Latest Dxcover News
Sep 22, 2021
Rapid discovery: Diagnosing cancers quickly × The company, previously named Clinspec Diagnostics Ltd, is a spin-out from the University of Strathclyde. Dr Baker is the inventor of the technology. After he took up a lectureship at Strathclyde he was able to use the entrepreneurial university ecosystem and the business acumen of Dr Hegarty to develop his innovation, based around a test for brain cancer, into a business. Explaining the recent rebrand, Dr Hegarty alluded to theme of discovery, which is evident in the company’s new name. “DX is a shorthand for diagnostics. ‘Dxcover Brain Cancer’ as a test for brain cancer was a great theme for us to start developing. The rebranding was all about us taking this next step. We raised funding that spun us out from the university as a company, in February 2019, and then we raised our second round of funding which was completed in February this year." This comes at a time when, as Hegarty puts it, people have become more “switched on” to testing, particularly bloods and biofluids, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this change given the need for rapid diagnostics. Though perceptions around testing may have changed, as well as the confidence of the public to test for conditions, cancer diagnostics is still the fastest growing market in the diagnostics space. Dr Baker said: “Leaving COVID aside, it’s the fastest growing and still will be the fastest growing market. Post-COVID, waiting times have massively increased, so there is a requirement for more diagnostic testing for cancer and better testing methods to detect cancer earlier.” According to Cancer Research UK, 12,000 people in Britain are diagnosed with brain tumours every year and survival rates are as low as 12% five years after diagnosis. When Baker started the project, it was targeting difficult-to-diagnose tumours, notably brain and pancreatic tumours, with the aim of increasing survival rates. Explaining the rationale behind Dxcover’s business, Hegarty pointed to the higher incidence of cancer and its increasing prevalence among an ageing population– with a 43% increase in diagnostics rates expected for the disease over the next 20 years. As for Dxcover’s technology, Baker explains it is based upon infrared spectroscopy – enabling rapid testing of human blood. A blood sample is taken, extracted into serum followed by the “drop, dry, detect,” technique by pipetting human serum onto a silicon slide, which is then dried and analysed. Baker added: “We don’t have to isolate any genetic markers, we don’t have to sequence any material, we don’t have to any multi-step sample preparation. We have a very rapid automated platform technology that we can use for analysis. “We don’t just focus on a single information source. If you imagine your blood serum, it’s got lots of different constituent parts including DNA material, proteins, carbohydrates, and electrolytes. Scientists behind other liquid biopsies would say “I am really interested in protein A or protein B, or genetic sequence X or genetic sequence Y,” and they would go and look for these markers. What we do is say ‘what is there?’ not ‘is this there?’ “We essentially analyse the entire molecular complement of blood serum and then use machine learning to tease it apart, which provides us with a unique signature. We use infrared spectroscopy because it is an excellent global analysis technique to which we then apply artificial intelligence and machine learning.” The company has already successfully completed two clinical studies on detection of brain cancer and recently published a third. In its latest study of 177 patients, published this Summer in the peer-reviewed Cancers journal, the results showed that Dxcover’s testing technology, the Dxcover Liquid Biopsy, is effective even in the earlier days of cancer growth, at a smaller volume and lower stage. Earlier detection, when a tumour is smaller, reduces the harm from surgery and other treatments, so people can live better, for longer. By detecting extremely small tumours, the research provides the evidence that Dxcover's diagnostic test can have a significant impact in shortening the time from symptom onset to diagnosis for patients, supporting primary care doctors in their decision making.