CEO: Position is vacant.
Executive chairman of the board: David F.
Financial information: Would not disclose.
No. of local employees: 60.
Investors: Privately funded by the Reiss family
and other undisclosed investors.
Headquarters: San Diego, near the Sorrento Mesa
Year founded: 1997.
Company description: A diagnostic and
laboratory services company focused on the capture, detection,
enumeration and analysis of circulating tumor cells in the blood
David F. Hale, considered by many to be a founding father of San
Diegos mighty biotechnology cluster, has taken the helm at Biocept,
a cancer-focused diagnostic and laboratory services company thats
getting ready to launch its first product in July.
Hale, 62, joins Biocept as executive chairman of the board, the
firm announced April 5, but will be essentially serving as the head
of the company because it doesnt have a chief executive officer.
Stephen Coutts left at the end of 2010 when Biocept shifted to
commercializing its non-invasive cancer cell detection tests.
David has extensive experience in both getting companies off the
ground and moving companies into commercialization, said Joseph
Panetta, CEO of Biocom, a regional life sciences trade association
based in San Diego. Hale helped create Biocom and still serves on
its board. Commercializing is a much different undertaking than
R&D. It takes a solid base of talent to move in that
But talent is just one piece of the puzzle, notes Duane Roth,
CEO of Connect, a San Diego nonprofit that helps biotech firms
commercialize products; Hale also is a founder of that
organization. Theres probably no one in San Diego with a bigger
Rolodex than David has, Roth said. He knows all the right
Seeking More Financing
Those connections will be key as Biocept looks to expand into
new sources of financing. The company has held the interesting
distinction of operating without any venture capital. It is
privately funded, primarily by the family of company founder Robert
Reiss, a biomedical engineer who died in 2005. Reiss wife, Claire
Reiss, continues to serve on Biocepts board as chairwoman
Hale said that hell be working with the board to set the
strategic direction of the company and ensure that we have the
senior-level executives in place to achieve its goals. That likely
will include hiring a chief executive, he adds.
Hopefully, if we do those things well, we will create some
significant value for our shareholders, Hale said. It takes a lot
of money to build a successful biotechnology company. One of our
objectives is to bring in additional financing to the company and
to finance the launch of the first product.
The product hes referring to is OncoCEE-BR, which uses a blood
sample to detect the presence of breast-cancer tumor cells. Its
expected to hit the market in the third quarter, and will be used
mainly to track the progress of cancer treatments without having to
conduct painful tissue biopsies. Hale says that Biocept intends to
apply that technology to tests that detect circulating tumor cells
from lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer, among
others. Those could be available as early as September, says Hale,
declining to provide revenue projections.
Caring for Cancer PatientsThis is a very
important area of medicine today, said Hale, who has been chairman
and CEO of Hale BioPharma Ventures LLC since 2006. We believe that
we can help physicians by being the best in the world at capturing
these tumor cells.
Through a molecular analysis of the cells, it may be possible to
create individualized therapy, he says. Im excited about the
potential of this technology to improve the treatment of patients
For Hale, cancer detection has always been an area of
professional interest, starting in the 1980s. He was integral in
creating the PSA test for prostate cancer, launched in 1986 while
serving as president of Hybritech Inc. The test became one of the
worlds most widely used diagnostic tools for cancer, Hale
In joining Biocept, Hale also joins an old friend, Ivor Royston,
a co-founder of Hybritech. The company was eventually acquired by
Eli Lilly and Co. The duo also worked together at the oncology
company CancerVax Corp., which merged with Micromet Inc. in 2006.
Royston became a Biocept director at the end of 2010 and had a role
in bringing Hale on board as executive chairman.
When I talked to recruiting firms, they told me, Youre not going
to get David, Royston laughed. But I asked David to go ahead and
take a look at this company. We both share excitement for the
technology. It can revolutionize how we treat cancer and how we
diagnose cancer recurrence.
Kelly Quigley is a freelance writer for the San Diego Business