New kits to detect cancer and diabetes at an unprecedentedly early stage, paving the way for earlier, more efficient treatment, are now being developed by an Israeli-US biotech company.
By Abigail Klein Leichman
With its recent application to the US Food and Drug Administration, Israeli-American biotech company Micromedic Technologies is one step closer to offering a kit for detecting cancer and diabetes at an unprecedented early stage – potentially leading to dramatic inroads in prevention and cure.
The secret lies in identifying biomarkers, abnormal genes or proteins found by sampling blood, urine, saliva, or body tissue. This fast-growing field – facilitated by groundbreaking data from the landmark Human Genome Project – holds the key to early detection of cancer and other serious illnesses, as well as improved monitoring and treatment.
"When we see a tumor, it is usually too late to be completely cured," explains Micromedic CEO David Solomon. "The only way to find cancer before the body starts to generate a tumor is by looking for specific molecules – biomarkers – indicating something is wrong although there is still no clinical evidence. If we can link these ‘early’ molecules and the eventual medical event, we will have promising results enabling early detection and leading to increased survival rates."
Nearly perfect detection sensibility
Founded in 2005, Micromedic has four separately licensed subsidiaries. Each is tasked with developing diagnostic kits for specific diseases: Colorectal, breast, and head and neck cancers, plus diabetes. "These are the most critical medical conditions, the global epidemics," says 55-year-old Solomon.
This summer, Micromedic subsidiary Bio-Gene filed for FDA approval of its trial for a diagnostic kit to detect an increased risk for breast cancer. In clinical studies at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, the kit achieved a nearly perfect rate of detection sensitivity. The FDA submission paves the way for clinical trials in the United States, and the company also hopes to begin trials in Europe next year.
Biomark, another Micromedic subsidiary, signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Israel’s Clalit Health Services at the end of August. The agreement heralds the start of clinical trials of a biomarker for the early detection of colon cancer.
These developments closely followed Micromedic’s secondary offering of NIS 11.8 million on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. According to Globes, Israel’s leading financial daily, that amount could rise to NIS 17.3 million if all the warrants are exercised.
Tight analyses minimize risk for investors
Three of Micromedic’s R&D projects are being carried out in the United States. Research into head and neck cancer biomarkers, for example, is conducted in collaboration with the University of Florida.
Additional studies are being conducted by scientists at Israeli academic and research centers such as Hadassah, Tel Aviv Medical Center, and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The company’s headquarters in Ramat Gan handles licensing and commercializing.
Though other Israeli companies are in the biomarker field, Solomon contends that Micromedic is unique in several dimensions: "We are the only public company focusing on pioneering molecular diagnostics in Israel. Some of the others have one molecule here and there. And the ratio of how much of our project is being carried out in the US is unusual. What is also different is that we fund our projects in the US with Israeli money."
Solomon, a former business consultant for companies such as IBM, Scitex, Bank Discount, Bank Leumi, Qualcomm, and Israel Aircraft Industries, has written several books about the business side of the biotech industry. An English translation of "Biomedics: From Research to Market" is expected to come out in a few months.
"Our strategy was to build up a specific business model offering tight risk analyses regarding our projects, because it is a risky environment," he reveals. "By carefully choosing the products to build Micromedic’s portfolio, we have minimized risk within our industry. Now, our new funding will give us serious backing to continue and achieve our goals."