In what has already been a busy year for Vigilant Biosciences, the Ft. Lauderdale-based maker of early cancer detection products has reached another distribution deal. The company announced last week a three-year sales agreement with Eurobio (Les Ulis, France). Under the terms of the agreement, Eurobio will exclusively market and sell Vigilant Biosciences’ OncAlert Oral Cancer Risk Assessment System in France, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Eurobio will begin introducing the product to the European and North African market when the OncAlert POC Test and OncAlert LAB Assay are granted CE Mark approval, which is expected later this fall. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Earlier this year, Vigilant Biosciences completed a $5.5 million round of Series B funding. In March, at IDS 2015, the company announced a five-year, $5 million distribution agreement with BL&H for sale of the OncAlert system in Korea.
We asked Vigilant Biociences founder and CEO Matthew Kim about the new agreement. Here’s what Kim had to say.
Apex360: Could you describe the challenges and opportunities you saw in moving into these international markets (France, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia)?
Kim: We saw many opportunities as we looked to move into these international markets. Specifically, in France, there are more than 18,900 new cases of head and neck cancer every year. 90% of those cancers are for the mouth, the larynx, the oropharynx, and the hypopharynx, and 5,000 patients die every year from an oral cancer.
Additionally, France does not have a global screening campaign, though they observe a “Cancer Awareness Week” in September. Competitive tests of this type do not exist on the market, with the “gold standard” being a medical consultation, followed by biopsy.
The main targets in this market will be GPs, ENT specialists, and dentists. In France, there are 220,000 GPs, 3,000 ENT specialists, and 40,000 dentists.
As far as challenges go, obtaining “share of mind” with key opinion leaders was a hurdle to overcome, as it is with any new product. Additionally, since a generally accepted screening adjunctive or risk assessment test for oral cancer does not exist, there is no reimbursement for our tests in this market yet.
Apex360: Why was Eurobio the right partner to make this happen?
Kim: Eurobio is a leading developer, manufacturer, and marketer of high-quality, innovative in-vitro diagnostic products for biotechnology, research, and pharmaceutical companies. The company works closely with scientists in research institutes, including CNRS, INSERM, INRA, CNEVA, as well as life science companies, universities, hospitals, and medical laboratories. As such, Eurobio is an ideal partner for successful introduction of the Vigilant OncAlert Oral Cancer Risk Assessment System in this market. Eurobio is uniquely positioned to leverage the system in both the dental and medical channels, consistent with the cross-disciplinary standard of care for oral cancer detection and intervention.
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The scope of the oral cancer problem is large, which translates into opportunity for companies offering products that screen, diagnose, and treat oral cancer. In France alone, more than 38 million people are at risk for oral cancer due to tobacco use, heavy drinking, or exposure to the HPV virus—key risk factors for the disease—according to the World Health Organization and the HPV Information Centre.
“We are excited to partner with Vigilant Biosciences to bring this important test to patients in France and North Africa,” says Jean-Michel Carle, CEO of Eurobio. “When healthcare professionals are armed with this system to quickly and accurately assess the risk of oral cancer, before it progresses to late stage, lives can be saved.”
Sources: Apex360 e-interview with Matthew Kim; Vigilant Biosciences press release 6-10-15.