I am one of the founders of Lacuna Diagnostics, a digital pathology company in veterinary medicine. I understand our product, our ROI, our SWOT, our investors. I believe in our team and in the value we provide. But until just a few weeks ago, my connection to our worth was theoretical. On that day, for the first time, I understood the real value of our own company.
My dog Bobo - like any good 50 pound mutt - had cracked a tooth while chewing a stick the size of his head. He had to get the tooth extracted to avoid future complications. Since he would be anesthetized already, I asked our veterinarian to take a look at a little bump on the back of his leg. They took a sample of the lump using a needle and recommended we remove it.
I asked if we could submit the sample for a pathology review before we did anything too extreme. I wanted to know if we were looking at a cancerous tumor or a benign bump.
"Yeah, we could do that... if you'd like," my vet said.
Sensing the hesitation, I asked, "What do you recommend, Doc?"
" He is already under anesthesia. I recommend removing it now and then sending it for histopathology review."
"Okay. You are the expert. Let's remove it." I consented to the plan.
I went to pick up Bobo that afternoon and asked about the lump they removed. The technician drew a small circle half the size of a pea on the back of the dismissal instructions. “The actual lump was tiny! But with these things, you never know how much they might have spread. The spot got inflamed when we poked at it, which usually is a sign of mast cell tumor,” she said.
When I looked at the site, I was a little shocked to see an incision several centimeters in length. “To be sure, we took wide margins around the tumor,” the technician continued. “Plus we sent off a sample to the university diagnostic laboratory. We should have results in 3 or 4 days.”
The dental was on a Thursday afternoon. I wondered all weekend whether Bobo had cancer and whether the lump removal got it all. I kept thinking that Lacuna’s Autoscan system - which often gets pathology results in less than 30 minutes - was made for this situation. Ideally, my vet would have aspirated the lump right before the dental and sent it to Lacuna pathologists. By the time the tooth was out, we would know what caused the lump, giving us a much better idea about whether to excise.
I got a call from Bobo’s veterinarian the next week, five days after Bobo’s dental. She had received the report back after sending a sample of the lump through a courier service. It reported the lump was consistent with an inflammatory lesion. In non-doctor terms?
Probably a spider bite.
The true utility of Lacuna Diagnostics hit me hard right then. Our startup is removing the constraints to gold-standard care in veterinary medicine. Cytology answers on lumps and bumps come back in minutes, not days, with Lacuna. Our digital pathology technology gives veterinarians the answer to treat with confidence. And it gives owners - like me - a peace of mind about our beloved animals. It took my dog’s health being on the line for me to truly realize how much that is worth to me. It is often difficult to put a dollar value on the emotional impact of time spent waiting. However, in those times intangibles are the most important.
By Bikul Koirala, Co-Founder of Lacuna Diagnostics