Test before you treat: Predica Diagnostics battles cervical cancer

After years in the corporate life sciences sector, Marco de Boer felt the urge to take the entrepreneurial plunge. With a PhD from VU Amsterdam and a first startup in 2015 focusing on Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Marco was already making waves. But the tide really turned in 2019 when he met William Leenders. United by a vision to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment, they co-founded Predica Diagnostics.

The duo tapped into the networks of Briskr and BANN to kick-start their business. “We soaked up insights from meetings on everything from Intellectual Property to Market Access,” Marco says. “The networking was a game-changer, introducing us to advisors, companies, and investors.”

William, with 25 years of research at Radboud University Medical Center, brought his ciRNAseq technology into the mix. This allows for early cancer detection by measuring gene expression with targeted RNA sequencing. “Our first roll-out is an early detection test for cervical cancer, and that’s just the beginning,” Marco adds.

But why cervical cancer? Marco is blunt: “The current system is flawed. The HPV virus, which is the main cause, has loads of variants, but only 15 are actually risky. This leads to a lot of unnecessary stress and inflated healthcare costs.”

Predica’s technology is designed to shake things up. “We can tell you which HPV variant you have, whether it’s active, and if it’s integrated into your DNA. We also keep tabs on oncogene activity. So, it’s not just more accurate but also more efficient,” Marco explains.

While their test, CervicaDX, can’t prevent cervical cancer, it’s a crucial tool for early detection. “Vaccines cover some ground but aren’t the be-all and end-all. Accurate and early detection remains our best shot at containing severe cervical cancer,” Marco concludes.

Despite being a lean team of just five, Predica Diagnostics is a small giant with outsize aspirations. They’re not just stopping at one game-changing cervical cancer test; they’re already laying the groundwork to make it market-ready. “We’re punching above our weight here, aiming to revolutionize oncology one test at a time,” Marco notes.

But don’t think they’re stopping at cervical cancer. Marco is quick to add, “Early detection can be a lifesaver—literally. Too many people have lost the fight against cancer simply because it was caught too late. That’s a huge motivator for us. We want to up those survival rates.”

As for the future? Predica Diagnostics is eyeing a broader landscape. “Look, there are awesome advancements like immunotherapy that can kick cancer’s butt, but for that to work best, you need precision. You need to know what you’re targeting,” Marco says. “Our tech can do that. It can show which receptors are active, helping doctors to make informed treatment decisions.”

Marco wraps up with a vision: “Imagine walking into a clinic for cancer treatment and our tests are standard protocol. That’s the dream. We aim to make precision diagnostics the norm, enabling doctors to ‘test before they treat.’ That’s where we’re headed.”