Case StudiesDr Helen Lee & colleagues
Diagnostics for the Real World LtdWinner of a Medical Futures Innovation Award
“Winning a Medical Futures Award was a tremendous morale boost for us which also gave us the validation we needed that what we were doing was right.”
In the mid 90’s, Dr Helen Lee and colleagues had a collective vision. Their vision was to deliver a new generation of simple and inexpensive, but robust and technically superior diagnostics for infectious diseases, to the places within the world that need them most. At the time they were working in industry but quickly realised that to achieve their vision they had to take a huge risk, by leaving secure jobs and move to the University of Cambridge to establish an academic unit and subsequently a start-Up to carry out technology development.
Fast forward a decade and they are well on their way to achieving their vision. They run a spinout company, Diagnostics for the Real World (DRW) based in the Bay Area on the West Coast of the USA. They employ 30 staff and most importantly have launched real products that are changing peoples’ lives. Amazingly, and without relinquishing control, the founders have raised $50m from organisations such as NIH, WHO, CDC and the Technology Transfer Division of the Wellcome Trust. They have 4 approved products on the market for diseases such as Chlamydia and Hepatitis B and their business model is shrewd with a two tier pricing system to offer the developing, and middle-low income countries the benefit of their tests essentially at cost and sometimes free, subsidised by a commercial pricing structure in western markets.
They won a Medical Futures Award in 2003, when their ideas were at an early stage. “Winning a Medical Futures Award was a tremendous morale boost for us which also gave us the validation we needed that what we were doing was right” said CEO, Dr Lee, whose ten year plan includes growing the business year on year whilst continuing to provide equity to the developing world.