Lead investor i2E, along with Chicago-based OCA Ventures and Mayo Clinic Ventures, has funded the first round of investment to assist Progentec in creating the first-ever commercial test to predict the onset of lupus flares. Technology created by the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) is at the core of the platform being developed by Progentec.
The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that there are as many as 1.5 million lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE) patients in the U.S. alone. Seen mostly in women between the ages of 15-44, Lupus causes the immune system to recognize and attack the body’s own tissues. Lupus sufferers have periods of flares and remission with organs typically affected including the skin, kidneys, lungs and reproductive organs, as well as the cardiovascular system.
Progentec Diagnostics, led by Sanjiv Sharma and Mohan Purushothaman, is working closely with OMRF’s Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., a world leader in lupus research and an inventor of Progentec’s technology, to further advance and refine the platform and its associated algorithms to fulfill the unmet need of advanced lupus diagnostics. The company’s technologies include highly accurate tests for early diagnosis, a score to track underlying disease activity, and a predictive score for lupus flares. With the current funding round, Progentec plans to conduct a retrospective study at OMRF and prospective studies at OMRF and Mayo Clinic to further refine these algorithms.
“The ability to predict an impending flare represents significant value to lupus patients and their physicians. This test is currently not available and is a focus area for us,” said Sanjiv Sharma, Chairman of Progentec.
“Looking beyond flare prediction, a test to track underlying disease activity will fundamentally change how lupus patients are identified for specific interventions and allows for better management decisions at all levels of the healthcare system,” said Mohan Purushothaman, CEO of Progentec.
OMRF has established a significant focus on lupus. “OMRF has been at the forefront of leading scientific research, especially in the field of lupus,” said Manu Nair, Vice President of Technology Ventures at OMRF. “Progentec is going on a trajectory that we have traversed in the past, and we believe that our science, combined with the entrepreneurial and management skills brought in by Progentec, will successfully bring these tests to the market.”
“We are pleased to work with OCA Ventures and Mayo Clinic on this promising, Oklahoma-born project,” said Scott Meacham, President and CEO of i2E Inc., “It is important to work together to identify and develop technologies like these in their early stages when they most need help.”
Mayo Clinic Ventures found Progentec’s technology aligned with their clinical interest in lupus, especially in managing patients with a diagnostic to improve patient care while potentially reducing clinical costs. “We are excited to work with Progentec and OMRF to advance this technology and hopefully bring about a change in how lupus patients are diagnosed, managed and treated,” said Andrew Danielsen, Vice Chair, Mayo Clinic Ventures.
Mayo Clinic will use any revenue it receives to support its not-for-profit mission in patient care, education and research.
Currently, no test exists that can predict when a lupus flare will occur. Therefore, Progentec’s test could have a significant impact for patients at risk of organ damage or death caused by lupus flares that cannot otherwise be accurately predicted.