Today's anticancer drugs provide benefit to only 25% cancer patients. Many cancer patients still fail to respond to drugs or to obtain an improvement in terms of disease progression or survival. Precision medicine approaches based on DNA testing have limited accuracy when used to predict how the patient will respond to the treatment.
Cellply has developed the first standardized and automated system able to predict patients' response to more than 10 treatments with high accuracy, thanks to a functional test that measures how live cells obtained from the patient react to the drugs in-vitro.
«The results we obtained during initial clinical tests on acute leukaemia demonstrated the possibility of predicting the impact of anticancer drugs before they are administered to patients, with a precision beyond expectations», says Massimo Bocchi, President and CEO at Cellply. "Our goal is to make cancer treatment individualized and allow each patient to receive the most suitable drugs, selected through a predictive test run on his/her own tumour cells."
From META Investment …
Based in Bologna (Italy), Cellply was founded in 2013 by two engineers, Prof. Roberto Guerrieri from the University of Bologna and Massimo Bocchi.
By 2014 the company had started developing an in-vitro diagnostic platform which, thanks to a microfluidic technology, processes a small amount of live tumour cells sampled from patients and analyses the effect of multiple drugs in parallel in 24 hours. Using proprietary algorithms the system predicts the patient's response to a wide variety of different possible drug therapies.
Those results led META Ventures to invest almost €2m in Cellply through the Ingenium Emilia-Romagna II in late 2014. That funded two more years of developing the platform for testing, resulting in first prototype installed at Sant'Orsola Hospital in Bologna in 2016.
"This was our first trial" Massimo Bocchi remembers. "It showed we can predict in a few hours what will happen to the patient in the next one to six months with 95% accuracy in terms on the response to a drug."
… to EC-funded validation across Europe
By December 2016 Cellply had secured 'Phase 1' funding under the European Commission's Horizon 2020 SME Instrument research program. This initial project helped planning the validation of the platform in a clinical setting and exploring the regulatory requirements.
The main role of 'Phase 1' funding under the EC's SME Instrument, however, is to refine the business plan for followup 'Phase 2' funding. This was secured in May 2018, when Cellply received €2.3m from Horizon 2020 to industrialize the platform and expanding clinical validation through international collaborations with clinics across Europe.
"We were one of only 64 companies funded by the EC, from almost 1300 applicants," according to Massimo Bocchi. "The project will clinically validate our technology in an important network of European oncology institutes, so it really gives us a great opportunity to make a pivotal change in cancer care."