|Applied Proteomics CEO Peter Klemm|
Based: San Diego, CA
CEO: Peter Klemm
The Scoop: Applied Proteomics is developing molecular diagnostic tools that read conversations between bodily proteins in order to spot the earliest stages of disease. The lead product: a blood test designed to spot precursors to colorectal cancer. Spotting patients vulnerable to the disease would enable early, even preventative treatment, which would be the best way to beat the cancer back.
What Makes It Fierce: Applied Proteomics sees its technology as a breakthrough in measuring the status of a body's proteome at such an early stage, enabling precise, personalized treatments before patients even get sick and display symptoms. If successful, such tests could make a big dent in healthcare costs by allowing for earlier, and preventative, treatments across the board.
CEO Peter Klemm describes the technology as "a very powerful platform" that is "indication agnostic" and could help treat a wide variety of diseases.
"The mass spectrometry picture gives us a huge pool of various peptides to choose from, and apply a math algorithm, and draw a [diagnostic] conclusion," Klemm said.
Applied Proteomics' first test focuses on precursors to colon cancer, using mass spectrometry to look for previously defined peptides, or biomarkers, for colon cancer. A positive test result would point patients toward a colonoscopy to gather more clinical information. If successful, it would be a big step beyond the current standard of care. The most common colon cancer test out there is a test of blood in the stool. It is specific but not very sensitive, and it works best when the cancer is already very advanced, Klemm said. Exact Sciences ($EXAS) has a stool test for cancer and precancerous cells, but Klemm said patients must collect the samples themselves, and the spotting of precancerous cells could be better.
Applied Proteomics goes further by detecting precancerous cells, Klemm said, which would spur patients toward necessary colonoscopies and preventative treatment. Consider that doctors recommend a colonoscopy once every 10 years for people over age 50, and that Klemm has said 44 million Americans don't bother getting the test in a given year. Applied Proteomics estimates its diagnostic will cost just a few hundred dollars per test and be reimbursed under existing codes. With all of that in mind, the market potential becomes clear.
Investors have shown healthy interest. In August 2013, Applied Proteomics pulled in a $28 million Series C, from Malaysia's Genting Berhad, Domain Associates and Vulcan Capital (the VC operation formed by Microscoft cofounder Paul G. Allen). This followed a $22.5 million Series B round closed in 2012. A number of angel investors also participated early in the company's founding.
What To Look For: Applied Proteomics is well underway with plans to build a high-capacity CLIA laboratory that uses high-throughput clinical MRM mass spectrometry assays to handle the specific tests. Additionally, the company is using its recent venture funding round to support validation studies for its colon cancer precursor test. If all goes well, CLIA certification will be in hand by the first half of 2014. Beyond that, there are plans to expand the company's technology for other diagnostic uses, such as pancreatic cancer. Klemm said last month that his company is also negotiating with an as-yet-unnamed "Alzheimer's compound developer" to pursue development of an Alzheimer's companion diagnostic.
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-- Mark Hollmer (email | Twitter)