A Tempe company is paving the way in the field of nuclear medicine – and just got a boost from Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic to keep its research going.
Serva started as an energy company but has recently expanded to include Serva Medical, which is specializing in the development of medical isotopes to use in the nuclear medicine field. The field has been around since the 1940s and 1950s when iodine was first used in medicine; a PET scan is a prime example of the field’s practical use.
According to Sarah Jones, Vice President for Serva Medical, the U.S. is beginning to make investments in the growing field. The U.S. Department of Energy invested over $85 million in nuclear medicine research into isotopes last year, she said.
“What our software does essentially, is we can put in any radio isotope and tell you what all the pathways are to develop that, which is something that normally would have taken months to years to research and explore and put together,” she said, adding that some have shown promise in cancer treatment. “We can now do it in minutes and we do that for different isotopes.
The biggest issue at hand is a lack of supply, according to Jones.
“Currently, there's not enough supply to even supply the researchers let alone if they were to fulfill its promise and then be out there and be treating patients with,” she said. “So we have identified a pathway to develop that. We've modeled that and we're currently in the process of testing that in the labs and hope to have the proof of concept on that by early fall.”
While Jones said the research is still in its early stages, Serva’s participation in the third annual Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator has certainly given the new medical vertical a much-needed boost. The company completed a two-week intensive in April and will go to another event in October.
“For us, it really accelerated and amplified our thinking around what we wanted to do with this vertical,” she said. “Now we're looking at whether it makes sense for us to actually spin out Serva Medical as a separate entity, a separate subsidiary, and do some fundraising just in that space. So we're looking at options to do that. It really is just the exposure that we got. We were really able to connect with people and understand this business to a degree that we had not before and we see there's lots of opportunity.”
Jones said Serva was hoping to raise $2 million from investors in a difficult stock market, but received $6 million in offers following their presentation. In the end, the company took in just $3 million to keep shares of the company intact.
Serva has been based in Tempe since its inception and its founders Ian Horvath and Dr. Terry Alford both have strong ties to ASU, Horvath as an alum who dreamed up the company while in school and Alford as a professor at the university.
Even as the company grows, Jones said Serva plans to stay put in Tempe. Serva Energy’s headquarters are located at 2111 S. Industrial Park Avenue.
“Tempe has always been a great home for us,” she said.