SBRI Healthcare will award a total of £1 million in funding to 10 companies that have demonstrated the ability to facilitate earlier and faster diagnosis of cancer.
With UK incidence rates of all cancers on the increase, SBRI Healthcare believes that the greatest opportunity to improve survival rates lies in increasing rates of early diagnosis through improved cancer screening.
The NHS England funded programme, which provides funding and support to companies solving healthcare problems, has selected 10 winners in its latest round of development awards. The successful companies are Aidence BV, C the Signs, Cambridge Oncometrix, Chromition, CorporateHealth, DeepMed, FaHRAS, Oncimmune, Skin Analytics, and VODCA.
Stanley Kaye, professor of edical oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital, said: “Earlier cancer diagnosis is now a major priority in the UK. With this in mind, it has been extremely encouraging to have the opportunity to examine the projects brought forward by SBRI Healthcare, who have played a major role in this context. The scope of the call was deliberately wide, the quality of applications was very high and judgement was therefore challenging.
“There are opportunities for improvement at various stages along the cancer journey, from initial presentation to more personalised screening and treatment, and the range of successful applications reflects this. We certainly look forward to hearing of the initial findings, and for cancer patients in the UK we are confident that the investment will be a worthwhile one.”
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The 10 successful companies will each be given between £94,000 and £100,000 funding and will benefit from the support of the SBRI Healthcare team. They will need to demonstrate technical feasibility for their projects over a six-month development phase.
Among the winning technologies is a non-invasive prostate liquid biopsy test for risk stratification of men suspected of prostate cancer to aid identification of those who will benefit from prostate biopsy.
The funding will also support an AI enabled diagnostic technology for the automatic identification of metastatic regions in lymph nodes to increase accuracy and speed of a cancer diagnosis. This will alleviate the current diagnostic bottleneck and associated delay in starting a patient’s treatment.
Survival rates for cancer in England are the highest they have ever been with over 7000 more people surviving the disease than three years ago. Despite this, urgent GP referrals to specialists have increased by around 500,000 since 2014 to over 1.7 million people. Experts have predicted that at least 500,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year by 2035. This is a 40% increase on current diagnosis levels.
Dr Bhavagaya Bakshi, co-founder of one of the winning companies, C the Signs, said: “We are extremely grateful to SBRI Healthcare for this award. The funding will enable us to develop our technology further and make a significant difference to patients’ lives. As two NHS doctors, we founded C the Signs to revolutionise the early diagnosis of cancer. Covering the entire spectrum of cancer, C the Signs is a digital platform that can identify patients at risk of cancer in under 30 seconds. The tool is currently being used in three health authorities, covering one million patients, with the plan to roll it out across the NHS.”
After the first six months, all businesses will have the opportunity to pitch for an additional £1 million investment for the further development and commercialisation of their technologies.