Cancer Diagnostics & IP News

Sep 25, 2020 | Blog


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Issue #65. Friday, September 25
Hello Everyone,

For this edition of the Zoic newsletter, we will be looking at the continuing growth of diagnostics, especially cancer diagnostics. We will cover that field as well as the use of wearables for medical purposes and a longer-term perspective on COVID-19 diagnostics. We will be also continuing our commentary on IP issues; this time discussing CRISPR and key learning points around this highly visible patent war.

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To Infinity & Beyond – Guest Robert Jacobson
Chris and Neal welcome Space investor and entrepreneur Robert C. Jacobson to the show. Robert provides a comprehensive overview of this spectacular industry, allowing everyone on Earth to understand the integral role space plays in our lives, how it will continue to transform the world, and how eventually we may all participate. It’s an industry that is notoriously complex—which means it is misunderstood. It influences and benefits nearly every other industry on the planet and finally how accessing space has never been easier.

His experience in private equity and angel investing is as a cofounder investment firm Desert Sky Holdings, and a principal with the Space Angels Network, which targeted early-stage aerospace opportunities.

Jacobson is an experienced and successful community builder, and he counts co-founding the Aerospace & Defense Forum – a global aerospace and defense leadership community of over 1500 executives – and co-founding the 62MileClub.

His background includes a degree from the University of Southern California, where he studied business and music, earned an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, completion of the Space Studies Program at Israel’s Technion Institute, and a certificate of Real Estate Investments from UCLA Extension.

Learn more about Robert and his new book, Space is Open for Business, at

Listen in on:
Apple PodcastsSpotify, or Soundcloud.

Deal Flow News & Insights

Chinese financial-technology juggernaut, known for its Alipay ‘ ubiquitous super app,’ handles payments, insurance, investments and more

Cancer Diagnostics & IP News
Diagnostics & Acquisitions
Cancer diagnostics is a large field that we have sometimes looked into and sometimes stayed away from. The market size and impact is enormous, but so is the potential development cost and regulatory time. We may be coming to a point, though, of actually seeing, in use, early detection of cancer using minimally invasive or non-invasive methods. Perhaps the biggest name in using blood to diagnose cancer early is Grail. This startup, spun-out originally from Ilumina may be acquired now by that company. Grail has raised $1.9 billion and has shown strong promise with early cancer detection, showing only a 1% false-positive rate with its tests. The issue with implementation now is full regulatory approval and getting health insurance reimbursement. This is quite possible given the data shown, but still takes a significant amount of time and investment.
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Besides spending a great deal of time money, there are also accelerated regulatory paths for certain cancers as well as current imaging technologies to leverage. Esophageal cancer, like many cancers, has no existing early diagnosis, and yet if caught early can dramatically increase survival. Some companies are targeting this cancer type by using current imaging methods such as CT. This means approval is faster due to using existing devices. However, the IP coverage may not be strong due to the agnostic nature of such a test. Another path is to develop a unique diagnostic but pursue a combination of using a CLIA lab (which does not require FDA approval) and FDA breakthrough status for approval of the full diagnostic with an accelerated timeline.
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Also in cancer imaging diagnosis, AI continues to be a strong tool for enhancing this established method. A recent study shows that artificial intelligence can pick up lung cancer that is missed by radiologists. This further reinforces the idea that medicine shortly will be a combination of AI and physician analysis, certainly for cancer first.
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Platform Growth
Continuing with imaging, we are also tracking the continuing growth of ultrasound as a platform. This is now quite a common device to be found in hospitals and clinics, and use is now spreading to outpatient applications, even for carpal tunnel. What we are still looking for is a company to break out of the similarities in ultrasound devices and data. Most companies in this space are agnostic to ultrasound devices. This is good for adoption but limits IP protection and market dominance. A company that can introduce a new set of applications using well-protected hardware would be quite interesting, especially one that does not have a high barrier to entry for users.
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We are also still seeing wearable devices expanding their applications into traditional medical applications. We have seen smartwatches used for heart tracking and even COVID symptom monitoring. Now, Fitbit actually received regulatory clearance to identify atrial fibrillation. This is in line with technology companies wanting to be medical companies as well, and so as a new technology can integrate into a well-established digital and user ecosystem.

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IP News
In IP news, the protracted patent war around CRISPR leads us to two key learning points: 1) the patent war itself indicates the significance of the technology and its transformational potential. Most major industry transitions are preceded by patent wars because various parties are fighting a high-stakes battle for the windfall. They position themselves to capture value through exclusive business access to an emerging trillion-dollar market or licensing revenues (“universal tax”) from it. From the light-bulb to the phone, radio, TV, automobile, Integrated Circuit, microwave, laser, PC, CD/DVD, mobile, and now CRISPR, a patent war is the strongest early sign of a major business opportunity. 2) On the substance of the patent dispute around the core invention, the original research team made a costly mistake in the very beginning, which left the door open for the competition. It was a failure of imagination, rather than a faulty legal patent strategy, that lead to a huge loss of value. Surprisingly, this lack of imagination is one of the core problems for breakthrough inventions. We address it in Zoic IP workshops, by running a broad range of brainstorming sessions and business games.
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What We’re Reading
University Programs Producing Entrepreneurs Receiving Venture Funding
Good vs. Great Companies: The Unseen Truths of Breakout Success
 USA Today
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes History as the First Woman, Jewish Person to Lie in State at Capitol Ceremony
Ant Group IPO: Five Things to Know About the Alibaba Affiliate Aiming For the Largest Offering in History

Connect With Zoic Capital
The Biweekly Dealflow Update, curated by the team at Zoic Capital.

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