Editor’s note: Startland News selected 10 Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list. The following is one of 2020’s companies. Click here to view the full, ranked list of Startups to Watch.
Hitting impactful key performance indicators after a long and complicated journey since its founding, ELIAS Animal Health is heading into the new year revenue producing and confident in goals for a $5 million funding round, said Tammie Wahaus.
Elevator pitch: ELIAS Animal Health is changing the way cancer is fundamentally treated to achieve better outcomes and quality of life for dogs. With the ELIAS Cancer Immunotherapy, the hope of harnessing a dog’s own immune system to successfully treat cancer is becoming a reality.
• Founder: Tammie Wahaus
• Founding year: 2014
• Amount raised to date: $5.2 million
• Noteworthy investors: Mid-America Angel Investors, Women’s Capital Connection, and several local and regional high net worth individual angel investors and family offices
• Programs completed: Pipeline Entrepreneurs
• Current employee count: 10
“I think the enthusiasm of the investors is reflective of their satisfaction with the milestones that we’ve been hitting and the opportunity that we have in front of us to have significant growth in the coming years,” said Wahaus, CEO of the biotech firm.
Along with raising capital, the startup is expected to expand its team to maximize efforts to boost commercial access to its products, Wahaus said.
“[We have a] strong focus on building out our manufacturing and logistics capabilities to support the expansion of treatment being made available to larger numbers of veterinary hospitals — both through our clinical trials as well as through the experimental label,” she said.
2020 will be partly riding on the success of an important clinical trial that delivered “unprecedented results” in 2019 and generated a wealth of interest in ELIAS from the veterinary community, she added.
“That’s incredibly important as we move forward into 2020 where we will launch a larger clinical study to further advance our treatment in osteosarcoma toward USDA licensure,” said Wahaus. “The second thing that was important — and was an important milestone for us in 2019 — was the completion of a pilot launch of our product under our experimental label, which is what we have right now.”
The trials aided the team in establishing relationships with larger veterinary specialty hospital groups and a continually growing list of hospitals, she said.
“We were pleased to be able to establish a relationship with VCA, which is owned by Mars Petcare, and it will be participating in our 2020 clinical trials as well as being a big component of our commercial rollout strategy later in 2020,” she added.
In 2019, a significant obstacle to the startup was the lack of available wet lab space in Kansas City, which is integral to the manufacturing process of ELIAS products, Wahaus said, noting the State of Kansas decided to continue to run the venture accelerator that was almost up for sale.
“We’re very happy that the new administration has continued to remain committed to the biotechnology ecosystem in the State of Kansas and, as a result, we’re still here and we’re getting lease renewals for 2020,” she said.
Click here to read more about the struggle for health innovation firms to grow with the shortage of wet lab space.
Growing connections with the veterinary oncology community has put ELIAS in a notable position as the company paves a disruptive new path in the industry, she added.
“We’re creating a new category of cancer therapeutics and the veterinary market — which has seen only a few products actually approved over the past 40-plus years, and as a result, survival times of their patients and quality of life have not significantly improved either,” Wahaus said.
“It’s a great place and time for us,” Wahaus added.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.