OncoStem: An Innovative Platform Assisting Cancer Patients Seek Personalized Treatment
Cancer, one of the most complicated and life-threatening diseases in the world with an extortionate mortality rate, is a result of relentlessly dividing cancer cells, forming solid tumors. Cancer patients share a complicated relationship with time, right from its initial diagnosis to chemotherapy and surgery, the patients strive to overcome their fight against cancer within a limited time frame. Identified at an early stage, Invasive Breast Cancer patients may not benefit from chemotherapy. OncoStem Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd., a brainchild of Dr. Manjiri Bakre, is a platform to assist cancer patients by assessing the aggressiveness of the tumors empowering the clinicians and patients to get personalized treatment at the right time.
Dr. Manjiri’s Idea and Journey
Like every start-up, OncoStem Diagnostics faced its share of challenges and emerged out of them as a renowned brand. The trials included finding funding for a product-driven company in life sciences in India from venture capitalists, finding a suitable laboratory space, getting in-sync with the ICMR, DCGI rules and regulations or launching products or being a part of a slow and unreliable system of ordering chemicals and reagents.
“The work experience I shared with excellent mentors became huge support in the start-up. The brand successfully set up the laboratory, raised a $9 million funding from Sequoia Capital and Artiman Ventures, and transformed my idea into a successful test.”
- Dr. Manjiri Bakre, Founder, OncoStem Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd.
The Work Strategy to Accomplish Mission
OncoStem’s mission is to help cancer patients get optimum treatment. The revolutionary product of OncoStem CanAssist Breast calculates the risk of recurrence and helps patients seek a personalized treatment plan. This leads to an improved quality of life.
“We develop tests to determine the molecular fingerprint of the tumor and to assess the aggressiveness of the tumor. Clinicians can use that information to devise tailor-made therapeutic strategies for each patient. The test is developed on Indian patients’ data keeping in mind the Indian Demographics, who are likely to have different disease features compared to Western patients. CanAssist Breast has helped over 500 Asian patients have accessed personalized breast cancer treatment.”
The Indian Healthcare:
India is leading in the direction of a health-conscious population with high penetration of health insurance. On the other hand, initiatives like Ayushman Bharat are ensuring that economically backward patients have access to healthcare. From digitalizing health records and enabling access to entire medical history to facilitating access to healthcare through online channels, technology is the guiding light of the healthcare sector today, in India. The Indian healthcare industry is being hit by a wave of start-ups like Onward Health, Niramai, and OncoStem Diagnostics in India using novel AI technology and predictive analytics offering tools in computational pathology, mammography, and personalized medicine.
Building Trust with Clientele
OncoStem reaches its target audience of breast cancer patients through the channels of clinicians, insurance companies, central and state insurance policies that offer subsidized healthcare to people. OncoStem test labs are IS13485 certified, CE marked, and CAP &NABL accredited. This helps us to build trust with clinicians. The company builds loyal patients by empowering them to make the right decision by answering all the queries, delivering test results within 10 business days and a stringent data protection system.
The Team and Area of Expansion
With its primary branch set up in Bangalore and a team of Statistician based in the US, the team of OncoStem comprises of 30 experienced and talented employees including 4 Onco-Pathologist, 3 Ph.D. Scientists. Each of the research scientists in the company holds a master’s degree in Science and are highly talented. Supporting the company in delivering a world-class quality of test to patients is the Sales and Marketing team. The company is planning to expand in digital pathology and other molecular platforms for additional tests and a future into Non-India markets.
Initiatives to Personalize Healthcare
“Cancer is moving away from a cookie-cutter approach to a more tailored approach based on how an individual tumor might progress or respond to treatment. Evaluation of the tumor’s genetic profile helps decipher this and empowers personalized treatment planning. OncoStem is working on tests for other cancer types, using molecular techniques that measure gene expression, to help classify cancer patients into subgroups that respond differently to a treatment” – Dr. Manjiri Bakre.
The company is working on complete automation of the testing process for CanAssist Breast, including the incorporation of digital pathology and cloud-based prediction of patient’s risk of relapse. This will enable the test to be performed in a decentralized manner in any accredited laboratory, increasing access to testing for patients and a reduced period.
Milestone and Achievements
Established in 2011, OncoStem had a goal of developing, validating, and marketing innovative products that it successfully achieved with CanAssist Breast in 2016. The brand has been recognized as ‘Top 100 Start-ups to Watch in 2018’ and received ‘Healthcare Excellence Awards’ in 2018.
During this journey, the brand received various milestones, including the launching of its proprietary AI-based test CAB for the Indian Breast Cancer patient with data validated on Indian samples. Establishing its alliance with various Indian and International hospitals, obtaining international regulatory approvals such as CAP, NABL for OncoStem’s central laboratory and CE mark for CanAssist Breast along with patenting and publishing their Science in international peer-reviewed journals are also major milestones for the company.
An Insight into the Future
With the initial focus on Breast Cancer, the company aims to become a “go-to” oncology diagnostic company with a panel of innovative tests for numerous cancers including the triple-negative and ovarian cancer suggesting a personalized plan of action for various cancers.
The company is planning to enter the Asian Markets this year with its flagship product CAB or “CanAssist Breast” followed by launching it in the Middle East, Europe, and the US in a phased manner. With the focus on increased footprint and reduced turnaround, the company is planning to automate CAB end-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 solving real-world problems, add value, and improve the quality of life than solve a ‘nice to have’ mere incremental problem. One must embrace the latest industry trends and new-age technologies and give wings to their ideas with their entrepreneurial spirit.” – Dr. Manjiri Bakre, Founder & CEO, OncoStem Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd.