Avenda Health Raises $10M, Receives FDA Clearance to Begin Clinical Trial of Laser Heat Technology

Culver City-based Avenda Health, which has developed a laser heat treatment platform targeting prostate cancer and related diseases, had two key developments last month.

On August 9, the company announced that the US Food and Drug Administration had granted approval for a randomized clinical trial of its laser ablation technology for the treatment of prostate cancer.

Then, on August 25, the company announced that it had raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Chicago-based venture capital firm VCapital.
Both are key steps on the way to commercializing laser heat therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer.

Avenda Health was launched by three UCLA faculty colleagues in June 2017; two of the co-founders—Brittany Berry-Pusey and CEO Shyam Natarajan—co-founded the UCLA Business of Science Center, started by the late businessman and innovator Roy Doumani. The third co-founder, Chief Medical Officer Leonard Marks, is the UCLA David Geffen Professor of Urology at the UCLA School of Medicine.

The trio aims to develop laser ablation technology for the treatment of prostate cancer that can be administered in an outpatient setting. The technology involves the use of a laser needle and a thermal optical sensor to precisely target and treat soft tissue. The added precision minimizes urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction, two common side effects of conventional radiation or chemotherapy treatments for prostate cancer.

In developing the laser system, Avenda identified a need for more precise mapping of target prostate cancers. They developed a 3D mapping system that uses artificial intelligence algorithms and probabilities to create a map of the cancerous area, which can then be used to guide treatment. Both can be used in an outpatient setting.

FDA approval includes the issuance of an investigational device exemption that allows these two technologies to be used together in a randomized control trial. The goal is to demonstrate a higher success rate with fewer harmful side effects in treating prostate cancer compared to more traditional chemotherapy or surgical techniques.

“Our mission is to advance prostate cancer therapy so that patients no longer have to choose between treatment and quality of life,” Natarajan said in the company’s announcement.
“Using the latest deep learning technology, iQuest gives doctors and their patients more information to identify the best treatment on an individual basis,” Natarajan added. “We are thrilled to receive IDE’s approval so we can continue prostate cancer research for the millions of men affected each year.”

According to the release, if the clinical trial proves successful, it could lead to the first FDA approval of a localized therapy to treat prostate cancer in more than four decades.

Avenda received breakthrough device designation from the FDA last year for its laser ablation system; this designation means that the agency believes there is a strong possibility that the technology will be better than the current standard of care.

The $10 million fundraising round announced by Avenda on August 25 will help the company complete the randomized clinical trial.

VCapital partner Ryan Kole said in the release that Avenda’s focus on improving men’s health is part of the reason it took the lead on the funding round.
“We are thrilled to be a part of Avenda Health’s journey in making incredible strides in the future of prostate cancer care,” said Cole. “Investing in something meaningful, innovative and groundbreaking in men’s health is something that VCapital prides itself on.”

The company said the $10 million in new capital will be used to expand the use of its 3D mapping platform and continue to develop clinical evidence. This follows approximately $9 million in funding the company previously raised, bringing the total to $19.3 million.

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