The latest report from Cancer Research UK on Early Detection and Diagnostic pathways says that unless the NHS/ UK Government finds a new way of valuing and funding Early Detection and Diagnostic tech then people will continue to needlessly die. The technology being pioneered by startups such as the 50+ teams on our Cancer Tech Accelerator is able to leverage the latest developments in Computer Vision, NLP, Machine Learning, sensor technology and most importantly genomics to be able to detect the biomarkers that identify pre-symptom, or at stage 1 or 2, cancers. If you do this and prompt action is taken to remove or treat the tumour people live, lives are saved. The graph above shows this and shows that so many cancers are not caught early.

As the report recommends “A taskforce should be established ( immediately by the UK government in my view) to develop an action plan to remove barriers, incentivise industry and investors into the Early Detection & Diagnostic space and accelerate adoption of technology. A vital part of this must be considering how diagnostic tests are valued in the health service (the NHS will pay around 30x more for the treatment of cancer than for technology that finds the cancer early when it can be more easily treated) and their pathway to adoption, building on the development of the NHS England and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) MedTech Funding Mandate [18], and committing to quickly commission technologies that meet the well defined standard. This review should also explore a model of earlier roll-out of tests showing impact on reducing late stage diagnosis, followed by real-world evaluation of longer-term impact (e.g. on mortality)”

So let’s make this a priority. It’s a win for startups for the small amount of money paid by the NHS ( and other health providers) for their detection or diagnostic tools and technologies means the market size/ market value for this tech is relatively small. Consequently, ED&D Tech is seen as a relatively unattractive market for investors and as a result startups in the space are uncapitalised and in the UK very reliant on government grants to fund upfront and ongoing the R&D and commercialisation costs. The small irony is that ED &D tech startups, especially with chronic disease but also to a slightly lesser extent cancer, are presently incentivised by big pharma to develop this new technology as a companion or complimentary diagnostic to drug therapeutics. A companion or complimentary diagnostic can help the paying customer drug company to stratify the best patients for their drug treatments, or monitor the impact of their drug treatments, identify new previously untreated patients that could benefit from a drug treatment. Nothing wrong with these outcomes apart from that the intention behind that is too sell more drugs or get a new drug approved and this is because that is what Health providers will pay big bucks for rather than the paltry sums that the same health providers are prepared to fork out to put the power of ED&D technology in the hands of physicians to find cancer early when it is much easier to treat and erase using standard procedures and in may cases generic drugs.

Changing how health systems especially the NHS pay for the cost and impact of ED&D technology is a win-win for everyone involved. Let’s make it happen.

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