The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation created the technology the company is using.
Progentec is collaborating with Dr. Judith James, a lupus researcher who developed the technology, to refine the platform. The tools include accurate tests for early diagnosis of lupus, an index that can track the underlying activity of the disease, and an index that can predict flares.
The company will use its new financing to work with scientists at the foundation and the Mayo Clinic to make the algorithms behind the tools even better.
“The ability to predict an impending flare represents significant value to lupus patients and their physicians,” Sanjiv Sharma, Progentec’s chairman, said in a press release. “This test is currently not available and is a focus area for us.”
“Looking beyond flare prediction, a test to track underlying disease activity will fundamentally change how lupus patients are identified for specific interventions [treatments] and allows for better management decisions at all levels of the healthcare system,” said Progentec’s CEO, Mohan Purushothaman.
OCA Ventures, Mayo Clinic Ventures, and i2E led the financing round. Mayo said it will use any revenue it receives from the project for patient care, education, and research.
“We are pleased to work with OCA Ventures and Mayo Clinic on this promising, Oklahoma-born project,” said Scott Meacham, i2E’s president and chief executive officer. “It is important to work together to identify and develop technologies like these in their early stages when they most need help.”
At the moment, doctors have no tools to predict when a lupus flare will occur. If Progentec’s test proves accurate, it could have a significant impact on patients’ lives. Flares not only pose a risk of organ damage but can be life-threatening.
There are many potential triggers of lupus flares, according to the National Institutes of Health. They include too much work, insufficient rest, stress, emotional crises, overexposure to sunlight, infection, injuries, pregnancy, giving birth, discontinuing lupus medication, allergies, certain prescription drugs, laxatives, and vaccination.
Without a way of predicting when flares will occur, patients’ best option is to learn how to prevent them or at least minimize the risk of one occurring.
Some of the advice that medical professionals offer includes learning to recognize the warning signs of a flare, maintaining overall health with exercise, having regular check-ups, and getting enough rest.
Another tip is to arrange a flexible daily schedule. That way, if a patient is feeling tired or stressed, they can rest or do something relaxing for a while. Lupus experts say a support network of friends, family or other patients can help with stress management.
Patients should also eat healthy, limit their exposure to the sun, tell their doctor if they don’t feel well, and delay elective surgery until they are in remission or have a flare under control. In addition, they should talk with their doctor about any vaccinations they are considering and about birth control if they don’t want to become pregnant. And they should test skin products they have never used before applying them.