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Spotlight on Mursla

last modified Feb 03, 2019 04:08 PM
Cancer is one of the most challenging global issues an entrepreneur could choose to tackle. But Pierre Arsène and Victor Serdio are doing just that with their company Mursla. Based at ideaSpace West, Mursla is developing a breakthrough technology for early cancer detection using liquid biopsies, offering a less invasive and more responsive approach to diagnosis, treatment and cure. To mark World Cancer Day on the 4th February, we asked Pierre to explain more about Mursla and the bold ideas and enthusiasm driving this bright company.

Q: How would you describe Mursla?

Mursla is a cancer liquid biopsy startup based in Cambridge, UK. 

The company’s solution aims to detect tumours non-invasively via a drop of blood. Cancer cells release a multitude of nanosize information into the bloodstream that can be captured with Mursla’s unique quantum sensing technology. In particular, it is focused on developing a connected device for early pan-cancer detection to be used by specialists during consultation. 

The population at risk (>50 y.o.) in key developed countries represents 820M people. Mursla’s platform technology relies on nanogap sensors that are designed to trap and identify organic targets in biofluid via quantum phenomenon. It targets proteins tumour information embedded in cancer cell vesicles (exosomal proteins) which is superior than circulating tumour DNA (cfDNA) information for liquid biopsy. Not only do exosomal proteins reflect what is currently happening in the body, but its tumour-derived information is protected from destruction by enzymes.

 

Q: Why is now the time for your company to exist?

The world below 10 nanometres behaves very differently from classical physics and we can now interrogate it in a scalable manner with our new nanofabrication techniques (so called "quantum biology"). In parallel, we are reaching an inflexion point in terms of technologies (microfluidics, electrical engineering, machine learning) in order to propose simple but powerful integrated solutions that can be used at the point-of-care without any infrastructure or trained personnel. There is no integrated technology available yet to deliver a solution that meets criteria for early cancer detection adoption: clinical utility, scalability, user friendliness and price.

 

Q: Why is your team best placed to solve this problem?

I would say that there are a few things that make us stand out. Proprietary nanofabrication technology that can deliver a highly scalable solution to be used at the point-of-care and without trained professionals. Strong learning achieved about the complex integration of various scientific disciplines (e.g. semiconductor, electrochemistry, electrical engineering, molecular biology, user interface) into a final product. More in-depth understanding about which biological information to look at to deliver high clinical utility for patients (exosomal proteins versus cfDNA). And high commercial drive at its core with ex-biotech investment banker as co-founder and CEO.

 

Q: What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

Mursla has raised £1M to date, presented its first prototype at Web Summit after 14 months in operation, filed for 1 nanosensing patent, were a finalist for the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology “The One to Watch” Award, received two grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and got pre-sale product traction with hospitals and 2 large pharmaceutical companies. It was also exciting to validate a new biomolecule detection system via non-trivial quantum phenomena, although we still need to meet a couple more internal technical milestones to raise our Series A. 

 

Q: Where do you think your growth will be over the next year?

We intend to make money by selling our products, and later services, to hospitals and clinics. Products are made of reusable readout systems and disposable chips as well as maintenance agreements to help manage data generated. We expect to get our first regulatory approval (in the EU) by the end of 2022.

 

Q: What’s your biggest threat?

Our main competitors are other liquid biopsy companies. They include GRAIL (spin-off from Illumina) or Guardant Health (which just got listed on NASDAQ). However, they focus on cfDNA only and require large and expensive labs to provide results (still debated). Although they benefit from first move advantage, we believe that cfDNA biomarker is not a real contender for early cancer detection. To use an analogy, if we were to assess the quality of a meal, DNA would only provide the list of the ingredients whereas exosomes and proteins would give a full pre-taste of the actual meal itself. Our main risks remain in executing our plan until the finish line and ensuring good medical adoption.

 

To find out more about Mursla and their work visit their website. Pierre and his team are currently based at ideaSpace West. If you would like find out more about ideaSpace membership, please email or call 01223 330970 to speak to a member of the team. 

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