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DioGenix: CEO Offers Tips on Pursuing the Right Product and Investors

DioGenix CEO Offers Tips on Pursuing the Right Product and Investors

DioGenix, in Gaithersburg, Md., was founded in 2009 after CEO Larry Tiffany and his senior management team saw a clear clinical need: monitoring disease progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). Tiffany has an extensive background in biotech, as an IP attorney, and as a senior executive at small and mid-size biotech companies. Before DioGenix, he was senior vice president and general manager of genomics for another genomics research company, Gene Logic.

The company’s lead product — scheduled for 2014 launch — examines already collected biosamples using a much higher resolution technology than what’s currently used. “MSPrecise is designed to specifically examine B-cell changes, and could ultimately lead to individualized patient treatment,” says Tiffany.

He shares his advice for life science entrepreneurs:

Look for true practical utility—“Look for clinical applications where there’s an inefficiency or a clear need for improvement. Focus on quality results for physicians. The doctor doesn’t care so much how your product works,” says Tiffany. “For example, you may find a great new molecular test and it works 99% of the time, but to utilize it you need a brain biopsy. If the current standard of care doesn’t require that, it’s going to be hard to get doctors or patients to use it,” he says. The practicality of MSPrecise, Tiffany says, is, “We’re using samples already being collected, so we can examine them at a higher resolution than has been available since this practice began in the 1960s.”

Seize opportunities--“We saw a clear opportunity to leverage a huge investment in assets by Gene Logic, realizing we could apply them to developing novel molecular tests,” says Tiffany. “Then we found investors to support the commercial development with additional funds,” he says.

Find the right funding -- “Over nine months, we determined and reviewed a range of strategic investors and potential partners that had product interests synergistic with DioGenix,” he says.  “The management team used our extensive contacts within the life sciences, including thought-leading clinicians and doctors; technology companies and companies interested in companion drug testing.” Tiffany says they were lucky to find a great seed fund company within the wide net they originally cast: “They were interested in funding neurological diseases, and MS happened to be high on their list.”

Adjust your expectations--A lesson Tiffany learned at Gene Logic helps remind him of the risks associated with utilizing a new technology: “We worked with a company to develop a reliable collection, storage and retrieval method for specific biomolecules. Unfortunately, in practice we found it required more education and implementation of external SOPs to achieve the same quality results at clinics as when well-trained clinical nurses used it,” he says. His advice? “Figure on implementation generally taking anywhere from 10 to 50 times more effort than you expect.”

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