Robust research and taking a disciplined approach
Primed to hit the US market with a botanical osteoarthritis treatment, Gold Coaster Persis Anderson gives testimony to finding and leveraging your point-of-difference.
When her late father-in-law developed osteoarthritis Persis Anderson began searching for a treatment that didn’t interfere with any of the drugs he was already on.
Persis started researching and found out that there was a medicinal herb called comfrey that was traditionally used for joint and muscle pain.
Making the most of what was available in Australia at the time, she used a specially made poultice with dried comfrey powder mixed with oil and wrapped it around her father-in-law’s knee. Her father-in-law started to see some positive results.
Persis soon realised that there was a huge need for a safe, effective treatment for osteoarthritis.
“The more people we spoke to we found that, there were a lot of people, especially in the older demographic and frequently younger people all having joint pain,” she says.
“That is what prompted me to put together a team of researchers and scientists to see if we could address this in a meaningful manner and develop it as a treatment of choice for millions of arthritis sufferers worldwide,” Persis explains.
Persis and her bio-tech start-up Arthritis Relief Plus developed 4Jointz®, a topical botanical treatment for joint pain, swelling and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.
As well as helping people avoid the side effects of some pharmaceutical drugs for osteoarthritis, 4Jointz has the potential to provide significant cost savings for the community by delaying the need for surgery.
From the start Persis has focussed on differentiating her product from the crowd, she has set out to prove the benefits of 4Jointz through clinical research.
“Our team was focussed on making sure that we were able to eventually differentiate ourselves. The one way to do that would be to not take any shortcuts and to have as many clinical studies and as much underpinning research as possible,” says Persis.
“You’ll find that research on finished formulations is rare, and our research has been actually conducted not on one or two or three of the ingredients but on the combination of the finished product,” she explains.
As a small bio-tech start-up company on the Gold Coast, funding has always been an issue of concern. Again the company has taken a disciplined approach sticking to a very lean start-up budget, with team members mostly incentivised by equity.
“What we have achieved is a Phase III tested product, ready to be commercialised world-wide; most companies would have spent five times the amount we have to get to where we are,” Persis says.
It has also helped that they have a finished product that potential investors are able to sample and experience the results for themselves.
Persis strongly believes in the value of connecting into the innovation ecosystem in the Gold Coast and wider Queensland.
For three years Arthritis Relief Plus called the Gold Coast Innovation Centre (GCIC) home. GCIC was a start-up hub jointly supported by Griffith University, the Queensland Government and the Gold Coast City Council.
Persis says the start-up space offered more benefits than just a desk.
“The environment, the networks, you were always meeting people that could add value. So all that was very, very helpful,” she says.
Persis was also part of the regional delegation that attended Myriad, Queensland’s landmark innovation and investment summit last month, alongside other innovators from the Gold Coast and again used the opportunity to network.
“It was very good to be involved in a vibrant environment showcasing the best of the tech companies, and it was great to see a lot of people. All of these factors play a big role, otherwise you would be isolated, trying to do things on your own,” she says.
In 2016 Arthritis Relief received $93,500 of funding from Advance Queensland’s Ignite Ideas Fund, which has helped them push ahead with the commercialisation of 4Jointz, and get prepared to launch online in the US market.
Persis speaks humbly of the support Arthritis Relief Plus has received, explaining how proud they are to be an Ignite Ideas Fund recipient and is quick to add that they are working very hard to get measurable outcomes for Queensland in the near future.
“We are working at a furious pace, getting the product out to the global market. At the moment we are looking at accelerating the online marketing of our product, with a US focus and of course our partnering and licensing discussions are ongoing with various regional and global companies,” says Persis.
“Whether we export the product itself of whether we export the intellectual property and its license to global companies, to other regions and other countries, all of that is going to be benefitting our city and our state,” she says.
“I dream about putting the Gold Coast and Queensland on the world map for biotechnology, for a healthcare product. I want to make sure Queensland, Australia and the Gold Coast get the benefits, because it will be a great story coming from this region and it will reap the benefits.”
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