So Oriana, tell us a bit about yourself and AOA Dx Inc.
I am the CEO and Co-Founder at AOA Dx Inc. I’ve been working in the FemTech space for the last decade, always focused on innovating diagnostics for women’s health. I come from an international background and immigrated to the US for university and stayed ever since. I speak 4 languages!
“I’ve been working in the FemTech space for the last decade, always focused on innovating diagnostics for women’s health.”
At AOA, we are focused on the early detection of ovarian cancer. In order to solve this major problem, we collaborated with Prof Saragovi and his lab at McGill University. Prof. Saragovi is a renowned researcher with over 250 publications in the area of oncology. Prof. Saragovi’s team identified unique and promising biomarkers for the early-stage detection of ovarian cancer. In collaboration with Prof Saragovi, our team is further developing this technology. The name of the test for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer from a blood sample is called AKRIVIS GD(TM).
As a company what are AOA Dx passionate about?
I co-founded AOA with Anna and Alex to make a lasting impact in the space of women’s health. Women are half of the population but diseases that disproportionately affect women receive less than 7% of funding. Our goal is to change this paradigm.
“Women are half of the population but diseases that disproportionately affect women receive less than 7% of funding. Our goal is to change this paradigm.”
1 in 78 women will be diagnosed in her lifetime and the disease is on the rise around the world, however, there has been little to no innovation in the diagnosis since 1987. Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is crucial, as survival of women with Stage 1 disease is >90%, whereas stage 4 is only around 30%.
“1 in 78 women will be diagnosed in her lifetime and the disease is on the rise around the world”
Today, most available tests aren’t sufficiently sensitive or specific to diagnose the disease early, leading to over 80% of women being diagnosed at late stages. There are also no screening methods like there are for cervical or prostate cancers.
We formed AOA with the aim of bringing innovative, impactful and cost-effective medical technologies from research and development into the hands of patients and providers. The three of us have been working together for a decade in the start-up environment focused on women’s health.
What are your dreams for AOA Dx?
Our goal is to have our first product on the market in 5 years. It is an exciting and challenging journey to develop a diagnostic, put it through the necessary FDA regulatory approval and develop the clinical studies to prove that it works. There is also great potential to expand our technology into the diagnosis of other cancers as well, and we are continuously doing further research on this in the lab.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned since starting your company?
There were many new things we had to learn and I’m proud of the sharp learning curve we climbed. We had to learn everything from fundraising to antibody development and did so very quickly. We formed our company in the middle of a world pandemic with the three of us in different places and accomplished so much in one year.
“The key to achieving that was really trusting each other and believing in our ability to succeed.”
The key to achieving that was really trusting each other and believing in our ability to succeed. We pushed really hard, didn’t take no as an answer and just fought hard for what we really wanted.
So my most important lesson is to surround yourself with the right people. My biggest motivation has been my team – there is absolutely no way I would be able to do what I am doing, going through the ups and downs of the startup life, raise money or build AOA without Anna and Alex.
What would you tell people who say FemTech raises issues that are private matters or worries only feminists have?
“Anything that affects women affects over 50% of the population, affects a huge workforce, affects the world’s ability to have future generations.”
Women’s health issues are absolutely NOT only issues for women. They are issues for the entire population. Anything that affects women affects over 50% of the population, affects a huge workforce, affects the world’s ability to have future generations. Any women is someone’s daughter, mother, wife, partner, friend, co-worker.
Oriana Papin Zoghbi is the co-founder & CEO of AOA Dx Inc. – a FemTech company focused on the early detection of ovarian cancer.