Cancer,one of the most complicated and life-threatening diseases in the world with anextortionate mortality rate, is a result of relentlessly dividing cancer cells,forming solid tumors. Cancer patients share a complicated relationship withtime, right from its initial diagnosis to chemotherapy and surgery, thepatients strive to overcome their fight against cancer within a limited timeframe. Identified at an early stage, Invasive Breast Cancer patients may notbenefit from chemotherapy. OncoStem Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd., a brainchild of Dr.Manjiri Bakre, is a platform to assist cancer patients by assessing theaggressiveness of the tumors empowering the clinicians and patients to getpersonalized treatment at the right time.
Dr. Manjiri's Idea and Journey
Like everystart-up, OncoStem Diagnostics faced its share of challenges and emerged out ofthem as a renowned brand. The trials included finding funding for a product-drivencompany in life sciences in India from venture capitalists, finding a suitablelaboratory space, getting in-sync with the ICMR, DCGI rules and regulations orlaunching products or being a part of a slow and unreliable system of orderingchemicals and reagents.
"The workexperience I shared with excellent mentors became huge support in the start-up.The brand successfully set up the laboratory, raised a $9 million funding fromSequoia Capital and Artiman Ventures, and transformed my idea into a successfultest."
The Work Strategy to Accomplish Mission
OncoStem'smission is to help cancer patients get optimum treatment. The revolutionaryproduct of OncoStem CanAssist Breast calculates the risk of recurrence andhelps patients seek a personalized treatment plan. This leads to an improvedquality of life.
"Wedevelop tests to determine the molecular fingerprint of the tumor and to assessthe aggressiveness of the tumor. Clinicians can use that information to devisetailor-made therapeutic strategies for each patient. The test is developed onIndian patients' data keeping in mind the Indian Demographics, who are likelyto have different disease features compared to Western patients. CanAssist Breasthas helped over 500 Asian patients have accessed personalized breast cancertreatment."
The Indian Healthcare:
India isleading in the direction of a health-conscious population with high penetrationof health insurance. On the other hand, initiatives like Ayushman Bharat areensuring that economically backward patients have access to healthcare. Fromdigitalizing health records and enabling access to entire medical history tofacilitating access to healthcare through online channels, technology is theguiding light of the healthcare sector today, in India. The Indian healthcareindustry is being hit by a wave of start-ups like Onward Health, Niramai, andOncoStem Diagnostics in India using novel AI technology and predictiveanalytics offering tools in computational pathology, mammography, andpersonalized medicine.
Building Trust with Clientele
OncoStemreaches its target audience of breast cancer patients through the channels ofclinicians, insurance companies, central and state insurance policies thatoffer subsidized healthcare to people. OncoStem test labs are IS13485certified, CE marked, and CAP &NABL accredited. This helps us to buildtrust with clinicians. The company builds loyal patients by empowering them tomake the right decision by answering all the queries, delivering test resultswithin 10 business days and a stringent data protection system.
The Team and Area of Expansion
Withits primary branch set up in Bangalore and a team of Statistician based in theUS, the team of OncoStem comprises of 30 experienced and talented employeesincluding 4 Onco-Pathologist, 3 Ph.D. Scientists. Each of the researchscientists in the company holds a master's degree in Science and are highlytalented. Supporting the company in delivering a world-class quality of test topatients is the Sales and Marketing team. The company is planning to expand indigital pathology and other molecular platforms for additional tests and afuture into Non-India markets.
Initiatives to Personalize Healthcare
"Canceris moving away from a cookie-cutter approach to a more tailored approach basedon how an individual tumor might progress or respond to treatment. Evaluationof the tumor's genetic profile helps decipher this and empowers personalizedtreatment planning. OncoStem is working on tests for other cancer types, usingmolecular techniques that measure gene expression, to help classify cancerpatients into subgroups that respond differently to a treatment" – Dr.Manjiri Bakre.
Thecompany is working on complete automation of the testing process for CanAssistBreast, including the incorporation of digital pathology and cloud-basedprediction of patient's risk of relapse. This will enable the test to beperformed in a decentralized manner in any accredited laboratory, increasingaccess to testing for patients and a reduced period.
Milestone and Achievements
Establishedin 2011, OncoStem had a goal of developing, validating, and marketinginnovative products that it successfully achieved with CanAssist Breast in2016. The brand has been recognized as 'Top 100 Start-ups to Watch in 2018' andreceived 'Healthcare Excellence Awards' in 2018.
Duringthis journey, the brand received various milestones, including the launching ofits proprietary AI-based test CAB for the Indian Breast Cancer patient withdata validated on Indian samples. Establishing its alliance with various Indianand International hospitals, obtaining international regulatory approvals suchas CAP, NABL for OncoStem's central laboratory and CE mark for CanAssist Breastalong with patenting and publishing their Science in internationalpeer-reviewed journals are also major milestones for the company.
An Insight into the Future
With theinitial focus on Breast Cancer, the company aims to become a "go-to"oncology diagnostic company with a panel of innovative tests for numerouscancers including the triple-negative and ovarian cancer suggesting apersonalized plan of action for various cancers.
Thecompany is planning to enter the Asian Markets this year with its flagshipproduct CAB or "CanAssist Breast" followed by launching it in theMiddle East, Europe, and the US in a phased manner. With the focus on increasedfootprint and reduced turnaround, the company is planning to automate CABend-to-end and launching it as a kit to be performed at hospitals.
Words of Wisdom
"Today,we need 'pain killers' and not' vitamins.' I would like to advise that"Doctorpreneurs" understand this concept and work towards solvingreal-world problems, add value, and improve the quality of life than solve a'nice to have' mere incremental problem. One must embrace the latest industrytrends and new-age technologies and give wings to their ideas with theirentrepreneurial spirit." – Dr. Manjiri Bakre, Founder & CEO, OncoStemDiagnostics Pvt. Ltd.