By Mary Vanac
Medical device start-up CerviLenz Inc. appointed its first CFO/COO: Federica “Freddi” O’Brien, a certified public accountant who spent the last decade working with bioscience companies.
“I have 30 years of experience working with middle-market, development-stage companies, as well as big pharma companies,” O’Brien said. “I had been tracking CerviLenz since I heard about it in the fall. I’m pretty passionate about what we’re doing here. When there was a opportunity, I threw my hat in the ring.”
In mid-May, CerviLenz did a staged launch of its device at the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists annual meeting in San Francisco. “It’s really at the stage of demonstrating commercial potential,” Dean Koch, CerviLenz’ president and CEO, said early this month about his company’s device.
CerviLenz is an inexpensive, wand-like device that obstetricians, nurse-midwives and labor and delivery nurses can use to accurately measure a pregnant woman’s cervix. A short cervix is the best predictor of preterm birth — a $26 billion-a-year problem in the United States.
“So, right now, we’re focusing on about 25 customers around the country who, over the next few weeks, are going to start their evaluations” of the disposable CerviLenz device to triage women in emergency rooms for premature labor, Koch said.
Eventually, he hopes the device of his Chagrin Falls, Ohio, company will be used as a routine screening tool in most pregnancies, as well as with yet-to-be-approved progesterone drugs to treat preterm labor.
O’Brien comes to CerviLenz from the Philadelphia office of RSM McGladrey, the national assurance, tax and consulting firm based in Charlotte, N.C. A director of life sciences at that firm, she was vice president of finance and CFO for Cardiokine Inc., a Phase III biotechnology company; and senior financial executive for Barrier Therapeutics, a late-stage biotech company.
Before that, O’Brien was vice president and CFO of Infonautics Inc., an online service company. She practiced as a CPA for almost 15 years with at Coopers and Lybrand and other national accounting firms, working primarily with life sciences and technology companies.
O’Brien believes her background is just right for CerviLenz. “Having been in public accounting for many year, I have helped companies build at different stages, whether they were early development stage or at the stage of going commercial,” she said. “I’ve raised over $300 million combined at all those companies.”
Fundraising will be important for the future of CerviLenz. “We will likely need an additional round of capital about a year from now, probably in the $5 million range,” Koch said. “That’ll be to accelerate our sales and marketing activities.”
Bottom line, O’Brien loves what CerviLenz is doing.
“I’m a mom. I love all babies,” she said. “We are able to provide a tool to help pregnancies succeed. That’s something I feel really good about.”