on the phone,” Shimasaki said. “He told me that he had searched for 17 years to find the cause of his son’s condition, that he had gone to top hospitals and doctors everywhere. He was ready to shout it from the rooftops — that there now is help.”
For determined entrepreneurs like the Moleculera team, a business plan isn’t just some pro forma document.
It’s a living, breathing road map that matches capital requirements to the critical milestones that a new firm must achieve to first survive and then get on the upward bending curve toward break-even and sustainability.
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. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
Did You Know? In 2010, nearly 50 percent of the total federal research and development obligations of $144.7 billion went to five states. Of the remaining $73.9 billion, Oklahoma received $429.6 million (0.58 percent). Source: National Science Foundation