New cancer diagnostics project selected for BIO-X support in collaboration with Roche


Uppsala BIO has signed a new agreement with the global pharmaceutical and diagnostics company Roche to support iCellate, a new BIO-X project. The project aims to evaluate a new technology to isolate and measure all types of suspended cancer cells, including circulating tumor cells, CTCs, from blood, and thus pave the way for better cancer treatments. Icellate AB, a spin-off from Karolinska Institutet, runs the selected BIO-X project.

Cancer with tumors that metastasize, i.e. cancer that forms secondary tumors in the body, is very difficult to cure if not discovered early. An early sign of metastasis is an increased level of CTC, Circulating Tumor Cells, in the blood.

Current technology can only capture and measure some CTCs using identified biomarkers. But most of the CTCs are of a different nature. Safe and early identification of metastatic spread of a primary tumor needs a technology not dependent on individual biomarkers.

The team behind iCellate, Juan Castro, MD, Lars Wännmar and Dr. Christer Ericsson, PhD, has developed a way to identify all types of CTCs. The method is based on cancer cell-specific flow properties, and will, when fully developed, give healthcare a much better basis for early detection, choice of treatment and follow-up than is currently possible.

iCellate’s project was one of those presented in response to the BIO-X program’s call for new diagnostics, and has now been selected for joint support from BIO-X and from the global pharmaceutical and diagnostics company Roche. The agreement guarantees that the project will get access both to the BIO-X process support and Roche’s global R&D capabilities, offering access to equipment, services, reagents, know-how etc. as well as financial support for the project for up to two years.

"We are very pleased to launch the first project under the BIO-X umbrella agreement, especially in an area where we can leverage both our pharmaceutical and diagnostics capabilities, and we are looking forward for a fruitful collaboration with Uppsala BIO and iCellate" says Zafrira Avnur, in charge of the Extending the Innovation Network with academia at Roche. - We believe that having a global company as a partner is to give early projects a boost and a better chance to be successful, says Erik Forsberg, managing director of Uppsala BIO. – Through our BIO-X program, we support these collaborations with the structure and coordination that open innovation often lacks.

With the support from BIO-X and Roche, iCellate will, together with selected clinics, validate its technology on patient materials. 

"I’m very much looking forward to starting this project", says Dr. Christer Ericsson, co-founder and CSO of iCellate AB. We are aware of difficulties the project may meet, but the additional support we now have from the BIO-X program and the collaboration set up with Roche is a very solid platform to work from to ultimately help reduce sickness and death in cancer dramatically.

In parallel to the BIO-X and Roche’s support, iCellate receives continuous advice on business development from the incubator STING, Stockholm Innovation and Growth.