Dr. Steve Goldman and Jordan Lancaster are developers of the beating heart graft technology, MyCardia, and serve as Avery Therapeutics’ chief medical and science officers. Jennifer Koevary serves as Chief Operating and Financial Officer.
This idea was birthed through research at the Sarver Heart Center and the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. In November of 2016, Avery Therapeutics won it big by being awarded the grand prize of cash and technology services from the Get Started Tucson pitch competition held by Cox Business and Inc. Magazine.
Jayla Goodloe spoke with the team to hear more about how they are doing and discuss their journey.
Cox Business: How did the idea of Avery Therapeutics come about? How has it changed or stayed the same?
Dr. Steve Goldman: The idea to form Avery Therapeutics resulted from a discussion with executives of a stem cell company. They saw our preliminary data and suggested we create a company because our data was so unique. The idea behind the company has not really changed, but we added more team members and started fundraising.
Jordan Lancaster: We saw a major unmet need (heart failure) and had developed a breakthrough technology that in pre-clinical testing demonstrated promising results. The idea and focus of the company remains largely unchanged from when we founded.
Cox Business: Since winning Get Started, has your business seen any significant changes? For example, have there been any location/earnings/employee/investment changes?
Dr. Steve Goldman: Our business continues to expand especially with the publicity from Get Started.
Jordan Lancaster: We continue to make significant strides in the path of testing and getting approval for a medical therapeutic technology.
Jennifer Koevary: We have appointed an advisory board of business, clinical and scientific experts. We now have licensed intellectual property from the University of Arizona and have raised $575,000 through friends and family investment.
Cox Business: What makes tissue-engineered therapeutic solutions an appealing industry in today’s society?
Jennifer Koevary: Many current treatments focus on symptoms and do not solve the underlying problem; tissue engineering has the potential to replace diseased tissue and solve the underlying problem. Specific to our application, 26 million people worldwide suffer from heart failure. These patients take pharmaceuticals that can help in the early stages of disease, but there are no effective therapies to prevent progression of disease and 50% of patients die within 5 years of diagnosis. Our tissue engineered graft has the potential to stop progression of disease and improve patient quality of life so they can go back to enjoying an active lifestyle.
Dr. Steve Goldman: Our tissue engineered solution is specific for heart repair; it enables stem cells to seed on a matrix, grow, mature, secrete extracellular matrix, blood vessels and growth factors that generate new heart muscle cells.
Cox Business: What are some obstacles that your company has faced as a new startup and how have you worked to overcome them?
Dr. Steven Goldman: The obstacle of adequate funds is always present. We completed our successful Friends and Family round by being persistent, obtaining publicity as a startup from Get Started Tucson, the University of Arizona, etc. and having contacts with medical professionals see the potential for this technology.
Jordan Lancaster: I think one obstacle is distraction. Staying focused on what is critically necessary to move the technology forward.
Cox Business: What’s the next step for your company moving forward?
Dr. Steve Goldman: We have a number of submitted grants that will allow us to continue with non-dilutive funding. We need to generate our Fibroblast Master Cell Bank and hire a CEO.
Jordan Lancaster: Advance the technology from “research grade” to “clinical grade”.
Jennifer Koevary: We are working on additional pre-clinical studies and manufacturing requirements to be able to get permission from the FDA to start clinical trials.
Cox Business: If you had one piece of advice to give someone just starting out, what would it be?
Dr. Steven Goldman: Be persistent, make sure you get along with the people you work with.
Jordan Lancaster: Find a good team, think about your capital requirements, present whenever you get the opportunity and stay focused!
Jennifer Koevary: Find team members and collaborators to supplement your expertise.