CerviLenz Benefits From An Ecosystem of Support
Hillary Clinton, borrowing from an African proverb, once observed that it takes a village to raise a child. You could also say it takes an entire ecosystem of support to transform a good idea into a successful startup. CerviLenz, a JumpStart portfolio company, offers one especially telling case study on how many things have to go right for a startup to succeed.CerviLenz produces a low-cost, disposable device for measuring the length of a woman's cervix, a leading indicator of premature birth, which is in turn a leading cause of infant mortality. The device was originally developed in 2000 by an obstetrician in San Diego, who raised enough seed funding to get it patented and approved by the Food & Drug Administration. Still, it stalled for several years, with no clear path toward commercialization.Subsequent breakthroughs in progesterone treatments for at-risk women -- some conducted by the nationally prominent perinatologist Dr. Michael Ross, Chairman of the Board and Medical Director of CerviLenz -- unlocked a far larger market potential for the company, which reignited interest in the device."What CerviLenz can do is provide an obstetrician/gynecologist, nurse practitioner or nurse midwife the ability to do this screening test in about a minute, for about $30," says President and CEO Dean Koch, a veteran of the medical devices industry. "One in eight women delivers a baby pre-term, often with profound effects on the baby and family. CerviLenz's device, which enables doctors to cost-effectively diagnose women at-risk for pre-term birth, will allow doctors to intervene earlier, thus reducing the number of preemies born each year," says Lynn-Ann Gries, Chief Investment Officer of JumpStart. JumpStart's support, starting with an initial investment in April 2008, helped to fund clinical trials that have recently begun in Ohio (under the auspices of Ohio State University). As part of its ongoing guidance, JumpStart is working with Dean to identify additional funding opportunities, which will enable the company to accelerate its path to market. CerviLenz illustrates just how many elements a successful medical device startup requires: from a solid idea with strong intellectual property protection, to veteran operational leadership and medical advisory support, and of course, enough funding at key junctures of its development to continue the path to market. Stay tuned to watch CerviLenz's story continue to develop.
--a newly published mini-article from the latest JumpStart Connect e-letter. You can review an earlier issue here.