M V Sasidhar, Founder at Urvogelbio Private Ltd
Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
M V Sasidhar: Inflammatory CNS diseases, specifically Alzheimer's disease (AD), are a global crisis and the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. AD progresses gradually, but patients inevitably lose their memory, ability to think, plan, and even recognise those close to them, leading to disability. According to the WHO World Report, AD and other dementias are projected to increase by 66% between 2005 and 2030. Disease pathology starts 10 to 15 years before clinical dementia. There are 4.5 million dementia patients in India and a conservative estimate, according to ARDSI, quotes that only 10% of Dementia patients are diagnosed, and the majority of the patients go undiagnosed. It is projected that the geriatric population would reach 14.5% by 2050 from 5.5% on the date.
The major problem in identification is the lack of accessible biomarkers and the stigma associated with these diseases. We have developed a technology that can be used in the non-invasive diagnosis of various dementias. It would function as a pre-screener at memory clinics and for inclusion in clinical trials. The lack of an easy biomarker system for dementias and neuronal disease management prompted us to develop this technology. The exosome platform technology would revolutionise the way neurological diseases would be managed.
Great Companies: What are the various Services provided by Urvogelbio Private Ltd
M V Sasidhar: The technology platform we have developed is useful for patients, doctors and pharma companies. Following are the primary services provided
• Noninvasive diagnostics - Prognosis, diagnosis, patient monitoring, therapy monitoring of Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis patients.
• Genetic tests for Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease include ApoE, Tomm40, PSEN1 and PSEN2.
• Our platform technology can provide access to complete molecular information from biofluids and bypass the need for tissues for diagnostics.
• Biotech and Pharma companies can leverage our neuronal exosome platform to enhance their R&D process from biomarker discovery through validation and development of diagnostics, companion diagnostics, etc.
• Biomarker discovery – We partner with various research organisations in their biomarker discovery and development programs.
• Clinical trials management – We reduce costs associated with clinical trials with various assay systems using our unique exosome platform
• Development of circulatory biomarker assay systems for unique needs
• Developing assays for target-drug engagement will lead to a cheaper, easier, and more reliable clinical output of drug-target interaction.
• Easier patient stratification in various clinical trials
• Companion diagnostic (information essential for safe use of the corresponding drug) development – We work with pharma companies to develop companion diagnostics for their therapeutics.
Great Companies: What makes Urvogelbio Private Ltd different from hundreds of other similar service providers?
M V Sasidhar:
Urvogelbio is in the business of developing non-invasive biomarkers for neuronal diseases. Most of the biomarkers for Dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders are primarily based on measuring terminal biomarkers, i.e. psychological monitoring, brain imaging using MRI etc. The above biomarkers are suboptimal and incapable of easy and early diagnosis of the diseases.
Our innovation will be able to quantify brain released factors non-invasively and complement the information with other blood-based analytes leading to a multi-analyte biomarker panel with increased sensitivity and specificity. Complex neuronal diseases need a multi-analyte biomarker technology which is the unique aspect embedded in our technology. We are associating ourselves with various academics and hospitals to reach our goals. The most important USP is our incubation in a hospital incubator, i.e. Apollo Hospitals Educational and Research Foundation, which has provided us access to patient samples, clinical expertise and incubational support for our start-up.
Great Companies: What are the struggles and challenges you face?
M V Sasidhar: There are very few options available for easy, non-invasive diagnosis of neuronal diseases and the development of these diagnostics is capital intense. Access to capital is the most challenging part. A life-science start-up that typically has increased incubation periods before we can arrive at a viable product. We were lucky to raise initial seed money through grants from the Biotechnology Industrial research assistance council (BIRAC) and seed funding from the dlabs incubator. With great difficulty, we could develop a minimum viable product and are currently completing the clinical validation of the diagnostic panels. The next phase is the clinical trials, where we would need access to patient samples, regulatory support, capital and logistics support which are typical bottlenecks of medical start-ups.
Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What do five years down the line look like for Urvogelbio Private Ltd?
M V Sasidhar: Implementation of blood-based biomarkers is the holy grail in managing neuronal diseases. We are aiming to contribute to this goal. We worked out a patent-pending platform technology based on exosomes to reach this goal. Exosomes are nanoparticles derived from blood and have diagnostic, therapeutic and drug-delivery applications. These nanoparticles help communicate between cells, almost synonymous to chat messages in chat boxes. We intercept this chatter in the exosomes and decode the information in these exosomes to arrive at an utterly non-invasive diagnosis in real-time.
We started our journey by establishing brain pathologies in Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, which will be extended to other conditions, i.e. Autism, Traumatic brain injury, stroke cancers and other pathological complications. We are gearing up to use the exosomes as cell-free therapeutics and drug delivery vehicles. Thus, we envision a fully grown biotech company growing accommodating innovations to change how diagnosis and therapeutics are incorporated to manage neurological complications. With 145 clinical trials in different phases for dementias, disease-modifying drugs will be a; our test panels would also screen patients early so that early treatment options would be available for dementia patients to alter their disease trajectory.
Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
M V Sasidhar: I would take the liberty of extending the piece to a few cents. These are essential skill sets one should cultivate before embarking on a start-up; Defining the purpose right, access to the network (scientific, business, marketing etc.), Planning the finances right, focusing on customers and sales right from day one.
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