A medical technology company based in Australia, Cleo Diagnostics (ASX:COV) is revolutionising women’s healthcare with its disruptive cancer detection platform technology, through a simple blood test that can accurately detect ovarian cancer early – the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women.
Approximately 50 percent of women will die within five years of an ovarian cancer diagnosis. The chances of survival beyond five years, however, increase with early detection. According to the American Cancer Society, only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, and more than 90 percent of women live beyond five years when the cancer is detected early.
With early diagnosis being key to a higher survival rate, ovarian cancer has become a target for biomarker research. And one particular biomarker holds promise.
Cleo’s technology is underpinned by the CXCL10 novel and patented biomarker, which was first identified as a small inflammatory molecule in ovarian cancer tissue sections. Subsequent research demonstrated that CXCL10 was overexpressed in ovarian cancers, but importantly not expressed in benign disease, and remains throughout the lifetime of the cancer. The biomarker effectively provides a robust indicator at all stages of cancer. Recognizing that early detection is a significantly unmet need in the clinical diagnostics market, Cleo Diagnostics is focused on bringing to market a simple blood test to accurately detect ovarian cancer early.
The addressable market for a technology like this is compelling, and with a management team that brings to the table decades of leadership experience in the medical technology space, Cleo is well-positioned to leverage this market opportunity.
Cleo chief executive and executive director Dr. Richard Allman has over 30 years of experience in commercially focused scientific research and innovation. Over the course of his career, Allman has overseen and expedited a product development pipeline covering no less than six major cancers, cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and a commercially available COVID-19 test.
Chief scientific officer Dr. Andrew Stephens boasts an equally impressive resume. A career research scientist with two decades of experience in molecular and cellular biology, Stephens is named in over 60 academic publications and holds numerous patents in the cancer therapy and diagnostic space. Cleo’s blood test looks for a novel and patented biomarker in the blood called CXCL10, which was discovered by Stephens, the product of over ten years of scientific work at Monash Medical Centre’s Hudson Institute of Medical Research.
There’s also Professor Tom Jobling, Cleo’s non-executive director and medical advisor. As the head of gynaecological oncology at Monash Health and visiting medical officer at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Jobling has been treating ovarian cancer for over thirty years. He was also the founding Chairman of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF)
Non-executive director Lucinda Nolan, meanwhile, brings significant business and strategic expertise to the table. Most recently, she served as the CEO of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.
These experienced professionals, together with the other members of Cleo’s management and board, have developed a staged execution strategy focused on de-risking the pathway to the international screening market — ensuring that, although Cleo is still in its advanced R&D stage, its prospects for commercialisation remain incredibly promising.
Backed by medical professionals and cancer specialists with decades of experience, Cleo Diagnostics has developed a disruptive, accurate and early-stage ovarian cancer detection blood test.Cleo targets the CXCL10 novel biomarker, which is now known to be overexpressed in all stages of ovarian cancer. Cleo is the result of more than a decade of research at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, where chief scientist Dr. Andrew Stephens received more than $5 million OCRF & NHMRC funding for development and clinical studies. The test is also supported by Professor Tom Jobling, founder of the Ovarian Cancer Foundation and Lucinda Nolan, the foundation’s former CEO. Cleo has developed a staged execution strategy focused on an achievable path to market. This ensures the project, which is currently in its advanced R&D stage, can maximise commercial value for all stakeholders.
Developed over the course of a decade by Dr. Andrew Stephens, Cleo’s blood test is underpinned by the CXCL10 novel and patented protein biomarker known to be present in all stages of ovarian cancer. By combining CXCL10 with several other biomarkers in a custom algorithm, Cleo can not only be used in triage, but also for the purposes of screening and recurrence testing. The project is currently in the advanced R&D stage and has so far conducted two clinical studies, analysing more than 700 patient samples in the process.
Readily Accessible: Cleo requires no additional or specialised equipment and can be conducted in any standard pathology lab either on its own or as part of a standard panel of tests ordered by a physician. AI-based Risk Assessment: Once the sample has been collected and tested, Cleo leverages a proprietary algorithm to perform a risk evaluation on the patient, determining the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis. Intuitive Results: Cleo generates an easy-to-understand post-assessment report which can then be sent to the patient’s primary care provider or surgeon for triage. High Performance: The Cleo prototype outperforms FDA-cleared predicates and clinical guideline tests in terms of accuracy and specificity. Current Roadmap: Cleo plans for the test to be ready for clinical use in a surgical triage setting by 2025, where it will be available initially to one million patients. Target launch dates for recurrence, high-risk screening and mass screening are still to be determined. Additionally, the company has numerous inflection points planned over the next two years: Kit Development:Internal trial antibody optimisationFinalisation of antibody selection for the Cleo test-kitComplete re-agent developmentPre-IDE strategic developmentManufacturing:Establishment and accreditation of ISO13485 quality systemManufacturing establishment of Cleo key biomarkerManufacturing establishment of Cleo Ovarian Cancer KitClinical Studies: Sign key opinion leaders and trial sitesPerform and finalise verification of the Cleo kit through clinical studiesRegulatory Approval:FDA Pre-IDE submissionCE regulatory submissions and approvalTGA regulatory submission and approvalFDA submission and approval
Dr. Richard Allman — Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director
Dr. Richard Allman has over 30 years of scientific research leadership and innovation with a clear focus on commercialisation. He has wide experience in research leadership, innovation management, and intellectual property strategy, covering oncology, diagnostics, and product development.
Previously, Allman was chief scientific officer at Genetic Technologies (ASX:GTG). Recent successes include the strategic design and management of a second-generation breast cancer risk assessment test from concept to commercial launch and a similar test for colorectal cancer. These tests have now been NATA-accredited and comprise the first commercially available polygenic risk tests in Australia.
More recently, Allman supervised the underlying R&D, translation, regulatory approval, patent filing and commercial launch of a COVID-19 disease severity test within a 12-month period. This strategy has been utilised to expedite a product development pipeline covering six major cancers, cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes which were commercially launched in March 2022.
Dr. Andrew Stephens — Chief Scientific Officer and Executive Director
Dr. Andrew Stephens is a career research scientist with 20 years of experience in molecular and cellular biology research. He has broad experience in academic and pre-clinical research and a strong focus on translation and the commercialisation of research findings. He established and leads an independent academic research group at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, investigating mechanisms that contribute to the formation, progression and dissemination of high grade, serous epithelial ovarian cancers. Since 2010, his research has focused on biomarker identification and development in ovarian cancer and the development of therapeutic strategies to improve patient outcomes. He is also actively involved across the biotech sector, with appointments to the scientific advisory for Invion and AMTBio.
Stephens has more than 60 academic publications and numerous patents (pending and provisional) in the cancer therapeutic and diagnostic space.
Professor Tom Jobling — Lead Medical Advisor and Non-executive Director
Professor Thomas Jobling is director of gynaecologic oncology at Monash Medical Centre. He graduated from Monash University in 1980 and did his postgraduate sub-specialist training in gynaecologic oncology in London at the Royal Marsden and St Bartholomew’s hospitals. Jobling has subsequently been elected as a member of the Society of Pelvic Surgeons and is also founder of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (1999). He was the chairman of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation Board. His major interests are in radical surgery for ovarian cancer and the application of robotic surgery for gynaecological malignancy.
Jobling is an active member of a research team in biomarker detection and proteomics in ovarian cancer. He is involved as a collaborative investigator on a number of international clinical trials and is a member of the Australia and New Zealand Gynaecologic Oncology Group, the Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncology, the Victorian Cooperative Oncology Group and the International Society of Gynaecological Cancer.
Lucinda Nolan — Non-executive Director
Lucinda Nolan is a non-executive director and was most recently the CEO of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience across the public sector and not-for-profit environments. Prior to joining the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, she was selected as the first female CEO of the Country Fire Authority, one of the world’s largest volunteer-based emergency services organisations. She also spent 32 years with Victoria Police, reaching the rank of deputy commissioner. She was awarded the Australian Police Medal in 2009.
Nolan is also the chair of BankVic and a director on the boards of Alkira Box Hill and the Melbourne Archdiocese of Catholic Schools. She has a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from Melbourne University and is an alum of the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard University.
Adrien Wing — Non-executive Chair
Adrien Wing began his professional career practising in the audit and corporate advisory divisions of a chartered accounting firm. He has over 25 years of experience in the corporate sector with a large portion of this experience in ASX small caps, lead in IPO transactions and post listing reverse takeovers and acquisitions across a range of industry sectors and jurisdictions. He also has a strong pedigree in the life sciences industry being the founder of Rhythm Biosciences and bringing that entity to the ASX in 2017.
Wing currently serves as an officer/director on the following company boards: New Age Exploration (ASX: NAE), director and joint company secretary; Red Sky Energy (ASX:ROG), director and joint company secretary; Sparc Technologies (ASX:SPN), company secretary; and Osmond Resources (ASX:OSM), company secretary.