As the first and only device cleared by the FDA to collect cells from the fallopian tubes, the Mako 7 device, originally developed by nVision, a Fogarty Institute graduate, offers a potential platform for earlier detection of ovarian cancer. The company was recently acquired by Boston Scientific, as the device represents an exciting opportunity for the company to expand its focus on women’s health and provides a potential platform to improve care for women worldwide.
The need is great: Often dubbed the “silent killer,” ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer in women, ranking as the fifth leading cause of female cancer deaths in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. And while it has been estimated that a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 78, only about 20 percent of these cases are detected at an early stage due to the initial asymptomatic nature of the disease. Often women at high risk for ovarian cancer are advised to take preventative action through the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes, but this prevents childbearing and increases the risk that women will develop cardiovascular issues or have cognitive impairment.
nVision Technology a Breakthrough
Studies have shown that the most prevalent types of ovarian cancer may originate in the fallopian tubes; however, until the advent of the Mako 7, direct assessment of cells in the tubes had been an elusive goal.
In an article in Forbes, David Pierce, an executive vice president at Boston Scientific and president of the company’s MedSurg division, estimated the annual market opportunity for the device to range from $500 million to $2 billion. He expressed enthusiasm over nVision’s aim to give doctors a way to watch for cancer in the 300,000 women who have their ovaries removed each year due to suspicious masses or because they carry a version of the BRCA gene that gives an increased likelihood of developing cancer. “We’re really excited about this acquisition,” Pierce said in the interview. “The diagnosis of ovarian cancer is a massive unmet need in this space.”
The acquisition by Boston Scientific came on the heels of nVision’s clinical trials, where they examined pairs of fallopian tubes in 40 women, successfully demonstrating Mako 7’s ability to safely and effectively collect cell samples and detect signs of malignancy. Boston Scientific is planning to do a larger study to assess the ability of the device to achieve the same results on a larger scale.
“Boston Scientific is a great culture fit for us: They are a forward-thinking company that is very innovative in driving new technologies, and I appreciate that they share my commitment to patients,” said Surbhi of the acquisition. “I was motivated to develop nVision’s technology to help solve a health scare I myself had, suffering from ovarian cysts as a teenager and not knowing if they were cancerous. This gave me the desire to more effectively help the hundreds of thousands of women in a similar frightening situation.”
Developing as an Entrepreneur
Surbhi was an early noted performer at the Fogarty Institute, known for her intuitive, astute and relentless drive to get her device to market – even being recognized as one of the “Forbes 30 under 30.”
“The relationships I developed at the Institute with both the mentors and other entrepreneurs were invaluable in helping advance our technology,” said Surbhi, adding that her board was also instrumental in helping nVision connect with the right company to help them accomplish the goal of getting the product to market.
“Surbhi and her company represent the epitome of what we strive for here at the Institute,” says Andrew Cleeland, CEO of the Fogarty Institute, applauding her successful exit. “We give our most heartfelt congratulations to this tenacious team who has developed this innovative technology that has the capacity to transform women’s healthcare.”
Surbhi’s advice to early-stage entrepreneurs? She says that what she learned as nVision developed is that innovators always must have a next goal in mind in terms of developing the product and bringing it to patients. On that note, she says, while an acquisition is a nice side effect of executing well, it shouldn’t be the goal in and of itself.
“The goal should be first to find and develop a product you are passionate about that will have a big impact; then drive that product as quickly as you can to serve patients,” she says.
One of the trickiest parts, she adds, is using money frugally as you go along, since you never know when the next round of funding will appear. “If you execute all that successfully, then you may be in a position to be acquired, but that should never be your main goal.”