PlanetTech News interviews Miroculus: The future of cancer detection
A new startup, Miroculus, is building a device that could easily and affordably check for many cancers using a single blood sample. Miriam is a low-cost, open source device made its public debut at the TEDGlobal conference with Curator Chris Anderson calling it "one of the most thrilling demos in TED history."
The founders are a global team of entrepreneurs, molecular biologists, and data scientists with the goal to make Miriam so simple that untrained workers in clinics around the world can use it. The project is in the early stages, but if the early trials of Miriam are to be believed, Miroculus could make regular cancer screenings as simple as getting blood drawn. This is very competitive and important topic.
PlanetTech News digs deeper into the future of cancer diagnosis in this exclusive interview with the company.
Can you briefly introduce Miroculus and explain how the company got started, what was the background to the team and the original idea?
Miroculus is building a platform to detect microRNAs circulating in blood from serum/plasma. We knew about microRNAs, my co-founder Fay has published about them and their role in evolution in Nature, Science and Cell but we also knew about the limitations. We decided to pursue an approach that would democratize microRNA detection and all the benefits that might bring with a de-centralized (no big lab), easy to use (no highly trained technician needed) and affordable approach.
What you regard as your most important achievements to date?
We have been able to prove scientifically and biologically that we can detect different microRNAs with high level of sensitivity and specificity.
The idea of early diagnosis of cancer is now pursued widely and there are many lines of research that aim to use blood tests for such diagnosis. For example, Google X has recently launched a similar effort using nanoparticles. Is this development a good thing or big competition for your idea?
It is a perfect thing. We need to fight cancer in all possible fronts. Google approach is very smart and there are others as well. I think the more information we can gather, the better we will understand, fight and prevent diseases
What were the biggest challenges in making the Miriam device?
The biochemistry and the data algorithms
What is your next big goal? Is making Miriam very reliable and eliminating “false positives” one of them?
Yes, also perhaps using other technologies for the reaction, like micro fluidics. However, the most important goal is the clinical validation (clinical trials) for at least 4 different diseases in the next 12 to 18 months.
Where do you see the future of the company in 5 and 10 years?
Early stage cancer detection to be easily accessible to you at your doctor’s office.
Where do you see the field of cancer diagnosis and treatment in 10 years? How personal and precise can diagnostics and treatments become?
I believe that, with all the progress we’re seeing and the more we are understanding our bodies at the molecular level, cancer will not mean very bad news any more. It could still be one of the worst diseases we might face but we will have much better chances of controlling it.
You started up at Singularity University (SU). What is life like being incubated at Singularity University Labs? How did you transition from the graduate studies program to being incubated in SU Labs?
SU is a program that pushes you to think outside of the rules and that is good for innovation