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Cancer Detection Start-Up Gains $4M in Seed Funds

Detect cancer scrabble

(Marco Verch, Flickr)

3 Nov. 2022. A developer of early-stage non-invasive cancer detection tests based on research in university labs is raising $4 million in its seed venture round. Early Is Good is a three year-old company in Indianapolis developing diagnostic tests for diseases of the renal system, including cancer of the bladder, kidney, and prostate.

Early Is Good or EIG says its mission is to develop accurate, widely accessible, and easy to use tests that detect renal cancer in its earliest stages, when patients have more treatment options. The company’s technology analyzes urine samples for multiple types of biomarkers including proteins, as well as messenger RNA, and micro- and long single-stranded non-coding RNA. EIG says most commercial diagnostics analyze one biomarker, running the risk of false positive or negative errors.

The company’s lead product is a test for bladder cancer, named BCDx. According to American Cancer Society estimates, more than 81,000 cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, leading to some 17,000 deaths. Men are three times more likely than women to develop bladder cancer. EIG says when blood in urine is detected, the first sign of possible bladder cancer, the most common detection method is a cystoscopy, an invasive test with risks of complications, such as perforation and infection, yet still relies on subjective interpretations by clinicians.

Sensitive detectors of microRNA biomarkers

The company cites data showing bladder cancer has high rates of recurrence, progression, and mortality, even with advances in surgical and and chemotherapy treatments. One reason, says EIG, is the invasive and uncomfortable cystoscopy that discourages frequent follow-up testing. The BCDx test, however, is a non-invasive analysis of urine samples for multiple biomarkers. EIG says its test does not require separate extraction or amplification steps, and offers high positive and negative predictive values for biomarkers even in tiny concentrations.

EIG is based on research by company CEO and founder Thakshila Liyanage, while a doctoral candidate at Indiana University/Purdue University in Indianapolis. At IUPUI, Liyanage studied analytical chemistry, particularly methods for detecting cancer with microRNAs, short non-coding RNA biomarkers. Her research includes development of highly sensitive detectors of microRNA biomarkers, down to single nucleotide specificity, with an optical technology using gold nanoscale structures.

“Despite being one of the most common cancers in the U.S., we still rely on old techniques to diagnose bladder cancer,” says Liyanage in an EIG statement released through BusinessWire. “Our technology can distinguish healthy versus oncogenic phenotypes earlier and more specifically than a cystoscopy, while also having the benefit of being non-invasive and less reliant on inconvenient procedures and subjective analysis.”

EIG is raising $4 million in seed funds, led by technology venture investor Social Capital in Menlo Park, California. “With EIG’s early breakthrough work around bladder cancer,” says Social Capital partner Jay Zaveri, “they are developing a single lab-developed test, BCDx, which would enable patients to detect potential bladder cancer earlier and more conveniently than any other test currently available.”

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