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A developmental toxicology and histology company

Presenter: Michael Johnson, CEO


Monday, February 13, 2017

Embassy Suites, Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania (directions)




Mission: Provide more complete data to researchers and improved outcomes for patients by shifting the paradigm of histological imaging from 2D to 3D. 


Business Description: Visikol Inc. has developed a patented tissue clearing reagent called Visikol® that can render biological tissues transparent so that they can be imaged in 3D instead of the traditional 2D histological approach. The company has leveraged this technology to launch a series of kits and reagents for research applications called Visikol® HISTO™ and is focused on applying this technology to heterogenous and complex clinical tissues that are challenging to characterize with traditional histology. In 2016, Visikol Inc. partnered with Placental Analytics LLC to apply Visikol HISTO tissue clearing towards the 3D characterization of human placenta tissues. Placental structure and features have been shown to be well correlated to short-term/long-term health impacts for both the mother and child and to date the characterization of placenta morphology with 2D histology has been inadequate. The introduction of the Visikol HISTO technology enables the 3D characterization of placenta tissue and the Visikol team is collaborating with Placental Analytics to co-develop this platform into a prognostic tool that can be brought to the clinic for use by obstetricians and gynecologists. Visikol is currently seeking funding to pursue these development efforts and to validate a screening and characterization methodology. 


Company Background: Visikol Inc. is a Rutgers University spinout that was founded by two Rutgers University PhD students and a colleague who had invented and developed the Visikol formula. The company raised a seed round of $500,000 from the Foundation Venture Capital Group in February of 2016 and have since been awarded a $225,000 Phase I NSF SBIR grant and a $50,000 NSF I-Corps™ grant. Placental Analytics is led by Dr. Carolyn Salafia and has a bank of placenta tissues with corresponding clinical data as well as an expertise in 3D image analysis. 


Technology: Our core technology is our Visikol HISTO platform that enables the 3D histological visualization of biological tissues by combing our patented Visikol tissue clearing approach with molecular labeling techniques. While there are several methods for rendering tissues transparent (CLARITY, SeeDB, 3DISCO), Visikol HISTO has substantial technical advantages over these techniques as it does not alter cellular morphology and can be easily correlated with and validated using traditional 2D histology. Currently, over 200 researchers from around the world are using Visikol HISTO as a research tool for various applications. Visikol and Placental Analytics are working together to develop a Visikol HISTO-based prognostic tool that would be embodied in a CLIA test that would result in a report outlining specific risk factors for both the mother and child (e.g. diabetes, autism, complications with 2nd pregnancy).


Markets: The initial target market for Visikol HISTO has been the pre-clinical histology marketplace which is comprised of industry, academic and government customers and is approx. $2 billion in size. We have been selling our Visikol HISTO products to researchers in this space as well as developing high-value applications such as 3D screening assays for spheroids used in the drug discovery process. The placenta market is comprised of approx. 10 million births in the US per year with an estimated market opportunity of $10 billion. 


Distribution Channels: We are currently selling our Visikol HISTO reagents as research tools through our website and international distributors. 


Competition: Our 3D histology kits are the first 3D histology kits in the marketplace and while there are other tissue clearing techniques such as CLARITY, SeeDB and 3DISCO, these techniques have substantial technical disadvantages. Specifically, in regards to placenta tissues, there are a few assays that can be conducted, but no company currently offers a comprehensive prognostic tool and the market is open with the majority of placentas being discarded as medical waste.  



3 Major Issues


  1. Path to Market (Regulatory): The most-immediate clinical application of our Visikol technology is in the 3D visualization of placenta tissue and correlating structural features (e.g. vasculature) and biomarkers (e.g. oxidative stress) to risk for specific clinical outcomes (e.g. autism, complications with 2nd pregnancy). Pending successful completion of a screening tool using existing tissues and clinical outcome data, we want to know the “best” route to take this technology to market as a prognostic tool. Our thinking is that the most optimal approach is to launch a CLIA lab where placentas can be sent to and then send reports to physicians to interpret for patients. The reports would outline risk for specific clinical outcomes so that proper interventive care could be taken.
  2. Business Strategy (Marketing): What is the best approach to market a placental prognostic tool to our target customer (physicians) while also building awareness among patients?
  3. Valuation: We are developing a prognostic tool which will potentially have a substantial target market (i.e. all births) and one that can potentially provide great value as it will allow parents to take interventive care towards addressing short/long-term clinical outcomes that we can predict (e.g. autism, diabetes). However, there is currently no other placental prognostic tool in the market and the business opportunity is not as familiar to investors as the traditional therapeutic or diagnostic pathway as we are applying a novel tool to a very understudied application. Therefore, our main question is how should we think about the valuation for this technology as we look to raise additional funding and how can we increase the perceived valuation for this opportunity in the eyes of investors. Our main challenge is that investors will not see the value in this opportunity and we cannot achieve a high enough valuation for raising additional funding. This would lead us down a path of slow growth and the inability to get a prognostic tool to market. The other issue which further compounds this problem is that our team is young and youth is not perceived as a benefit in biotech like it is in tech. We have added advisors to strengthen our credibility, but this is still a gap that affects our valuation. Our suspicion is that if we were professors would thirty years of experience each in this field that we would have a much easier time raising money and at a high valuation.





6:30 - Cocktails & Dinner (Cash bar and special 2-entree buffet menu)

8:00 - Michael Johnson, CEO, will deliver the Company's "Elevator" Pitch to the Group

8:20 - A Panel will address three major issues crucial to helping the Company reach the next level.

9:00 - Open discussion: members and guests



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New Jersey Institute of Technology
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Contact: Peter van der Kam, | (610) 296-8086




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