When Predictive Oncology leaders asked Mel Engle, a cancer survivor, to be on the company's board four years ago, he said he "leapt at the chance."

Now, after becoming board chairman a year ago and then CEO in March, he wants to ensure the Eagan business realizes its potential in oncology, boosting profits along the way.

Publicly traded Predictive Oncology uses artificial intelligence to help clinicians and pharmaceutical companies treat people with cancer.

Engle's strategy includes mobilizing the company's four subsidiaries under one brand, erasing debt and allocating funds into research and development.

The majority of the company's sales will stem from its Helomics business, which provides pharmaceutical companies with an AI-driven platform that reduces the amount of time it takes to bring therapeutics to market.

Pharmaceutical companies start thousands of new compounds every year, which can be expensive to test and determine if they work in different kinds of cancers, Engle said. By working with Predictive Oncology, those companies can "cut through the clutter" and focus their R&D efforts toward winning compounds.

"I've been around the company for a while and know where the opportunities are," Engle said. "With the proper approach and proper leadership, we'll be able to be successful."

Engle's experience in restructuring businesses includes leading publicly traded medical device company Thermogenesis, and before that, pharma company Dey, where he transformed the company strategy from 90% commodity generics to 90% branded products. During his time, sales went from $250 million annually to over $600 million.

Predictive Oncology reported revenue of $1.25 million in 2020, with gross profits of $805,080, but also reported a net loss of $25.8 million for the year.

Officials said the COVID-19 pandemic affected finances, for example, leading to a slowdown of accounts receivable as suppliers asked for pre-delivery deposits. Financial losses included a loss on impairment of goodwill of $12.87 million.

During the first quarter of 2021, however, Predictive Oncology received $31.1 million in net proceeds from investors, the company reported.

In February, the company raised $17.6 million from a private placement sale of stock. With those proceeds, $5.8 million will be applied toward reducing indebtedness, with remaining capital going to the company's R&D group, Engle said.

"That's really the engine of the future," Engle said. "We're going to be putting every available dollar into our R&D pipeline. That's where we see the payback coming."

Predictive Oncology's pipeline consists of proprietary AI to analyze the data from 150,000 tumors to help clinicians individualize cancer patient therapies and help pharma companies find new cancer therapies.

The company is also working on internal drug discovery, or drug repurposing, focusing on ovarian cancer. The plan is to license promising drugs to global pharma companies, company officials said.

Engle is also pursuing the sale of Skyline Medical, Predictive Oncology's legacy company that makes an FDA-approved automated system that health care facilities use to collect and dispose potentially infectious waste fluid. Though Skyline Medical became self-supporting from a cash standpoint in 2020, Engle's focus is on oncology.

"The company is in a turnaround mode now, where it has gone through funding issues and other structural issues over the years, and is now on a path to success," Engle said.

Nick Williams • 612-673-4021