Pacific Edge Ltd., is inching its way to commercialisation of its bladder cancer detection tests - showing that it can be done, but never 'overnight'.
Above all it also demonstrates just how much effort it takes to turn an idea, detecting the presence of cancer cells in urine, and turning that into a sellable product - an assay test that is easily and accurately able to be used by urologists and physicians as a diagnostic and prognosis tool.
Along the way the Dunedin-based company has had to prove its methodology in different locations; so far in Australasia, America and Europe, and is now working on the best way to commercially roll out the tests.
For New Zealand and Australia, as its home-based testing ground, that means setting up a diagnostic laboratory in Dunedin; to where the collected urine samples are sent for analysis and evaluation. The potential Australasian market size is in excess of 50,000 tests annually.
Its strategy in other locations will be to develop and run diagnostic laboratories in selected geographies. This will initially be for its bladder cancer detection technology, then adding its colorectal cancer prognostic product.
The company also has other cancer tests it is developing, and these would also be analysed and evaluated through its laboratories.
One part of its commercialisation will be 'turn-key' licences for select partners in Europe and
The market itself is large. There's over 63,000 new cases of bladder cancer a year in America, which means more than 1,000,000 people will require investigation whether they have the disease. The cost of these investigations is between US$520m to $1 billion, using conventional clinical technology.
In announcing its half-year results, in an understated way Pacific Edge says, "the company expects that Cxbladder could reasonably be expected to enable significantly better outcomes for the patient and cost savings for the healthcare system."
Which is short-hand for saying they can clip part of that ticket by providing a test that is more accurate than the other urine tests in common usage.
Pacific Edge has shown in clinical trials that cancer detection methodology is better than the alternatives, and provides physicians with a better of idea of a cancer's progression. The cost of developing this proof isn't insignificant however, and yet again, the company recorded a net loss.
For the half year to the end of Sept. that loss was just under $1.4m - the majority being for the company's clinical trials, product development and intellectual property protection.
During the year existing shareholders invested another NZ$4.7m in the company; so it has a significant number of people who have faith that in the longterm, it will deliver.
And it is a longterm game. The company was formed in February 2001 based on multiple cancer biomarker research out of Otago University.
By going down a cancer diagnostic path, rather than a 'cure' (though that might be possible later on), its speed to market can be relatively quicker.
But never overnight.