Culver City-based Avenda Health, which has developed a laser heat treatment platform targeting prostate cancer and related conditions, had two major developments last month.
On August 9, the company announced that the US Food and Drug Administration had granted permission for a randomized clinical trial of its laser ablation technology to treat prostate cancer.
Then on August 25, the company announced that it had raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Chicago-based VCapital, a venture capital firm.
Both are milestones on the road to commercialization of laser heat therapy to treat prostate cancer.
Avenda Health was started by three UCLA faculty colleagues in June 2017; two of the co-founders—Brittany Berry-Pusey and Chief Executive Officer Shyam Natarajan—were co-founders of UCLA’s Science Business Center, started by the late businessman and innovator Roy Doumani. The third co-founder, Chief Medical Officer Leonard Marks, is a professor of urology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.
The trio sought to develop laser ablation technology to treat prostate cancer that could be applied in an outpatient setting. The technology involves the use of a laser needle and an optical thermal sensor to precisely target and treat soft tissue. The increased precision minimizes urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction, two common side effects of conventional radiation or chemotherapy treatments for prostate cancer.
In developing the laser system, Avenda discovered that a more accurate map of prostate cancer was needed. They developed a 3D mapping system that uses artificial intelligence algorithms and probabilities to create a map of the cancer area that can then be used to guide treatment. Both can be used in an outpatient setting.
FDA clearance includes issuing an investigational device exemption to allow these two technologies to be used together in a randomized control trial. The goal is to demonstrate a higher success rate with fewer harmful side effects in treating prostate cancer than traditional chemotherapy or surgical techniques.
“Our mission is to advance prostate cancer therapy so that patients no longer have to choose between treatment or quality of life,” Natarajan said in the company’s announcement.
“Using the latest deep learning technology, iQuest gives doctors and their patients more insight to identify the best treatment on an individual basis,” added Natarajan. “We are pleased to receive IDE approval so that we can further prostate cancer research for the millions of men affected each year.”
According to the release, if the clinical trial proves successful, it could lead to the first FDA approval of a localized treatment therapy for prostate cancer in more than four decades.
Last year, Avenda received a discovery device designation from the FDA for its laser ablation system; This designation means that the agency believes it is highly likely that the technology will be better than the current standard of care.
The $10 million funding round Avenda announced on August 25 will help the company complete the randomized clinical trial.
VCapital partner Ryan Kole said in the announcement that Avenda’s focus on improving men’s health is part of the reason for taking the lead role in the funding round.
“We are thrilled to be a part of Avenda Health’s journey in making incredible strides in the future of prostate cancer care,” said Kole. “Investing in something meaningful, innovative and groundbreaking in men’s health is something that VCapital is proud of.”
The company said the $10 million in new capital will be used to expand the use of its 3D mapping platform and continue to develop clinical trials. It follows about $9 million in funding the company previously raised, bringing the total to $19.3 million.
Leave a Reply