Nineteen teams from Cancer Tech Accelerator came together at IDEALondon for a pitch day which saw six promising projects selected to move forward to Phase II of the programme. Now in its second year, the consortium, backed by Cancer Research UK, its innovation engine, Cancer Research Horizons, and the Medical Research Council, funds academic innovators with the goal of translating oncology IP for the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
The six finalists will receive £70,000 each in grant funding, plus an additional six months of support from the accelerator. The funding will be used to progress scientific research as the participants receive additional entrepreneurship training and mentorship.
Here are the finalists with more on each of the spin-out projects below.
- myHT are tackling the challenges facing breast-cancer survivors with an app that performs similarly to face-to-face psychological interventions;
- A team led by Dr Vladimir Teif is developing a new generation of liquid biopsy techniques suited for early cancer detection and monitoring patient response to treatment;
- Sentinal 4D uses 3D + AI technology to predict the likelihood of success of novel therapeutics in clinical trials, thus saving years and millions in the drug discovery pipeline;
- WILD Imaging have developed and tested a novel device for lung cancer histopathology analysis;
- Migration Biotherapeutics are developing a medical device targeting glioblastoma multiforme (GMB), the most common malignant brain tumour in adults;
- A team led by Dr Richard Mair which aims to develop an improved approach to monitoring cancer patients.
Led by two psychologists with backgrounds in researching treatment adherence and patient support, myHT are tackling the challenges facing breast-cancer survivors with a B2C/B2B app that performs similarly to face-to-face psychological interventions and outperforms competing health apps. Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer worldwide, with 55,000 cases annually in the UK and an estimated 7.8 million women living with breast cancer worldwide. Half of survivors fail to continue taking adjuvant hormone therapy, significantly increasing the risk of recurrence and death. Early trials of myHT show significant improvement in adherence to medication-taking, in addition to improving symptom management and quality of life. The team anticipates a subscription-based business model, with future plans to expand to cover menopause and sexual health.
A team from the University of Essex’s School of Life Sciences led by Dr Vladimir Teif is developing a new generation of liquid biopsy techniques based on cell-free DNA that uniquely characterise each patient. They aim to make these tests more affordable and sensitive than existing approaches and classify patients across a wide range of medical conditions and comorbidities. This method is well suited for early cancer detection and monitoring patient response to treatment.
Sentinal 4D – based in Professor Chris Bakal’s lab at The Institute of Cancer Research, London – has developed a unique, AI-driven approach to predict the effects of therapeutics in patients based on 3D cell morphology. Their 3D + AI technology can identify better single agents and dangerous drug-drug interactions with an approach that is parallelised and automated, thus improving success rates in clinical trials. Based on early trials with a dataset of 100,000 melanoma cells, they were able to predict whether drugs would be effective/specific and have in vivo toxicity with 100% accuracy. With the drug discovery market currently valued at $74 billion, there is a growing demand for discovery platforms that can be used to screen large, small molecules or antibody libraries across a wide range of cancers. Within the next 3-5 years, co-Founders Professor Chris Bakal, and Matt De Vries and their team anticipate developing the capacity to screen large compound and antibody libraries and entering clinical trials with a much higher probability of success.
Surgery is the go-to option for treating lung cancer, with success measured post-operatively by a histopathology analysis. WILD Imaging have developed and tested a novel Waveguide Total Internal Reflection Imaging Device, allowing for the fast intraoperative analysis of lung surgical margins. With this rapid, intraoperative test to confirm tumour removal, surgeons will be able to remove the entire cancer in a single surgery. This, in turn, will significantly improve patient outcomes, where second-line treatments currently rely on adjuvant therapy. With lung cancer the second most-common cancer worldwide and the global intraoperative imaging market projected to reach $3.8 billion by 2031, there is tremendous potential for novel imaging technologies that improve outcomes for lung cancer patients.
Migration Biotherapeutics are developing a cell biology therapeutic platform targeting glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common malignant brain tumour in adults. Made from electrospun nanofibers and designed to attract migrating GBM cells which cause recurrence of the cancer, the Axon-Like Implantable Glioblastoma Harvesting Trap, aka the ALIGHT device, will first be made available as a in-vitro solution for pharma and clinical research organisations who are striving to overturn a legacy of 1000+ failed trials and 70+ abandoned drugs for this disease. The technology is also being developed to enable a new class of direct therapeutic interventions including devices that can fill the post-surgical cavity and attract cancer cells from the margins, preventing further infiltration while also enabling the extraction of GBM cells for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. With more than 250,000 GBM cases worldwide every year and an estimated 14-16 month survival time from diagnosis, there is significant potential to improve the standard of care, increasing survival time and better identifying drug candidates to treat GBM recurrence.
The sixth team, led by Dr Richard Mair, aims to develop an improved approach to monitoring cancer patients.
Since its inception in 2021, Cancer Tech Accelerator has supported over 100 research projects and academic spinouts with many participants from its first cohort going on to form companies and raise significant rounds. Alumni from the first cohort include Turing Biosystems, Infinitopes, and Opto Biosystems.
Thanks to our partners, Cancer Research UK, Cancer Research Horizons, and the Medical Research Council, for their continued support.
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Image credit: Stable Diffusion