Israeli startup Nucleix Ltd., a maker of kits for cancer detection and screening, said Monday it had obtained €2.5 million ($2.9 million) in funding from a European program.
The EIC pilot SME Instrument Phase 2 European program seeks to support fast-growing and innovative small and medium enterprises that have international ambitions. The program is part of the Union’s Horizon 2020 initiative, an €80 billion funding program managed by the European Commission and dedicated to innovation and research.
Nucleix got the program’s funding for a Lung EpiCheck screening diagnostic blood test it is working on for the early detection of lung cancer, the startup said in a statement.
The test identifies and analysis subtle changes in DNA patterns, to help distinguish between cancer and healthy cells, and thus help detect tumors.
“We are extremely proud to have been found worthy of the Horizon 2020 EIC pilot SME Instrument Phase 2 funding, especially since the competition was intense,” said Opher Shapira, PhD, CEO of Nucleix. “This recognition confirms the potential of our disruptive technology and validates our ambition to become a global leader in the detection and screening of a variety of cancers.”
He said the financing will help the company accelerate the development of Lung EpiCheck, which is expected to begin extensive clinical trials in Europe and the US in the beginning of next year.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in the US, and about 14% of all new cancers are lung cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. There will be about 234,030 new cases of lung cancer in the US in 2018 with some 154,050 deaths from the disease this year.
The reason for the high mortality rate is that currently most of the cases are detected too late.
To date, there is no adequate screening process for the early detection of lung cancer, bringing survival rate to approximately 15%. In addition, smokers and former smokers above the age of 50 are at higher risk of developing the disease.
“Therefore, a screening test aimed at this risk group to assist in the early detection of the disease is highly needed and can dramatically increase lung cancer survival,” Nucleix said in the statement.
Lung EpiCheck is the second diagnostic tool being developed by the company. Nucleix has already started commercial sales of its Bladder EpiCheck kit, to detect the recurrence of bladder cancer.
A European study compared the company’s Bladder EpiCheck product to the procedures currently used to check recurrence of bladder cancer, and found that in 99.3% of cases when the test results were negative, the patients were indeed free of high-grade cancer.