The San Antonio-based biotechnology startup Hera Biotech has closed an oversubscribed $1.9 million seed financing round that will help the company bring the world’s first non-surgical diagnostic test for endometriosis to market.
The seed funding will go to completing the in-patient human clinical study for their test called MetriD. Funding will also help Hera expand its intellectual property (IP) portfolio and finalize the new diagnostic’s regulatory pathway with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The seed round was fueled mostly by individual female supporters and investment firms Coyote Ventures, Stella Angels, Althea Group Ventures, and the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute.
“The Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (KS WELI) at The University of Texas at Austin is thrilled to be part of Hera Biotech’s successful seed round through their wins at our Fall 2021 Female Founder Pitch Competition and Spring 2022 Dream to Venture events,” said Lesley Robinson, director of the KS WELI. “We are dedicated to supporting empowered women with the entrepreneurial spirit that can change the world, and Hera’s mission shines an important light on women’s health.”
Endometriosis is an often-painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus – the endometrium – grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis typically involves other pelvic organs and can spread elsewhere in the body. Because this tissue has no way to exit the body, it is trapped, often causing painful cysts, irritation, scar tissue, and adhesions.
The only diagnostic method available now to detect endometriosis is by laparoscopic surgery and pathology of the biopsied tissue. Hera’s MetriDx test only requires a sample of the patient’s endometrium collected during an in-office procedure that is similar to a Pap smear.
Hera Biotech’s test analyzes single cells from the sample to definitively diagnose and characterize the stage of endometriosis.
“MetriDx will bring an unprecedented diagnostic capability to physicians, lower liability risk within hospitals, eliminate unnecessary surgical procedures, and reduce the considerable time patients suffer before receiving a diagnosis while maintaining tissue collection and a direct pathology diagnosis,” co-founder and CEO Somer Baburek said.
Baburek launched Hera Biotech in 2020 to address women’s unmet needs in health and reproductive medicine. UT Health San Antonio associate professor Dr. Nameer Kirma and Dr. Bruce Nicholson, co-director of the UT Health San Antonio Center for Innovative Drug Discovery, are the co-inventors of the diagnostic technology. Dr. Paul Castella, a senior managing partner at the Targeted Technology Fund II, also joined Hera as a co-founder to help develop the diagnostic for the market, Baburek said.
“Initially, I was just focused on finding a technology for women’s health. I saw that a large majority of innovation was around therapeutic development, but when you dug in, the focus was on symptom control, not disease treatment, Baburek said.
“We don’t understand the chronic conditions in women’s health well enough to develop disease-modifying therapeutics, which focused my attention on diagnostics. This made endometriosis the problem I wanted to work on.”
The company intends to kick off a Series A raise of $15 million later in 2022 to support the commercial launch of its product by 2024.
“Our seed round was oversubscribed by nearly 100% from our original goal – an enthusiastic validation of our technology and the need for a solution for this pervasive and persistent, yet unsolved problem, in women’s health,” Baburek said.