With a wealth of knowledge and expertise from women’s health startups and large life science companies, along with deep experience across multiple domains, Oriana Papin-Zoghbi reached out to TBD Angels member Vicky Wu Davis to discuss women’s health and innovation.
Oriana — along with two other founders — had formed AOA DX to revolutionize early-stage diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Together with technology from McGill University, they have invented a non-invasive, liquid biopsy blood test developed to diagnose women with suspicion of early-stage ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecological disease, known as the “silent killer.” Vague symptoms and current diagnostic methods lack specificity and sensitivity in early stages and by the time a diagnosis is considered, the cancer has often spread beyond the ovaries. By the time a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, 80% of cases are diagnosed too late resulting in a five-year survival rate of only 28%.
Currently, there aren’t any effective screening tests readily available, and Vicky has personally experienced the challenging decision-making of either a wait-and-see or go into surgery. On the flip side, if diagnosed early, early diagnosis has led to a five-year survival rate of 90%, saving up to 100,000 women per year. There is an urgent need to accurately diagnose women earlier to give them a fighting chance at survival.
The need is clearly there. So what are the other reasons we invested in AOA?
- Novel and patented technology. Current diagnostic methods are inadequate because they are lacking sensitivity and/or specificity, particularly for earlier stages. Based on technology discovered by professor/inventor Dr. Uri Saragovi at McGill University, AOA is developing a non-invasive, extremely sensitive and specific, liquid biopsy blood test to diagnose women with suspicion of ovarian cancer.
- Strong team. The 3 co-founders have a long history of working together, with women’s health experience, prior startup in diagnostics space with successful exit. Oriana, one of the co-founders, is an all-star CEO with great ability to lead and execute. In addition, she has a strong ability to communicate with investors efficiently and effectively.
- Outcome benefit to the patient is significant. A mammogram can often detect breast cancer in its earliest stage, even before a doctor can feel the cancer. However, current shortfalls in ovarian cancer detection methodologies lead to further procedures, usually expensive and unnecessary surgery to biopsy. Biopsies for other parts of the body can be relatively simple, but an ovary biopsy is invasive and complicated, with potential side effects. With the specificity and sensitivity of AOA’s non-invasive liquid biopsy, test results would provide a clear course of action for next steps, which can be the difference between life and death.
- Economic Benefit. Ovarian cancer is the second most expensive cancer to treat in women. The average cost of care for women with ovarian cancer in the first year after surgery is approximately $100,000. Cost of treatment is 25% higher when caught at late stage, compared to early-stage disease. Early diagnosis will reduce patient mortality and deliver cost savings to payers.
Thirty two members of TBD Angels participated in a ~$250k investment in AOA’s over-subscribed round, making AOA one of the larger TBD Angels investment to-date.
Vicky Wu Davis is a member of TBD Angels