Ascendant Dx Wins Regional InnovateHER Competition

On Friday, we were informed that we have been selected as the winner of the SBA's Regional InnovateHER competition. InnovateHER is an annual competition sponsored by the Small Business Administration, showcasing small companies with products that add value to the lives of women and their families.  The national stage of the competition is held in March 2016 in Washington, DC. Dr. Anna Daily, Ascendant's Chief Scientist on the Melody project presented our case and accepted the award on our behalf.

   

Patricia Beckmann, PhD, Adds Her Expertise to Ascendant Diagnostics Team

A prominent scientist and inventor is consulting with Ascendant to help bring its first product to market.

Patricia Beckmann, PhD has a wealth of science and business experience. Among her many accomplishments, Beckmann was the co-inventor of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel (2012 worldwide sales over $8B), for which she was awarded National Inventor of the Year in 2000. She has over 50 scientific publications and more than 40 issued U.S. patents.

Beckmann is the founder and managing director of BioStrategy, LLC, a strategic and management consultancy. In her role with Ascendant Diagnostics, she consults on both science and business strategies.

Prior to founding BioStrategy, Beckmann was the president and executive director of the Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute (OTRADI) in Portland, Oregon. While there, she met Omid Moghadam, chief executive officer of Ascendant Diagnostics.

“Recently, when Omid asked me to serve as a consultant for Ascendant, I agreed because I feel confident in the company’s overall professional expertise as well as in Omid’s solid background in business,” notes Beckmann.

Ascendant is currently working on developing its first product, MelodyDx™, which is a breast cancer-screening test using a protein profile of a person’s tears. “The goal of our proteomics-based diagnostic screening tool is to increase breast cancer detection at earlier stages while also reducing unnecessary exposure to radiation and painful biopsy procedures,” explains Moghadam.”

Clinical trials are slated to begin in the second half of 2014 and Ascendant anticipates bringing MelodyDx to market in 2015. Beckman feels positive about the scientific basis of MelodyDx and says, “While MelodyDx is at an early stage in development, there is a strong scientific foundation to the work.”

Beckmann has worked on proteomics-based diagnostic projects with some similarities to MelodyDx – and also has solid business experience. She was chief scientific officer at Homestead Clinical Corporation (now Integrated Diagnostics), a startup financed by Seattle’s Accelerator focusing on proteomic biomarkers for cancer. Previously at Vulcan Capital, the investment vehicle for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Beckmann was responsible for biotechnology venture investment opportunities.

“My background in science and business helps me identify a project with potential and push the science through to become a successful commercial product,” says Beckmann. “I understand what it takes to commercialize a product.”

Beckmann believes that tests based on proteomics and biomarkers will be far more prevalent in the future and used to a much more through personalized medicine and identification of best therapeutic choices for diseases. She’s excited about bringing MelodyDx to market as a diagnostic tool or even as a precursor to mammography.

“The more tools we have in our toolbox, the better off we are to diagnose disease at an early stage,” explains Beckmann. “The earlier you diagnose a disease, the better and more specific your treatment options and the better the outcome for the patient.”

New Study Questions Value of Mammograms

Controversy exists over the results of an expansive, long-term breast cancer screening study.

The results of a long-term breast cancer screening study involving 90,000 Canadian women has deepened the divide between healthcare professionals and cancer patients who feel that mammograms save lives and others who believe that there is not enough evidence to show that this is true.

Check out a recent New York Times article, "Vast Study Casts Doubts on Value of Mammograms," that highlights study results and discusses both sides of the controversy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/health/study-adds-new-doubts-about-value-of-mammograms.html

Ascendant Diagnostics is developing its first product, MelodyDx, a proteomic-based screening test that offers earlier, more accurate and less invasive breast cancer screening. "The problem with current screening techniques is that they only give you an image," says Omid Moghadam, chief executive officer, Ascendant Diagnostics. "Proteomic and genomic tests give you different types of information." He adds that down the road, with better informatics techniques, we may be able to determine the progression and speed of cancer, rather than just detecting its presence.

 

Ascendant Diagnostics in Good Company With Leading Edge Research

Proteomics research utilizes tears to diagnose and manage serious diseases.

Ascendant Diagnostics is making progress in developing its first product, MelodyDx™. The goal of our tear-based diagnostic screening method is early stage breast cancer detection utilizing the proteomic profile present in human tears.

Tears provide insight into molecular events occurring within the body. Collection of tears is easy, non-invasive and definitely low risk for patients.

The term proteome applies to all the proteins produced by a living thing. Proteomics refers to the comprehensive study of the structure and function of proteins.

Proteomic technologies are playing an increasingly important role in medical diagnostics, drug discovery and molecular medicine. According to the American Medical Association, current research is looking at protein families linked to diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

It turns out that Ascendant is in good company studying the proteins found in tears to help detect or manage a serious disease.

According to a recent blog posting, http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2014/01/introducing-our-smart-contact-lens.html, Google’s secretive Google X lab is testing a smart contact lens. The lenses are designed to take a reading of the glucose level of a diabetic patient’s tears every second and wirelessly transmit the results to an external device.

The lens uses a tiny wireless transmitter and a miniature glucose sensor embedded between two layers of a soft contact. Tears leak into tiny openings in the lens, which enables a reading of the user’s glucose levels. Using tears for glucose testing is more convenient and less painful than traditional finger prick blood tests.

The hope is that the lens will help diabetics regulate their glucose levels more effectively and better manage their disease. Google reports that it will take at least five years to bring the smart lenses to market.

Omid Moghadam, chief executive officer, Ascendant Diagnostics, reports on the status of Ascendant’s proteomic tear research: “We’re in the process of selecting an automated sample processing instrument and proteomic software in preparation for upcoming clinical validation trials for MelodyDx,” he says. “Our clinical trials are slated to begin in the second half of 2014 and we anticipate bringing MelodyDx to market in 2015.

MelodyDx is being developed to substantially increase the accuracy of cancer diagnostics, enable detection of disease at the earliest possible stage and improve patient compliance.

A Holiday Message From Ascendant Diagnostics

Holiday greetings and an end-of-year update on our innovative breast cancer diagnostic test in development.

The holiday season is a time to celebrate, but also a time to give thanks and to reflect on our accomplishments of the past year.

The Ascendant Diagnostics team is proud of the significant progress we have made with our Melody Dx™ research project. Melody Dx is a tear-based diagnostic screening test for early detection of breast cancer, which Ascendant is currently in the process of developing. This test is a patent-pending biomarker panel, which distinguishes differences in proteins present in tears in order to detect breast cancer.

The goal of our diagnostic screening tool is to increase breast cancer detection at earlier stages while also reducing unnecessary exposure to radiation and painful biopsy procedures. To date, the biggest challenge to increasing the survival rate from breast cancer is accurate early detection.

Ascendant conducted clinical studies with five clinics nationwide during 2013. These clinics collected tears from patients being treated for breast cancer (and other cancers) and those coming in for biopsy analysis. Tear samples were also collected from women outside the clinics for general population studies, a step necessary for commercializing a diagnostic test.

In 2014, additional clinics will begin collecting tear samples and other initiatives will be launched to increase the number of samples in our “tear bank” for general population studies. In the new year, we will also announce other exciting developments including a strategic partnership, new state-of-the-art equipment and software, and additional professional staff to help successfully bring our innovative diagnostic test to market.

In the first quarter of 2014, we will unveil a new company logo and launch our newly-designed website. We’ll continue to update you on the progress of our groundbreaking research and also bring you articles of interest about breast cancer screening and diagnosis.

Currently, the most effective screening method available for breast cancer is mammography. This article http://www.celebritydiagnosis.com/2013/11/abc-news-amy-robach-diagnosed-breast-cancer/ is on the website "Celebrity Diagnosis: Teachable Moments in Medicine™." It tells an interesting story of an ABC news correspondent unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer and also provides suggested mammography screening guidelines.

Mammography is an important screening tool, however Ascendant Diagnostics believes there is a potential for innovative new screening techniques to substantially increase the accuracy of breast cancer diagnostics, enable detection of disease at the earliest possible stage and improve patient compliance.

We end 2013 on that hopeful note and will continue to pursue our fight against breast cancer with additional resources and vigor in 2014 and beyond.

Sending you and yours best wishes for good health, happiness and fulfillment in the coming year.

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Chief Executive Officer, Ascendant Diagnostics

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Need to Know About Dense Breasts and Mammograms

Having dense breast tissue is normal and fairly common. However it generally makes it harder for doctors to detect cancer on mammograms.

Mammograms (x-ray pictures of the breast), which help doctors detect tumors that cannot be felt, are an essential breast cancer-screening tool for women. Doctors also use mammograms as a diagnostic tool to take detailed pictures of suspicious areas revealed by a screening mammogram.

Although mammograms can be very useful in spotting tumors, there are some pitfalls. Mammograms may not spot all breast cancers, especially when women have dense breast tissue.

One of the downsides of mammogram technology is the risk of false-negative results. That’s when a mammogram appears to be normal in spite of breast cancer being present. According to a recent National Cancer Institute (NCI) Fact Sheet: “Overall screening mammograms miss about 20 percent of breast cancers that are present at the time of screening.” One major reason for false negative results from mammography is increased breast density.

NCI notes: “Breast density describes the relative amount of different tissues present in the breast. A dense breast has less fat than glandular and connective tissue.”

Breast density cannot be determined accurately by a physical examination. “Currently, the determination of density by radiologists is a qualitative, visual assessment requiring a mammogram,” says Mark D. Kettler, MD, associate professor of diagnostic radiology; Oregon Health & Science University, Section of Women’s Imaging. He adds, “Evolving technologies may provide more objective and quantitative density assessment in the future.”

(Copy, breast images and pie chart above courtesy of American College of Radiology, www.acr.org)

Dr. Kettler says that generally, though not always, younger women have denser breasts and as women age, the ratio of fatty tissue to dense issue (fibroglandular tissue, which is both glandular and connective tissue) increases. “Generally, the fattier the breast tissue, the easier it is to spot abnormalities including masses, calcifications and distortions of tissue,” explains Kettler. According to the NCI, “Mammogram films of breasts with higher density are harder to read and interpret than those of less dense breasts.”

“Our recommendation is to get a baseline mammogram at age 40 to determine breast density and go from there based on risk,” explains Kettler. “If women are committing to yearly screening beginning at age 40 based on dense breast tissue, there is a role for digital tomosynthesis in lieu of conventional mammography.”