Why is it difficult to hit a piñata? Because the target is moving and because you're blindfolded. The problem with cancer is exactly the same: the cancer is constantly changing and doctors have no way to track how. We're going to take the doctor's blindfold away.
Idris Oncology is developing a diagnostic device that captures cancer cells circulating in the blood. Our product will enable doctors to know how the cancer is changing, allowing the treatment to be adjusted accordingly.
Cancer is not one single disease. There are huge differences from patient to patient, even for the same type of cancer. Within one patient there are differences from one tumour to another, and within each of these tumours there can be key differences between cells. To make matters worse, all of these differences are continuously changing over time.
If you were to take snapshots of all the cancer cells in the body, you would see increasingly diverse cancer cells as the disease progresses. The cancer cells in the later stages of the disease might grow faster, spread more quickly and have become more resistant to chemotherapy.
The new drugs against cancer are becoming more advanced and effective every year. One key advancement is the development of targeted therapies: drugs that hit only a single target in the body. Targeted therapies can specifically kill cancer cells, but first you must know what to target.
The only way to get this information now is by taking biopsies. But the targets on the cancer cells change and biopsies are too painful to do regularly. So instead, doctors remain blindfolded and must simply wait until the tumour has grown enough for them to see. Only then can they know they have to try a new therapy.
But what if we take a biopsy every time a cancer patient receives chemotherapy? We would know exactly how many cells are changing in which ways. We would always know what targeted therapy is best suited for each patient. We would not have to wait until we can see tumour growing again, nor would the patient need to suffer the side effects of a drug that does not work.
At Idris Oncology that is what we are working to achieve. Using our product, doctors can periodically capture cancer cells from the blood without taking a painful biopsy. Using our product, they can see exactly what they are fighting. Using our product, cancer patients will get the right chemotherapy every time, all the time.
Our team has a history of tackling biological problems using technology. Over the last two years, we have developed a fully functional micro-stereolithography system that is capable of creating objects with micrometer precision. During this project, we did not shy away from acquiring completely new skills and venturing outside of our usual expertise. Though we have shifted our focus since, we maintain an approach of interdisciplinary cooperation and an eagerness to adopt new skills outside our comfort zone.
Hans Peter Mulder graduated cum laude in Molecular Biology at Leiden University. During his studies he focused on neurophysiology and circadian biology. Despite these highly biology oriented disciplines, he has always maintained an unusual fascination for the technological and engineering aspects. This ultimately resulted in the firm belief that biology and technology should be combined more often, to solve old problems and to create entirely unforeseen opportunities.
Peter I. Wiegman graduated in Aerospace Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, where he primarily pursued his fascination for (human) space exploration. This focus has never been exclusive for him; instead it is merely one of many avenues, driven by the need to propel the advancement of humanity. He is also captivated by the nuances of communication, and next to his studies has made a personal study of sales techniques.
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