In order for a Pharmaceutical company to go from the discovery of an active drug molecule to a brand name on the shelf, they must first put the drug through multiple stages of clinical trials. Moreover, each stage of clinical trials can cost an order of magnitude more money that the previous stage. That is to say, it can cost a pharmaceutical company hundreds of millions of dollars just to pass clinical trials and become FDA approved. What is more, only a small fraction of drugs that begin the clinical trial stage actually make it through all the stages. As you can imagine, if a pharmaceutical company could predict which drugs have a greatly likelihood of passing clinical trials, they could potentially save lots of time and hundreds of millions of dollars. This is where Presage Biosciences steps in.
Presage Biosciences, a local Seattle startup that is a spinoff of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, specializes in testing combinations of drugs in vivo to better predict their efficacy. Having spun out of Dr. Jim Olsen’s lab at the Hutch, Presage specifically focuses on predicting the efficacy of cancer drugs. They do so by using the Presage platform, a technology that allows Presage to inject combinations of cancer drugs with high spatial resolution at multiple sites within a single tumor. Presage’s world-class researchers then subsequently apply their analysis of the tumor to determine the reaction of the drug with said tumor. Pharmaceutical companies can then make an informed decision of whether or not it is worth going to clinical trials. As Dr. Olsen states in an interview by Luke Timmerman on xconomy.com,
We can help halt inefficient programs at the early stages before Big Pharma companies put millions of dollars into programs that are going to fail. We can help weed out the winners from the losers early on.
Being a relatively new startup, Presage has already started to garner success. The company with around 20 employees has recently secured millions in Angel investing and has been tapped by other biopharmaceutical companies to use their preclinical testing platform. Presage has targeted a very specific market: pharmaceutical companies that have developed a cancer drug that is at the pre-clinical trial stage. Being a B2B business, their marketing strategy is a little different than that of a B2C strategy. One way Presage acquires customers is by making direct contact with cancer pharmaceutical and research companies through there own extensive contact network that they have built over the past decades. These contacts have been built up by research scientists at the Hutch as well as through previous industry experience in the medical field. As the number of partnerships they make grow, the visibility and desirability of Presage’s services grows in the eyes of those researching and creating cancer drugs.
One of Presage’s first partnerships was with Pfizer, the 2nd largest pharmaceutical company in the world. The partnership was not all that lucrative for Presage; however, the partnership did put Presage on the map and gave them a ton of visibility and credibility for future potential partnerships. In my opinion, this was a genius marketing move on their part has helped propel Presage to become the incredibly successful startup that it is today.