PHI’s CEO eyes new business opportunities
In 2021, PHI entered into a partnership with the US-based RegenMed Development Organization with the goal of establishing the company’s HoloMonitor technology as the standard quality control equipment in the growing field of regenerative medicine. The company has also chartered a new course when it comes to marketing strategy, with a sharp increase in sales over the last 4 quarters as a result. BioStock contacted CEO Peter Egelberg to find out more about the rights issue of just over 72 million SEK that is currently underway, and his vision for the future.
Lund-based med-tech Phase Holographic Imaging (PHI) has developed the HoloMonitor system, an advanced research microscope with sophisticated software for non-invasive cell culture analysis.
The problem – and PHI´s solution
When a new drug or treatment is (preclinically) tested in cell cultures, a prediction is made on how patients will respond to the new drug. However, conventional laboratory instrumentation influence how cells respond to drugs, by requiring that the cells are either genetically manipulated or stained with toxic substances before analysis – a standard that requires an innovative update.
Unlike conventional cell analysis instruments that are largely based on decade-year-old technology, HoloMonitor uses digital holography which neither influences the cells in any way, nor results in uncharacteristic cell behaviour. This means that the cells are not affected by the measurement method itself, which is very relevant in drug development and basic medical research for accurate and cost-efficient research and consequently satisfying patient outcomes.
A sales boom in 2021
PHI has had a steep upwards sales curve in the last four fiscal quarters. This can be attributed largely to the strategic shift to online sales and marketing in 2021. This has changed the company’s organisation and sales processes profoundly, with customer communication now being done digitally rather than through physical meetings.
Also, system installations and service issues are being handled digitally, which has lowered costs and sped up the sales process. Instead of spending days handling support and service questions, the team can now do this in a matter of hours.
Now, the company has reached the level and knowledge to enter the significantly more lucrative market of clinical applications. PHI will diversify from a pre-clinical to clinical market, namely the rising field of regenerative medicine. Going there requires regulatory approvals, as HoloMonitor will be used for quality assessment for medical products.
By treating patients with cultured cells rather than conventional drugs, regenerative medicine has the potential to cure a wide range of diseases that are incurable today.
The goal is to position HoloMonitor as a key component assessing cell cultures when developing new treatments for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
As the patient-specific cells will be transplanted back to the patient, it is paramount that these cells are not compromised with toxic entities, as required by conventional instrumentation.
Large scale implementation
Regenerative medicine is set out to be the future of medicine, however presently it still needs to transform into a large-scale industry to cost-efficiently be able to treat millions of patients per year.
In an effort to succeed, Wake Forest Institute For Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) started the initiative RegenMed Development Organization (ReMDO). PHI is a partner in this initiative together with key players to make this vision come true. The first facility is set out to be up and running in April. The aim is to develop PHI’s technology to a next-generation HoloMonitor for quality control of patient cells in large-scale biomanufacturing.
To invest into this initiative and others to come, PHI decided to conduct a share issue.
The CEO comments on the ongoing rights issue
BioStock reached out to the PHI’s CEO Peter Egelberg to learn more about the company, as well as how the proceeds of just over 72 million SEK from the ongoing rights issue will be used.
Peter, in terms of sales, 2021 was a strong year for PHI. What does the trend look like going forward?
– We see clear signs that sales will continue to increase. Also, we noticed a substantial demand within regenerative medicine for non-invasive technology. Here, we see HoloMonitor as a perfect fit.
– When cells, such as stem cells, are used to treat diseases, it is critically important that the cells are not influenced by external factors during this process. With HoloMonitor, the patient cells can be checked with numerous quantitative data, and therefore secure that they are in the same condition when transplanted back to the patient. So, in a sense, HoloMonitor represents a potential paradigm shift for the industry where our product would serve as a ‘quality filter’ throughout the whole process.
Can you talk about the changed sales strategy and how you intend to fine-tune it further?
– Of course, an overall goal for PHI is to increase sales further. This new post-pandemic world has given small-size companies like us the possibility to sell directly and faster to customers all around the world. The team could quickly adapt as PHI’s intention has never been to create a large-size sales force. We now have the possibility to sell directly cost-efficiently by ourselves. With that potential to increase sales by ourselves, we strongly believe that the value of the company will benefit.
– Also, we aim to establish a fast, reliable online customer support both before and after purchase. This support strategy will be optimised continuously.
– We will further shape our brand through product recommendations from peer-reviewed publications, online reviews, and recommendations from key opinion leaders.
– We are already growing our visibility as we speak. For example, placing our offer visible on various marketing platforms, e.g., WeChat in China. WeChat serves as a complete brand hub for gathering followers, targeting content, push marketing and service messages. All serious brands in China need a WeChat account to be trustworthy. So, we will be right there, among the big players in the field, with our own support channel to meet existing and future clients.
Which geographical areas do you think will contribute most to the core business in the coming years?
– China, USA, EU. These are the three biggest markets. In US, we already have a sales-representation office, and we are planning for one in China. As distances are short, the headquarter in Sweden will handle Europe. This way, we cover more than 80% of the world market. Our customers have collectively published over 200 scientific papers based on results created by our non-invasive cell analysis technology. To name some of our customers, we have HoloMonitors at Bayer AG, US National Institutes of Health, Harvard and Stanford University, and Novo Nordisk.
In 2021, you entered the field of regenerative medicine. What are you expecting to gain in partnership with WFIRM, and what role to you envision PHI will play within the field in the coming years?
– Our partnership will enable us to build a strong network of key players within regenerative medicine as well as regulatory and political institutions.
– Regenerative medicine will play a huge role in the future of healthcare with an increasing elderly population, while it is also a major emerging research area in our target markets with both strong political and financial support.
– HoloMonitor’s non-invasive properties make it particularly well-suited for regenerative medicine, as here the cells themselves are the treatment. The growth rate and advances in regenerative medicine have motivated big pharma companies to enter the field and the market for non-invasive cell culture analysis is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years.
Finally, PHI is currently carrying out a rights issue of just over SEK 72 million, guaranteed by 80 per cent. How will these proceeds be used?
– The future of medicine is here – and with it regenerative medicine. The rights issue does provide us with opportunity to enter this promising field and it will also allow us to enter the clinical market which exceeds the size of our current pre-clinical market. Regenerative medicine could hold the key to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, or cancer. Who wouldn’t take the chance to become part of this future hope?
– Looking ahead, we will also head-on embrace the opportunities from data-rich online-based marketing to predict future sales.
– We believe we have a very solid offer to the industry, and I hope that people will appreciate this and take part in the ongoing rights issue.
See also: CEO Peter Egelberg presents the company at BioStock Investor Meeting, March 16 here.