Israel-based Biop Medical raised its first big money Tuesday with a $2.25 million Series A investment led by Shanghai Creative Investments and a number of U.S.-based investors.
Biop’s main medical device is designed to pinpoint suspect areas of the cervix that might be developing tumors, thereby identifying regions that should be biopsied and then testing samples immediately in the same procedure. That cuts out weeks of waiting between checkups and receiving test results.
“We are able to identify diseased lesions at its earliest stage because our optics are able to observe what is happening at a cellular level, for the full depth of the cervix to its base, the stroma,” Biop’s CEO Ilan Landesman told Geektime, referring to observations made during clinical trials. “As such, even initial changes to the cervical cells will be identified and observed for future learning and to improve our predictive abilities.”
Those trials are happening in Biop’s native Israel as well as in Hungary, which might strike some as a surprise. Landesman says it really shouldn’t.
“Hungary, and in particular Semmelweiss University Hospital, was chosen because it’s recognized as a high quality hospital with a track record of successful clinical trials. As for many Israeli med-tech startups, time is a factor. Fact is, because of the size of the countries, there is access to a greater number of relevant patients at any given time…”
Traditional biopsies might lead to infections, according to the company. After a pap screening or HPV test, a colposcopy exam is ordered to verify results that Biop says may take as many as four biopsies and occur over the course of several months. Biop claims it can offer a more exact diagnosis in three minutes.
After the test, the company says its algorithms are able to forecast the progress of any developing cancer.
“This makes the technology an ideal tool for patients in the developing world where access to cervical cancer screening is poor,” Biop’s VP of Business Development Avi Rosenzweig said in a statement. “As a best in breed, Biop expects to improve the user experience as it relates to cervical cancer screening in the western world while saving lives in the developing world. The device offers a cost-effective diagnostic solution to improve care for healthcare providers everywhere.”
Startups targeting the cervical cancer diagnostics market
The cervical cancer screening market will grow from $15 billion in 2014 to $22 billion in 2020 according to research by MarketsandMarkets. Another prominent Israeli startup MobileODT has been making waves by marketing a diagnostic app specifically for cervical cancer. It isn’t clear if that company, co-founded and led by CEO Ariel Beery, is as much a competitor as it is a complement to medical devices like Biop Medical’s. On-the-go screening MobileODT’s mobile colposcope might give enough reason to go for a more substantial test that could use something like Biop’s technology.
Landesman was incredibly optimistic about the industry as a whole.
“We believe the entire cancer screening and diagnosis market is moving towards utilizing optics and big data to provide determinant, real-time diagnosis of cancer and related diseases.” Landesman conceded to us that it might take time to reach that level, but his argument is boosted by the work of other companies in the space.
Other startups include SF-based Genentech, which has hosted a recent competition for data scientists to identify high-risk populations vulnerable to the cancer and one for startups offering innovative diagnostic and treatment solutions for the disease. AIndra, based in Bengaluru, uses computer vision to more accurately diagnose traditional pap smear tests.
“Biop’s optical technology can be converted into other delivery systems to help identify epithelium-based cancers internally as well, including oral, esophageal, anal, bladder etc.”
Founded in 2013, Biop keeps its headquarters in Tel Aviv’s sister city of Ramat Gan. The money will be put towards its clinical trials at Semmelweis University Hospital in Budapest, Hungary and at the Rabin Medical Center in Israel.