Affecting over 90 million people worldwide, cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease, claiming the lives of nearly 9 million people in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.
Not only is a cure still nowhere in sight, but the number of cancer cases are going up. By 2030, new cancer cases are expected to rise to 22 million, marking a 70 percent increase from 14 million in 2012, according to research by the US-based National Cancer Institute.
With numbers like these, it’s no surprise the medical community is focusing on better, and earlier, diagnoses. A new Israeli startup, Collage Medical Imaging, appears to be on the right track.
Founded in 2014 by two serial biotech entrepreneurs, Dr. Gavriel Iddan and Dr. Roni Zvuloni, experts in the field of medical devices, the startup has developed a high-resolution imaging technology to detect early-stage cancerous tumors, without the need for potentially dangerous biopsies.
Why we need better diagnosis
Today, when doctors want to check for the presence of cancerous tissue, they send patients for standard imaging technologies tests, such as ultrasound, CT or MRI. But these technologies, while providing a full picture of an area, all have relatively low resolution, which often makes them insufficient for observing the cell structure required to make an accurate cancer diagnosis.
Doctors may then need to follow up with a biopsy, where a small tissue sample is taken from the body for further examination. And while biopsies are a hundred times more efficient when it comes to analyzing cells, according to Dr. Zvuloni, they can still miss the presence of a tumor. Even if the biopsy is accurate, the sample may be blind to the surrounding, affected tissue just a mere millimeter away.
“The biopsy can easily lead to many false positives and false negatives,” Dr. Zvuloni tells NoCamels.
Because a tumor’s location and dimensions are often initially unknown, physicians sometimes remove large tissue masses or even entire organs to prevent the cancer from spreading.
How it works
Using a combination of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) or 3D imaging modality, electromagnetic technology, and Collage-patented technology, Collage Medical Imaging may be the first company making it possible to obtain microscopic information of an entire organ in real-time.
According to Dr. Zvuloni, the information collected is two hundred to three hundred times more efficient than a regular biopsy.
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“Instead of taking a biopsy, we use an optic needle to get high-resolution optic images of the entire potentially affected area and its location,” Dr. Zevuloni tells NoCamels. The optic needle snaps pictures of the entire area, creating a collage – hence the name, Collage Medical Imaging.
A series of successful ventures
Dr. Zvuloni, who serves as the startup’s CEO, and Dr. Iddan both have a number of other notable achievements under their belt.
Dr. Iddan holds over 100 patents and publications to his name and had a hand in developing some of Israel’s most successful medical technologies. He is the brains behind the world-renown gastric video capsule pill, also known as the PillCam, which he developed while working for the medical tech company he co-founded, Given Imaging, in 1998. The company was acquired in 2014 by Covidien-Medtronic for $1 billion.
Iddan also developed the Solo MicroPump, a small, disposable insulin pump that allows diabetes patients to deliver insulin without needles or tubing, for Israeli medical devices company Medingo, sold in 2010 to Roche Switzerland for $200 million. 3DV Systems, a 3D imaging solutions company also co-founded by Dr. Iddan in 1997, was sold in 2009 to Microsoft for $35 million. And, Sync-Rx, a company that develops X where he served as CTO was acquired in 2012 by US medical devices company Volcano (now Philips) for $17 million
Dr. Zvuloni, a Yale University graduate, holds an impressive entrepreneurial record as VP of Galil Medical, sold to Israeli biopharmaceutical services company BTG for $110 million in 2016.
Dr. Zvuloni tells NoCamels he and Dr. Iddan have known each other for years and that “Collage Medical Imaging was born coincidentally.”
“One day, we met and started talking. He knew optics, and I knew 3D imaging. We connected the two technologies together and realized they complete one another,” Dr. Zvuloni tells NoCamels.
After having been part of selling off six successful companies between them, the two have embarked on a journey to save lives by helping to detect cancerous tumors before it’s too late.
“The next step from here is to find long-term strategic investors,” Dr. Zvuloni tells NoCamels.
The company is in a pre-Series A investment round and Dr.Zvuloni estimates that the technology will be available in hospitals in roughly two years’ time, pending regulatory approvals.