OncoPet Diagnostics hopes to create revenue stream while testing human RECAF technology
Genetic cancer testing for dogs is now available. A clinical pathology laboratory in Canada performs the tests on specimens referred by veterinarians. The molecular diagnostics test for dogs uses a blood specimen and can detect 85% of canine cancers. Pre-market studies showed the standard 95% specificity level.
Owners of the 72 million pet dogs in the United States are often as anguished over possible cancer in their dogs as they would be over the possibility of cancer in a human loved one. That is why OncoPet Diagnostics of Richmond, British Columbia, believes the availability of a cheap ($40) cancer test will be welcome news. According to some surveys, about half of dog owners view their pets as members of the family.
The new test detects RECAF, a molecule present on cancer cells but not detected in significant levels on healthy cells or benign tumor cells. RECAF’s expression is related to rapid cell growth, which is characteristic of cancer and fetal development. The company expects to introduce a RECAF test for cats before the end of 2010.
The market for cancer testing of pets is substantial. About four out of every 1,000 dogs get cancer each year, which means about 72,000 potential canine cancer patients annually in the United States.
“Initially, OncoPet Diagnostics will provide testing services in a similar manner to traditional clinical laboratories,” said Denis Burger, Ph.D., Executive Chairman of BioCurex, based in Richmond, British Columbia. BioCurex is the parent company of OncoPet Diagnostics.
“One notable distinction is that we will produce all the necessary reagents for the [canine cancer] test, and the testing service will be performed in-house at our BioCurex facilities,” explained Burger. “This ensures a rapid path to commercialization, is more profitable than selling test kits, and requires no regulatory approvals.”
BioCurex has a human version of the RECAF blood test under development. The company hopes that the genetic cancer tests for dogs and cats will allow it to generate revenue while the human version works its way through pre-market testing and regulatory clearance. The company expects cancer testing for dogs and cats will produce a positive cash flow within 18 months.
OncoPet Diagnostics pre-sells vouchers to distributors, each valid for one genetic cancer test. The distributor then sells the vouchers to veterinarians, who will send the voucher with the sample to the OncoPet testing facility. The company is in discussions with distributors in North America and Europe. Biocurex also has plans to market the test in China through BioCurex China Ltd., in Shanghai.
Pathologists and laboratory executives can identify two trends in this story. First, the cost to perform genetic and molecular testing continues to decline as technology improves. This will open up new applications, such as cancer testing for pets.
Second, this new marketing strategy is based on BioCurex’s confidence that consumers will gladly pay cash to have cancer tests performed on their dogs and cats. It is another example of how the same consumers who grumble about a $15 lab test co-pay for themselves, will shell out considerable amounts of cash for the veterinary care provided to their dogs and cats. —K. Branz