Meet John Hart, President of Northwestern’s newest MedTech Startup, NanoCytomics LLC

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NanoCytomics LLC, a privately held medical technology company developing novel cancer risk-stratification tests for use in primary care physicians’ offices, today announced the appointment of John W. Hart as president. Hart brings to NanoCytomics 35 years of experience in various healthcare sectors, including more than two decades at Baxter International, Allegiance and Cardinal Health.

The company intends to revolutionize the risk stratification of patients, helping physicians identify those likely to benefit from gold-standard diagnostic procedures as early as possible, when cancer treatments can be the most effective. NanoCytomics’ tests are based on its novel, proprietary biophotonics technology platform known as partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy. Biophotonics deploys optical imaging and sensing technologies to study the structures and functions of cells.

Through biophotonics in general and the company’s PWS platform in particular, NanoCytomics can identify cellular abnormalities at the nanoscale level. In so doing, the company anticipates making a profound impact on the ability to stratify cancer risk for an individual patient at a dramatically earlier stage of disease progression, potentially helping physicians to save millions of lives in the process.

WhiteCityNews Interview with John Hart, NanoCytomics’ President

John Hart, President, NanoCytomics

John Hart, President, NanoCytomics

I had an opportunity to talk to John Hart about launching NanoCytomics, working closely with Northwestern, the local community and how his background has prepared him for his new role.

WCN: First Congratulations on the Launch of NanoCytomics LLC, and your appointment as President.

Thank you, John. I have been very impressed with the vision and the focus of our founders, Vadim Backman, Hemant Roy and Hari Subramanian. They have a strong belief that “we” should be able to do a better job detecting cancer early when treatments can be most effective and save more lives. I am also impressed with the collaborative environment and support from Northwestern University. It is exciting and an honor to join the team and this important time. And congratulations to you on the launch of White City News.

WCN: NanoCytomics technology improvements in patient survival rates through the early detection of the leading forms of cancer. How much time are you saving over conventional tests or methods?

In some cases, we will be able to save months, even years, in the detection of cancer, which means potentially life-saving therapies can begin sooner. This is because our tests will be recommended and performed by primary care physicians during the course of routine office exams. The physician will order a NanoCytomics test for patients who are at a higher risk for cancer, such as a 50-year-old lifelong smoker. If test results are positive, the physician will recommend cancer diagnostic tests using traditional gold standard methods, such as CT scans of the lungs.

Our tests are also rapid – we will generate lab results within a day or two of receiving the patient cells.

WCN: As you know investors are also interested in innovation that provides a cost benefit over conventional methods, are you also able to help reduce healthcare costs?

Early detection will very likely reduce the treatment intensity and therefore the attendant costs, and at the same time helping many more people survive cancer. We will be developing cost-effectiveness models in the future, but we are certain that our tests will be very cost-effective for two reasons. First, patients that require a comprehensive diagnostic workup would be identified sooner, and receiving an early cancer diagnosis can help physicians deliver treatments when they are most likely to be effective and potentially less expensive. Second, patients that do notrequire a comprehensive diagnostic exam would be able to avoid the high costs of these workups, as would their third-party payers. The cost-saving benefits of reducing unnecessary utilization of the healthcare system will be quite significant.

WCN: It seems like Northwestern does a very good job of launching startups while continuing to provide a strong partnership with the University and its resources.

We are very excited about our partnership with Northwestern and believe that it will provide mutual benefits for many years. Northwestern’s Chemistry of Life Processes (CLP) Institute has been incredibly supportive of NanoCytomics and our founders, which is why we made a point to highlight their contributions in our news release and on our new website.

Our license agreements with Northwestern provide incentive and motivation for long-term collaboration. Research success will breed commercial success, which in turn will create more funds for additional research. Our success in commercialization (to include efficiency and cost effectiveness) will help to accelerate Northwestern’s research efforts.

WCN: It also seems like the co-founders are taking an active role in the Board and management. How important is this tie for NanoCytomics’ as you are building the company?

Yes, we have structured roles within their professional agreements with Northwestern and Boston University so that they can remain involved with the company and their proprietary technology platform. They have the history and frankly the intellectual capacity to extend this technology platform beyond the discussions we are having today.

We hope to improve on the current model of bringing new technology successfully to market in a way that is beneficial for Northwestern, our founders, and our future investors. Too often founders get pushed to the sidelines, unable to prevent the dilution of their financial investments. Therefore, we will structure future deals with an eye toward maintaining the ongoing, active engagement of our founders.

With successful SBIR and STTR grant funding we have been able to make significant development progress without the early-stage funding that so many startups are required to take. It’s worth noting that Dr. Backman is among the top recipients of all NIH and NSF grants over the past several years.

WCN: I am always interested in the entrepreneurial mindset. You have a very diverse background, from corporate to startup, in the medtech and health IT industries. What experiences from your background have you found to be the most helpful in launching NanoCytomics.

I feel like I have been preparing for this job my entire career. I graduated from Dartmouth College with a liberal arts education and an engineering degree. I have never considered myself the “engineer’s engineer,” but one who has been able to work with engineers and all the other specialty areas that are needed to bring a product to market.

I learned to seek help from people smarter than me and to build a team of people who all have a stake in meeting a common goal – help people survive cancer.

When I worked at Baxter I was fortunate to become the project manager in our Drug Delivery program. I worked with scientists, engineers, quality assurance, legal, regulatory, manufacturing, finance, and numerous pharmaceutical partners to help bring over a hundred new product codes to market. As I progressed in my career I had direct operational responsibility for many of these same areas in both large and small companies/divisions and learned how to keep a team focused on improving our technologies and meeting business goals and commitments.

WCN: I always like to see promising new companies launching from our Universities, staying in our community. How important is it to you to build this company in Chicago.

The Chicago area has a unique opportunity to become the medical technologies innovative hub in the nation, if not the world. We have a number of large and small medical technology and distribution companies, including Baxter, Abbott, Cardinal, Medline, Fenwal, Hollister, etc. We also have great hospitals, health systems and academic medical centers, including Northwestern Memorial, North Shore, Rush and Loyola. And we have incredible universities, such as Northwestern, University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and more.

Organizations like IBIO, PROPEL and industry leaders like Lester Knight, Scott Garrett and others, are working hard to help us come together to become a true medical technologies hub. It is very exciting to be in this city at this time. And for us, we are confident that we will be able to recruit world-class talent to help us accelerate our work right here in Evanston.

WCN: Thank you for taking your time to talk to me, is there anything else you would like to share with our community?

I would just like to highlight how important I think collaboration and partnerships will be for us and for solving significant issues like the early risk-stratification and detection of cancer. We anticipate attracting the interest and develop future collaboration agreements with significant diagnostic and lab testing companies, such as Abbott, Beckman Coulter, Quest, Lab Corp of America, etc., because they have the relationships and experience that lead to the successful implementation and adoption of new technologies and tests.

Combining the entrepreneurial capacity of smaller technology-oriented companies with the breadth and depth of those who have had successful experiences will allow more breakthrough technology advances like nanocytology to make an impact in the market. For us it’s all about staying true to our mission of helping to detect cancer early to improve patient survival rates. The more people we reach, the greater impact we will make.


Here is the Press Release:

logo_nanocytomics
NanoCytomics Names John W. Hart President

– Startup Launched from Northwestern University Laboratory Announces Plans for Commercialization of Breakthrough Cancer Risk-Stratification Technology Platform –

EVANSTON, IL, July 17, 2014 – NanoCytomics LLC, a privately held medical technology company developing novel cancer risk-stratification tests for use in primary care physicians’ offices, today announced the appointment of John W. Hart as president. Hart brings to NanoCytomics 35 years of experience in various healthcare sectors, including more than two decades at Baxter International, Allegiance and Cardinal Health.

“NanoCytomics is fortunate to have John assume the role of the company’s first president at a time when we are poised for the successful commercialization of our proprietary technologies,” said NanoCytomics Co-founder and Chairman of the Board Vadim Backman, PhD. “John’s operational, strategic planning and business-development expertise are critically important skills to help our team bring our medical technology innovations to the marketplace. Equally important, John shares our passion to help people survive cancer.”

The company intends to revolutionize the risk stratification of patients, helping physicians identify those likely to benefit from gold-standard diagnostic procedures as early as possible, when cancer treatments can be the most effective.

NanoCytomics’ tests are based on its novel, proprietary biophotonics technology platform known as partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy. Biophotonics deploys optical imaging and sensing technologies to study the structures and functions of cells. Through biophotonics in general and the company’s PWS platform in particular, NanoCytomics can identify cellular abnormalities at the nanoscale level. In so doing, the company anticipates making a profound impact on the ability to stratify cancer risk for an individual patient at a dramatically earlier stage of disease progression, potentially helping physicians to save millions of lives in the process.

Dr. Backman started developing the technology for NanoCytomics in 2008 with the company’s two co-founders: NanoCytomics Chief Technology Officer Hariharan Subramanian, PhD, one of the original developers of PWS microscopy; and Hemant K. Roy, MD, a recognized authority on colon cancer screening, the leader of the gastroenterology department and a professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Roy is a member of the NanoCytomics board of directors and is chairman of the company’s scientific advisory board.

Drs. Backman and Subramanian developed the revolutionary PWS microscopy platform at the Backman Photonics Laboratory at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The NanoCytomics team is further developing PWS microscopy for commercial use to serve as a highly accurate, low-cost, non-invasive testing platform. Of particular significance will be the simple, easy-to-implement sample collection process that will be able to be performed in the primary care physician’s office during a routine physical examination.

Through the newly identified scientific and engineering advances of nanocytology, pioneered at the Backman Photonics Laboratory, medical technicians can collect cell samples from easily acceptable surrogate sites in the body. For example, nanocytology can detect nanoarchitectural alterations in cells that are obtained by a simple swab of the inside of a person’s cheek. These alterations correlate strongly with the risk of developing lung cancer.

NanoCytomics will send its test results to the ordering physician, who can use the results to determine whether or not the patient is likely to benefit from gold-standard diagnostic tests, such as colonoscopies, CT scans, and biopsies.

The benefits of this risk-stratification testing platform are twofold:

Patients that require a comprehensive diagnostic workup would be identified sooner; receiving an early cancer diagnosis can help physicians deliver treatments when they are most likely to be effective.

Patients that do not require a comprehensive diagnostic exam would be spared the discomfort, anxiety and potential medical complications associated with the procedure; also, patients and their third-party payers would avoid the high costs of these exams.

Strong Ties to Northwestern University

NanoCytomics’ collaborations with Northwestern University extend beyond the Backman Photonics Laboratory. Northwestern’s Chemistry of Life Processes (CLP) Institute has provided ongoing expertise, support and guidance to NanoCytomics and its co-founders. Stuart Cornew, chairman of the CLP Institute’s Executive Advisory Board and a member of the NanoCytomics Board of Directors, helped recruit Hart to the company.

“In addition to John’s experiences at three Fortune 100 companies, his experiences working at and for startups provides the exact combination of skill sets that NanoCytomics requires at this stage of its evolution,” Cornew said. “My Northwestern CLP Institute colleagues and I are dedicated to helping technologies that emerge from our university’s labs translate into clinically meaningful differences in people’s lives. John will help us achieve our mission.”

“Working with NanoCytomics, first as a consultant and now as its president, I am confident that the expertise and dedication of all team members will lead to truly breakthrough healthcare applications,” Hart said. “My near-term focus will be to foster the internal and external collaborations required to bring our first cancer risk-stratification tests to the market as soon as possible over the next two years.”

For more information about NanoCytomics, its team and its proprietary partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy platform, visit http://www.nano-cytomics.com.

About NanoCytomics

NanoCytomics is a privately held medical technology company developing novel cancer risk- stratification tests for use in primary care physicians’ offices. The company has an exclusive license from Northwestern University for patents and patent applications pertaining to the NanoCytomics technology and methods that were developed in Vadim Backman’s Northwestern Biophotonics Laboratory.

Since 2008 the Northwestern and NanoCytomics team has had 29 research papers published in peer-reviewed journals. During this same time period, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have awarded more than $20 million in combined grants to the Backman Photonics Laboratory at Northwestern University and to NanoCytomics, of which the company received directly $3.5 million.

During 2014 the company anticipates raising additional capital to support new clinical studies through grants, commercial partnerships and/or angel investors. For more information, visit http://www.nano-cytomics.com.

Media Contact:

White Oak Communications, Inc. Jed Weiner

847-392-4186 jed.weiner@whiteoakcomm.net