Medtech company Cooler Heads has announced FDA clearance for its scalp cooling device to help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy save their hair and adds $1.5M in funding to invest in commercialization. The company participated in Ad Astra’s San Diego-based accelerator program and has raised $3.1M in funding to date from Robin Hood Ventures, Anathem Ventures, Crescent Ridge Partners, Gaingels, Astia Angels, and Teal Ventures, as well as industry leaders Dr. Stan Marks and Dr. Sandeep Bansal.
“Scalp cooling is an effective way for cancer patients to save their hair, but existing methods are prohibitively expensive and difficult to use,” explains Cooler Heads CEO Kate Dilligan. A recent USA Today article highlights patient frustrations with current solutions, which are out of reach for most.
Dilligan is a veteran entrepreneur and cancer survivor who, after spending over $8,000 to keep her own hair during chemo, made it her life’s work to develop an easy-to-use, tech-enabled scalp cooling solution that is dramatically less expensive than today’s methods. She explained, “cancer patients undergoing chemo are dealing with the hardest challenge one can face; keeping their hair is critical to their mental health, their sense of self, and their recovery process.”
Dilligan notes that saving one’s hair is not about vanity, instead “it’s about recognizing yourself in the mirror; it’s about privacy, dignity, and not letting cancer take your identity from you. With Cooler Heads’ FDA clearance “for the first time, saving one’s hair is in reach for all eligible cancer patients undergoing chemo, not just the wealthiest.”
Dilligan founded Cooler Heads in 2018 and found an early champion in San Diego-based tech accelerator Ad Astra, whose founder Allison Long Pettine was impressed by Dilligan’s passion and mission-driven focus. Pettine shares, “Kate’s first-hand knowledge of the problem allowed her to uniquely understand how large the opportunity could be in an otherwise overlooked market.”
After “graduating” from Ad Astra, Cooler Heads went on to raise $1.4M in seed funding in 2019, led by San Francisco-based Anathem Ventures, whose Managing Partner Crystal McKellar, explains: “Kate built her initial working prototype on her own dime and developed valuable relationships with top cancer treatment centers before she raised a dollar of venture funding. Medical device companies typically raise tens, if not hundreds of millions in venture capital to achieve FDA approval. Kate did it with less than $1.5 million. In an era of overblown tech copycats, Cooler Heads is proof that unique, idiosyncratic technology companies that deliver tremendous value to their investors still exist in Silicon Valley.”
On the heels of its FDA clearance, Cooler Heads has now closed on an oversubscribed $1.5M funding round from existing venture backers and new investors. Robin Hood Ventures Partner and Cooler Heads Board Observer Sasha Schrode, whose fund participated in the latest round, noted: “With the new funding round Robin Hood Ventures is excited to help accelerate the commercialization of the revolutionary Cooler Heads cold cap system. Cancer patients are in the fight of their life, and Cooler Heads lessens the pain of combat by helping patients save their hair and keep their identity.”
Cooler Heads has signed multiple commercial partnerships and will begin serving patients in Q1 2022. With commercialization Kate Diligen hopes to get the word out that hair loss is not inevitable, and plans to make Cooler Heads the standard of care for eligible patients who want to avoid this highly visible, public, and devastating side effect of chemotherapy.