After more than 30 years of mixing ingredients to create customized remedies for allergy relief, a California doctor is gearing up to sell his solutions nationwide.
Dr. Robert Bocian and his daughter, Shani, have started a company called Allermi and raised $1.25 million in pre-seed funding, led by Lucas Venture Group, to get it going.
They were inspired, in part, by the pandemic-driven boom in digital, direct-to-consumer health, led by companies like Roman and Curology, according to Shani Bocian. She is the company’s CEO.
“We’re super-excited about this direct-to-patient model where we can have really specialized one-on-one care and highly specialized therapeutics,” Shani said in an interview.
Allermi’s service is currently available in California but the San Francisco-based company is pursuing approvals in other states, starting with Florida and Texas, Shani said. The ingredients are commercially available but the company needs state licenses to compound them into patient-specific mixtures. The mixtures target nasal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis. They affect one in three people.
Before Allermi prescribes its medications, patients complete an online intake questionnaire, which is then evaluated by an Allermi allergist. The company uses the information to craft a customized spray, writes the prescription and then mails the medication on a monthly or on-demand basis. The cost is $45 per month.
Different ingredients address different allergy symptons, the Bocians said.
According to the company’s website, a patient suffering from runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes might receive a mix of azelastine, ipratropium and nometasone. Compare that with a patient with a stuffy nose, sinus pain and post-nasal drip who might be sent a spray with olopatadine, oxymetazoline and triamcinolone.
“The degree of customization that we can bring to the patient is quite remarkable in terms of of the component medications in a single spray,” Dr. Bocian said.
Allermi adjusts the prescription based on feedback from patients. “This is an ongoing relationship we have with patients that really aims for perfection and complete control of symptoms,” said Dr. Bocian, a professor of allergy and immunology at Stanford Medicine. “If we can accomplish that … in a highly allergenic region such as California, we can accomplish it anywhere.”
The company refers patients to in-person doctors if they have other issues that need to be addressed, such as sinus disease or a deviated septum.
The company currently is serving a few hundred patients per month following a soft launch in June. It expects the number to grow into the thousands over the next year as its marketing ramps up. To handle increased demand, Allermi has partnered with grocery chain Albertsons, which operates a compounding facility in San Jose.
The pre-seed funding will cover expanded production, as well as development of patient-facing software. The firm also has hired a chief marketing officer, Christian Liu. He was previously head of growth at probiotic acne care company Phyla and worked in marketing for gut health company Ombre, formerly known as Thryve.
Patients typically rely on over-the-counter medications to treat nasal allergies. But the treatments often are imperfect and patients end up experimenting with different drugs. the Bocians said. Few see allergists, due in part to the cost and a shortage of professionals, according to Shani, who has relied on her father’s solutions for her own allergies.
“There also often is up to a six-month waiting time,” she said. “So, people are going to the drugstore aisle and they are self-treating.”
A combination spray called Dymista is available by prescription . But Dr. Bocian said he does not prescribe it due, in part, to the side effects, which can include nose bleeds.
Dissatisfaction with the existing approaches is what led Dr. Bocian to start mixing his own remedies for patients in the 1990s. He also believes allergy patients are wrongly expected to settle for a certain degree of suffering from their symptoms.
“I’ve never taken that approach in my practice,” Dr. Bocian said. “So, I think Allermi represents a significant advance.”
Photo: Pakhnyushchyy, Getty Images