A Slice on Donald Weber, Founder, CEO and President of Beacon Biomedical
There are procedures and steps in place to keep the average human healthy: regular doctor check-ups, self-exams, and more. Donald Weber’s sister-in-law followed all precautions but still found a lump in her breast at the age of 35. She got diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer before she was even eligible for a mammogram and fought for seven years until she couldn’t fight anymore. Facing a devastating loss, Weber founded Beacon Biomedical, with a mission to develop a technology for an easy, accurate and affordable blood test to detect undiagnosed cancer.
Prior to founding Beacon Biomedical, Weber already had over 40 years of experience in the laboratory services industry with a background in biology and chemistry. Fueled by a passion for early cancer detection, Weber’s goal is to “screen individuals who are either non-compliant with their screening, or not even eligible yet” because there are too many people dying too soon. Beacon Biomedical’s first test was developed to detect colorectal cancer, where 63% of deaths are from not getting screened. Typical screening for colorectal cancer happens in the doctor’s office from your healthcare provider.
Beacon Biomedical was on track to launch with their colorectal test in April 2020… until COVID-19 hit the U.S. The timing was “terrible”, and the pandemic crashed the whole launch, not to mention cancer screening went down 80-90% in 2020. As Weber reevaluated and took a step back, he found a silver lining. “We said, ‘Let’s figure out a way to take what we know and save lives, whether that’s saving them personally or getting them back to work.’ So we pivoted and started focusing on COVID testing and said, ‘If we can’t follow our mission [cancer] right now, at least we can continue the mission of helping people get back to work.’” Weber and his team were able to launch a COVID-19 test in July 2020. He describes this as a “little lifeboat being sent from a higher power” because they were able to stay true to their mission while keeping the business afloat.
When looking at the startup ecosystem in Arizona, Weber is happy to see changes moving in the right direction. He remembers having to get on a plane to talk to investors in the past because Arizona wasn’t even on their radar. “Everybody was flying over us going to the east and west, but it’s starting to transition. More people are coming in and starting to knock on the doors.” Even with these changes, Weber describes fundraising as a tough part of the entrepreneurial journey. However, he strongly believes that with a clear mission, everything else will follow. As a burgeoning tech scene, competition for fundraising is high in Arizona, and it’s important to Weber to find the right investors who share the same mission: saving lives.
Reflecting on Beacon Biomedical’s mission, Weber has clear goals for the future. Recognizing that it’s inconvenient and sometimes not possible for people to go to the doctor, he hopes to make cancer screening more accessible and beneficial for patients. Although the company is currently local to Arizona, Weber plans to grow the company to provide the same cancer-detecting technology across the globe. “If I can get halfway through that mission I’ll be thrilled… I’d love to make more money so I can help people do more because to give back, you have to have something to give.” Weber’s overall goal is to be able to financially support smaller companies so they can succeed because he knows firsthand what it takes to be a startup trying to get off the ground.
Donald Weber holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Northern Illinois University. Weber has held various leadership positions in the healthcare industry, with a focus on the laboratory services industry. Weber founded Beacon Biomedical in 2013 and has since developed a COVID-19 and colorectal cancer screening test. Connect with Weber on LinkedIn.