Digital health company Aptatek Biosciences won Best in Show honors for the digital at-home health maintenance system it’s developing for disorders such as phenylketonuria (PKU) at a recent Mid Atlantic Bio Angels (MABA) 1st Pitch Life Science event in Philadelphia.
“We are honored to have been named Best in Show at the 1st Pitch event and were further gratified to have received useful and actionable feedback,” Michael Boyce-Jacino, PhD, Aptatek CEO, said in a press release. “We look forward to continuing to develop our Aptatek-At-Home technology and applying the excellent feedback we received during this event.”
PKU is a genetic metabolic disorder that causes an amino acid called phenylalanine to accumulate in the body. The disease is caused by a defect in the gene that helps produce the enzyme needed to break down phenylalanine. Without the enzyme needed to process phenylalanine, a buildup can develop when patients consume foods that contain protein or some artificial sweeteners.
The disease can lead to conditions such as intellectual disability, seizures, behavioral problems, and mental disorders. To help manage it, PKU patients — usually diagnosed at birth — must closely monitor phenylalanine levels throughout their lives. This monitoring is performed through centralized labs — a relatively pricey and slow process that’s also inaccessible to many patients around the world.
Aptatek’s portable, handheld, user-friendly monitoring device enables clinical-grade measurement of phenylalanine levels at home — eliminating the need for clinic visits or mail-in blood samples — and allowing patients to immediately adjust their diets to ensure appropriate phenylalanine levels are maintained. The proprietary design has been clinically proven with more than 40 small molecules that are not detectable outside labs, the company said.
“Aptatek’s monitoring capability could allow patients with PKU and their families to take greater control of their disease,” said Martin Phillips, MD, 1st Pitch panelist and MABA steering committee member. “Home and point-of-care monitoring is a rapidly growing field, and I think Aptatek’s technology is well positioned to succeed in PKU and many other applications in the future.”
Comprised of individuals with expertise and experience in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, MABA is a group of angel investors that meets monthly to hear investment pitches from early-stage life sciences companies.
MABA’s 1st Pitch Life Science program seeks to educate early-stage life science and healthcare companies — and an audience of life science ecosystem participants — about how angel investing works (typically, an angel investment is a form of equity financing, meaning the investor supplies funding in exchange for an equity position). Each event features company presentations and investor feedback. Sometimes investors provide one-on-one coaching. Audience members vote on Best in Show.
“I was impressed that the company had conducted a 1,000-patient survey to determine likelihood of uptake and appropriate pricing,” said Bernie Rudnick, an MABA co-founder and panelist. “We rarely see this in early companies, which points to the experience and sophistication of the CEO, a serial entrepreneur.”
According to the National PKU Alliance, roughly 16,500 U.S. residents are living with phenylketonuria.
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