New National University of Singapore Spin-off Company to Reduce Cancer Death and Disease Burden Through Real Time Cancer Diagnosis

April 16, 2014

SINGAPORE, April 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Mrs Lim was advised to go for a gastroscope due to persistent gastric discomfort. Some abnormal looking lesions were detected during the gastroscope examination. A thin probe was inserted through the gastroscope into Mrs Lim’s gastrointestinal tract, molecular information of the abnormal tissues was obtained, a clinical diagnosis was made in real time and the pre-cancerous lesions were removed at the same setting. There were no biopsies, no waiting time for results and no additional gastroscopy for lesions removal. Is this fiction? Yes, but not a few years down the road with the launch of a new company — Endofotonics.

An in-vivo molecular diagnostic (IMDX(TM)) system from Endofotonics, a medical technology company spun off from the National University of Singapore (NUS), will make performing molecular diagnosis in the body a reality. The IMDX(TM) system enables objective, cancer diagnosis to be available almost instantaneously during endoscopy, so that timely medical interventions can be made. It is a faster process compared to the current methods of taking tissue biopsies for histology evaluation in the lab, which involves the doctor visually determining where the lesions are, which part of the lesions to take tissue samples from, and lengthy waiting times for the tissues to be visually evaluated under the microscope by a pathologist.

Whilst the current process is highly dependent on the operator’s skill and experience in recognising and evaluating tissues structure, clinical diagnosis from the IMDX(TM) system is non-operator dependent. This is because it is based on molecular information of tissues which is unique and distinct. As the molecular information is analysed by a computer software, diagnosis is provided almost instantaneously during the gastroscopic examinations. This is in contrast to the waiting time of up to a week for current processes — an agonising time lapse that can cause extreme anxiety for patients and their care-givers.

The computer software ensures that diagnosis generated is entirely objective, minimising the dependence on the doctor’s skill and experience. It also means that the IMDX(TM) system can be operated with minimal training.

The technology for the IMDX(TM) system, which was developed in the National University of Singapore, was licensed exclusively to Endofotonics by NUS Industry Liaison Office, part of NUS Enterprise. The NUS Industry Liaison Office has filed several patents on this technology.

“We are extremely excited at the prospect of bringing molecular diagnosis into the body. The objective real time diagnosis made possible will cause a paradigm shift in how diagnosis is made and significantly reduce cancer deaths and burden,” said Ms Florence Leong, CEO and Co-founder of Endofotonics.

Endofotonics’ other two Co-founders are Associate Professor Huang Zhiwei, from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, NUS Faculty of Engineering; and Professor Lawrence Ho, from the Department of Medicine, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and National University Hospital. They collaborated to pioneer the IMDX(TM) technology, built the IMDX(TM) system and used it in more than 500 cancer patients across a diverse range of cancer types. Preliminary data showed a diagnostic accuracy of more than 90% in gastric dysplasia, gastric cancer and oesophageal cancer. Please see the Annex for further description on the IMDX(TM) technology.

Having built the lab prototype and obtained positive proof of effectiveness, the next milestone is to translate the lab prototype into a commercial prototype that can be manufactured in accordance to regulatory requirements.

“We are proud to have the support of Prof Lui Pao Chuen as Chairman of our Board and Associate Prof Louis Phee, Mr Jen Kwong Hwa and Mr Lu Yoh Chie as advisors to guide the company forward. We are also heartened by the early market interest from clinicians across the world expressing intent to buy the system, we hope to be able to fulfil market demand for the IMDX(TM) system by 2018,” added Ms Florence Leong.

To date, the team has raised nearly S$700,000 in the founding round. Endofotonics is currently applying for government grants to support the production of the IMDX(TM) system.

“NUS Enterprise is delighted that Endofotonics is commercialising this NUS technology – the world’s first and only endoscopic device that can provide in-vivo, real-time, objective cancer diagnosis. This IMDX(TM) system has the potential to make tremendous impact on the way cancer is managed. The fact that this launch is happening today – coinciding with InnovFest 2014 – is most timely, since InnovFest is our flagship event that encourages the translation of University research into new products and solutions that can make this world a better place,” said Dr Lily Chan, CEO NUS Enterprise.

About National University of Singapore (NUS)

A leading global university centred in Asia, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university, which offers a global approach to education and research, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise.

NUS has 16 faculties and schools across three campuses. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 37,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.

NUS has three Research Centres of Excellence (RCE) and 23 university-level research institutes and centres. It is also a partner in Singapore’s fifth RCE. NUS shares a close affiliation with 16 national-level research institutes and centres. Research activities are strategic and robust, and NUS is well-known for its research strengths in engineering, life sciences and biomedicine, social sciences and natural sciences. It also strives to create a supportive and innovative environment to promote creative enterprise within its community.

For more information, please visit www.nus.edu.sg

About NUS Enterprise

NUS Enterprise is a University-level cluster that provides an enterprise dimension to NUS teaching and research involving the University’s students, staff and alumni. The functions of the Enterprise Cluster complement the academic cluster of the University to nurture talents with an entrepreneurial and global mindset. NUS Enterprise promotes the spirit of innovation and enterprise through Experiential Education, Industry Engagement & Partnerships and Entrepreneurship Support. www.nus.edu.sg/enterprise

Annex — About the IMDX(TM) system

Endofotonics’ IMDX(TM) system is based on confocal Raman spectroscopy, – a vibrational technique capable of probing biomolecular changes associated with cellular transformation when tissue molecules were ‘excited’ by laser light directed at the tissue. A portfolio, comprising a number of patent applications, is currently pending in several patent offices on this proprietary technology, for which Endofotonics has exclusive worldwide license rights.

The Endofotonics’ IMDX(TM) system consists of:

i. A spectroscopy system that is made up of:

    --  A spectrum stabilized near-infrared 785 nm diode laser
    --  A high-throughput transmissive imaging spectrograph
    --  A near-infrared-optimized charge-coupled device (CCD) camera

ii. A proprietary specially designed fibre-optic confocal Raman endoscopic probe that comprises a central light delivery fibre for laser light delivery and collection fibres for vivo tissue Raman signal collection of tissue spectras in <0.5s. The Raman probe can be inserted into the instrument channel of conventional endoscopes and put in gentle contact with tissue surface for in-vivo epithelial characterization and diagnosis. The fibre-optic confocal Raman spectroscope is integrated with multivariate analysis that enables epithelial molecular information to be extracted and analysed in real-time.

iii. A proprietary online customised computer-based software control system with auditory probabilistic feedback to the endoscopist for real time data acquisition and analysis.

SOURCE National University of Singapore

Source: PR Newswire

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