The co-founders of Nanopath faced a decision at the end of 2020, a year shaped by COVID.
Dr. Amogha Tadimety, Th'20, Co-Founder & CEO of Nanopath, opened the healthcare-focused round of the spring Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum with a fireside chat in which she spoke about the challenges of bringing a new diagnostic technology to market during the pandemic.
At first, when the pandemic hit, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to grow Nanopath, which offers accurate and detailed diagnostics within 15 minutes. The company brings together the doctoral research of Tadimety and her cofounder, Dr. Alison Burklund. The pair, along with Dr. John Zhang, Co-Founder and Scientific Advisor, started the company in 2009 with an interest in getting into the infectious disease space. Initially, the founders were told that there was no profitability in that arena, until the COVID pandemic caused funding for new diagnostics for infectious diseases to explode.
Nanopath chased that opportunity, but over the course of 2020, Tadimety and Burkland realized that they needed to decide which area of the market to pursue.
“When COVID happened, we said, ‘let’s take a step back,’” said Tadimety.
By the end of 2020, the founders had a choice: did they pursue being a respiratory diagnostics company, or was there a better application for their technology as it stood? Using funding from The National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program they spoke with people about the potential application of their technology and decided on a target market: outpatient women’s health.
Within that area, there is a clear need for rapid testing, and an obvious way for Nanopath’s technology to fit into the existing workflow. Currently, it takes up to two weeks to get results for testing for STDs or other infections. Up to 40% of patients, particularly those in disadvantaged communities, do not return for follow-up care after an initial visit.
“We need to be able to do better in terms of giving them a result and giving them a treatment immediately,” Tadimety explained.
With Nanopath’s diagnostic capabilities, people could get a diagnosis within one outpatient visit and start treatment immediately. That application fit the company’s goal of providing a technology that can empower the clinician and better guide patient treatment.
Even before founding Nanopath, Tadimety was interested in entrepreneurship, influenced by her entrepreneurial father and grandfather. After earning her undergraduate degree at Princeton, Tadimety came to Dartmouth for her doctorate, where she participated in the Thayer PhD Innovation Program. In addition to the normal PhD coursework, the innovation program taught her about the fundamentals of running a business, from accounting and corporate finance, to intellectual property law.
Learning those details was important, but the innovation program left Tadimety with an even more critical takeaway: it was entirely possible to build a business around science.
“It engrains the confidence that you can do something like this. This is a totally viable path,” Tadimety said. “No one is better than the technical founder to bring [a technology] into the world.”
With that in mind, she was determined to transport her technology from the lab into the lives of patients.
“A lot of things stay in the lab. It’s a little frustrating that things aren’t translated out, into [innovations] that could be beneficial to patients,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in that technology translation.”
From its inception, Nanopath has benefited from the encouraging entrepreneurial community in Hanover.
“Dartmouth has the perfect balance of a ton of opportunities without a competitive atmosphere,” Tadimety said.
Tadimety and Burkland were friends, before realizing that their technologies were a natural fit for each other. So far, they’ve been a team of two. Now, Nanopath is relocating to Cambridge, and looking to hire two employees. That’s a nerve-wracking, but exciting junction for the startup. Over the past two years, Tadimety said she has learned that it’s important to incorporate other people into the business.
“It’s a matter of knowing what our core expertise is, and when we have to bring in someone who knows more than we do and can be on the ground with us pushing things forward,” she said.
Tadimety said that all female scientists have experienced sexist comments. However, as she delves into a new phase of growth for Nanopath — with a lab space, interaction with the FDA and a prototype on the horizon —she’s confident that she and Burkland will be able to leverage their experience as female scientists and founders to their advantage to better the field of women’s health.
“Who could be better at designing for this population than the two of us?” Tadimety said. “We’re excited for the journey.”