University of Edinburgh Spin-out Detects Cancer Earlier Secures £1m to Commercialize cfDNA Breakthrough

University of Edinburgh Spin-out Detects Cancer Earlier Secures £1 to Commercialize cfDNA Breakthrough

Scotland is known as a resourceful place and if one cares to understand a bit of economic history, there’s a decent case to be made that economics as we know it as a science was developed at least in part, in Caledonia perhaps accelerated by the period known as the Scottish Enlightenment. An historically somewhat harsh place at times, necessity can be the mother of invention. One field that needs more breakthroughs includes the development of life science-based technology to not only detect cancer earlier but also monitor difficult to find and treat oncological conditions. A new University of Edinburgh spin-out venture developed a technology to do just that and apparently just received a £1m infusion of seed funding from a group of early-stage Edinburgh-based angel investors—a syndicate known as Archangels and Scottish Enterprise. The goal: progress and ultimately bring this breakthrough developed by BioCaptiva to market.

The Spin-out

The venture, BioCaptiva, was supported and nurtured by a University of Edinburgh incubation service called Edinburgh Innovations. The venture brought on Jeremy Wheeler as CEO as well as Dr. Frank Armstrong as no-executive chairman and Dr. Stephen little as non-executive director to help the company progress. The company developed a medical device that actually captures circulating free DNA (cfDNA) from the blood of patients in far great amounts that is feasible from current standard single blood draws hence overcoming a material limitation in the field of cancer liquid biopsy testing reports Insider UK.

The Investigational Product

Now with the seed money BioCaptiva can commence licensing the technology and progress the product for in human clinical trials. Known as the BioCollector, the device is used along with a standard apheresis machine to help filter cfNDA from a patient’s blood system.

The intellectual property foundations for this investigational device are based on the research here in Edinburgh, led by co-founders and directors Professor Tim Aitman, director of the centre for genomic and experimental medicine, and professor Mark Bradley.

If the new spin-out can successfully execute by progressing this device to commercialization, this would open up the field of early cancer detection in patients precluding the need for a surgical biopsy. This also introduces a novel approach for the actual monitoring and detecting of disease recurrence, currently not feasible.

Investors Bullish

Sara Hardy directs new investments for Archangels and reported recently, “This has the potential to vastly increase the sensitivity and applicability of liquid biopsy for detection of cancerous tumor, which are often diagnosed too late to enable specific treatment option to improve outcomes.”

In fact, “the venture has the potential to provide pharma companies and clinicians with high volume of cfDNA from individual patients and this could revolutionize the way some cancers are detected,” shared Ms. Hardy in Precision Oncology News

Edinburgh-based Archangels happen to be the longest continuously operating business angel syndicate in the world in operation since 1992.

Direction of cfDNA

This approach allows for a more rapid, non-invasive and repetitive method of sampling. A combination of these biological features and technical feasibility of sampling make cfDNA as a potential biomarker of tremendous utility for example in the areas of cancer tumors or autoimmune rheumatic diseases. This approach offers a possible biomarker with advantages over invasive tissue biopsy as a qualitative measure for detection of transplant rejection as well as immunosuppression optimization. Challenges have been a lack of uniformity on the type of sample, methods of sample collection/processing, free or cell-surface bound DNA, cfDNA extraction and cfDNA quantification as well as in generally presenting and interpreting findings as discussed recently in Cell-Free DNA as a Biomarker in Autoimmune Rhematic Diseases authored by Bhargavi Duvvuri and Christian Lood  both with University of Washington in Seattle.

The Inventors

Tim Aitman, Professor, Chair Molecular of Pathology and Genetics, director of the centre for genomic and experimental medicine

Mark Bradley, Professor

Call to Action: InvestorWatch—consider this spin-out company as a potential target for investment.


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