SBRI Healthcare has awarded a total of £3.8m in funding to four innovative technology companies that are in the process of developing cutting edge cancer diagnostic tools.
The companies, C the Signs, Cambridge Oncometrix, Chromition and Deep Med IO were among the winners of the July 2017 SBRI Healthcare national competition, which had appealed for healthcare technology solutions geared specifically towards more effective cancer screening and diagnosis. Today’s phase two funding comes in addition to the original £100k investment award made by SBRI Healthcare to each of these companies.
Now that these winning companies have demonstrated technical feasibility over a six-month development phase, the latest investment by SBRI Healthcare means that the companies are in a position to further develop and commercialise their technologies, and be fast-tracked to market. C the Signs is already available on the NHS and the other innovations could potentially be used in primary care or within NHS hospitals in the next few years.
Karen Livingstone, National Director of SBRI Healthcare, commented: “The role of SBRI Healthcare is to support technological innovations that tackle specific unmet needs within the NHS. The challenge of enhancing our cancer screening and diagnostic capabilities is a key area of need: by 2035, it is projected that at least 500,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year *.
“Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has made clear his support for new technology as a way of supporting improved outcomes for patients, and the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has spoken of the need to make a step change in the way we diagnose cancer. SBRI Healthcare has responded to these challenges and the reality that UK cancer survival rates need to improve by focusing on innovations to accelerate the diagnosis of cancer.
“Each of the four winning companies was selected on the basis of their potential to deliver improved outcomes for patients and on their potential value to the NHS. The fact that this clutch of projects encompasses technologies including digital pathology, histopathology, liquid biopsy and artificial intelligence, demonstrates the range of innovations available to the NHS. We look forward to working with the inventors of these incredible, ground-breaking technologies to help make their technologies a reality in primary care and within our hospitals.”
Dr Bhavagaya Bakshi, GP & Co-founder, C the Signs, commented: “We are delighted and honoured to be awarded £1m in funding from SBRI Healthcare. This funding will be transformative in how we diagnose patients with cancer, using our technology. Early diagnosis of cancer has the potential to save more lives than any cancer treatment in history. Using C the Signs technology, patients can be identified at the earliest and most curable stage of the disease. We currently have over 550 doctors using the tool with 5,000 patients having been risk assessed. The future of cancer is survival.”
Funding was given to the following companies:
C the Signs is an app and website that helps clinicians identify patients at risk of cancer faster. Diagnosing cancer is extremely difficult due to the large volume of symptoms, signs and risk factors, the earliest of which are often vague and non-specific and overlap with other less sinister conditions. Founded by two doctors aiming to accelerate the diagnostic process, the technology uses artificial intelligence mapped with the latest evidence to identify patients at risk and the most appropriate next step for the patient, all in less than 30 seconds.
Cambridge Oncometrix has developed a non-invasive test that diagnoses prostate cancer early without patients having to undergo prostate biopsy. Current prostate cancer detection pathway is still very inaccurate and leads to more than 50% of the cases having unnecessary prostate biopsies, where no cancer is found. The Prostate Liquid Biopsy test measures a patient’s semen for prostate-specific chemical elements, which in the presence of cancer, significantly change their concentration.
Chromition enables faster and cheaper diagnosis of cancer. The company has developed a way for biopsy results to be obtained and analysed faster using labels that transforms the way histopathology is conducted within the NHS. Multicoloured Luminspheres™ biomarkers that bind to cancer cells are used with microscopy equipment already installed in the NHS and analysed using novel pattern recognition software that can identify cancer.
Deep Med IO has developed a computer aided diagnosis system for digital pathology along with an AI powered system for automatic identification of metastatic regions in lymph nodes on stained telescopic slides, that will be presented to the pathologist to make the final evaluation. More than 13,000 UK cancer patients wait too long for treatment due to a diagnostic bottleneck, which is often held up by limited availability of pathologists. This system is expected to increase cancer diagnosis speed and accuracy two-fold.
* Source: Smittenaar et al. Cancer incidence and mortality projections in the UK until 2035. British Journal of Cancer (2016) [115, 1147–1155].