Dublin Startup Stories: Oncomark

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Dublin startups tell their stories, powered by DCU Ryan Academy.

Meet Des O’Leary, CEO of OncoMark

Tell us about your product…
OncoMark Ltd are developing a novel, game-changing breast cancer assay, called OncoMasTR, which has the potential to transform clinical practice and patient care. OncoMasTR will help clinicians to decide which patients should receive chemotherapy for early stage breast cancer, which is a global clinical and economic issue. This assay has far superior performance over current competitive assays, which do not fully meet the clinical need. Our aim is to develop OncoMasTR as a CE marked kit that can be used in hospital laboratories, and penetrate a global market.

What inspired you to start Oncomark?
OncoMark was set up by Professor William Gallagher and Stephen Penney with the aim of developing novel panels of cancer biomarkers to reduce the over-prescription of aggressive therapies and to allow more tailored patient management.

How is Oncomark different?
The primary motivation driving all research in OncoMark is the development of biomarker assays and technologies that will improve the quality of life for cancer patients. OncoMark is the sole and exclusively licensee of the OncoMasTR technology, which was originally developed by Dr Adrian Bracken of Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with Professor William Gallagher of UCD (also our founder and Chief Scientific Officer). OncoMasTR will help clinicians to decide which patients should receive chemotherapy for early stage breast cancer, which is a global clinical and economic issue. This assay has far superior performance over current competitive assays, which do not fully meet the clinical need.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?
The target market is breast cancer, which is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, with 1.6 million new cases annually worldwide and increasing by around 1.5% each year. Due to mammographic screening, the majority of these cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, therefore representing a large potential target market for this assay. In the EU and USA, this totals 270,000 patients annually.

OncoMark-Dublin-Globe Pictured outside OncoMark headquarters in NovaUCD: Dr Máirín Rafferty (COO), Desmond O’Leary (CEO) and Professor William Gallagher, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, (co-founder and CSO), OncoMark.

What’s your business model?
We will develop a CE marked multi index prognostic assay, in a kit format, that can be used in individual hospitals for determination of the risk of recurrence of breast cancer patients. To facilitate route to market we will establish key manufacturing and distribution partnerships to aid uptake in key global markets, principally EU and USA.

What was the funding process like?
Funding to date has been from EU Research Grants, the most recent of which relates to the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Phase 2 programme, for the commercial development of a new breast cancer test. This award will fund the development and commercialisation of OncoMasTR.

Who are your investors?
To date OncoMark does not have any third party investors; our next step is to seek investment finance to bolster and support the EU Grant award, and quicken our journey to market.

What are the biggest challenges your business faces today?
Recruiting experienced Product Development personnel and executing our business plan.

What do you think motivated your investors to write that check?
Our grant application was successful due to the strength of the OncoMasTR proof of concept data, the significant market opportunities in breast cancer diagnostics, and the experience of the OncoMark Team.

What milestones do OncoMark plan to achieve in the next six months?
Build out the team for OncoMasTR Product Development, and commence the analytical validation of OncoMasTR.

What advice can you offer companies in Dublin who are just starting out?
Get plenty of advice from experienced people, but it’s critical that your main advisors have experience in your particular domain. Be prepared to give up equity in your company to risk takers, in return for investment.

Tell us one (or more) things you love about Dublin as a startup community and as a city?
Dublin is small and personal, and people are very open to hearing and giving feedback on a new business proposal.

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