Czech liquid biopsy startup ELPHOGENE comes under full control of one of the founders
Prague, February 6, 2023: Czech biotechnology start-up Elphogene who pioneered cancer monitoring through its liquid biopsy technology has announced a change in its shareholder structure. The new and sole owner is now Marek Minarik, one of the two original founders of the company.
Elphogene, which based its original business plan on molecular cancer diagnostics and monitoring of cancer therapy for patients with colorectal tumors using its proprietary liquid biopsy technology, has seen unprecedented economic growth over the past two years resulting from COVID-19 PCR tests. The company chief, Marek Minarik, says: "With the outbreak of the covid pandemic we have surprisingly seen a significant decrease in interest in our oncology diagnostics from the referring clinical sites. Based on this, our SARS-CoV-2 virus PCR protocol, which was originally developed only for internal testing of our oncology patients, was then converted into accredited regime and after obtaining a license for the Czech National Institute of Public Health we have become part of the official national network of testing laboratories."
Elphogene labs, which greatly benefited from their location near the Václav Havel International Airport in Prague - Ruzyne, processed close to 330,000 PCR tests throughout the pandemic, representing approximately 1% of all COVID PCR tests performed at that time in the Czech Republic. The company was first with accreditation for COVID-19 PCR testing, and also one of the first to introduce and validate the pooling method for preventive screening provided to a number of primary and secondary schools in Prague and the Central Bohemia region.
"After the decline in COVID tests during the spring of last year, we decided to focus fully to the research and development of a new generation of our technology for the sensitive detection of tumor-specific markers in the peripheral blood of oncology patients," says Minarik, adding: "At the end of the last year, we succeeded in validating of a completely new approach, for which we are now finalizing European patent application. At the same time, we have already approached several leading players in the field of instrument diagnostics with a possibility of technology transfer."
Minarik, one of the two original founders, who until now owned 78% stake in the company, acquired the remaining share from a biotechnology incubator i&i Prague, which was the original angel investor when Elphogene was founded at the beginning of 2020. The founder share buy-back, which took place during the last days of December, represents the second successful exit of the investingfund which was established at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Prague.
i&i Prague: Our mission ends, we wish you much success
In the portfolio of the bio-innovation center i&i Prague, Elphogene was among the most mature. "Our investments were at the early stage of the company and helped the transition of its technology from the laboratory to oncology patients and, last but not least, enabled it to respond flexibly to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to this, Elphogene has become one of the leading laboratories in the Czech Republic in the diagnosis of this disease," says Jiri Moos, executive director of i&i Prague and, until recently, also one of Elphogene's executives.
The task of i&i Prague is to search for promising technologies and help them with their introduction to the market. This was achieved in this case, the company Elphogene is today a functioning private healthcare facility that has all the necessary accreditations and permits authorizing it to operate its activities. "At this point, our mission ends and we will focus on supporting other unique ideas from our portfolio. We would like to thank Marek Minarik for excellent cooperation and wish the Elphogene company much success in the commercialization of their technology," adds Jiri Moos.
Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.
A paper describing clinical utility of Elphogene oncoMonitor® liquid biopsy technology published in Pathology and Oncology Research (Frontiers Media publishing)
Prague, June 23, 2022 – A paper describing clinical utility of Elphogene oncoMonitor® liquid biopsy technology published in Pathology and Oncology Research (Frontiers Media publishing)
The paper is a result of a 5-year joint project between researchers at Elphogene, Genomac research institute and clinicians at the Faculty Hospital Pilsen. A total of 81 patients with non-small cell lung cancer were followed during the course of the disease treatment over a period of up to 2 years using Elphogene oncoMonitor® liquid biopsy technology. The authors found a tight correlation of the ob-served dynamic of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) with the clinically observed response and suggest-ed using the assay in a routine application for early detection of therapy resistance and disease re-currence.
A waterfall plot showing the treatment benefit in 28 patients according to relative change in ctDNA levels between the start of the first and the end of the second cycle of first-line chemotherapy. PD—progression (red), SD—stabilization (yellow), PR—partial + CR—complete response (green).
Clinical application of Elphogene oncoMonitor™ technology will be presented at the AMP 2020 Annual Meeting & Expo of the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), which will be held virtually November 16-20.
Prague, September 23, 2020 – Researchers from Elphogene will be part of the AMP 2020 Annual Meeting & Expo. Abstract No. 877806 entitled “Clinical application of oncoMonitor – a simple ctDNA assay for liquid biopsy monitoring of treatment and assessment of therapy in colorectal and lung cancers.” was selected for presentation in the form of a poster.
The selected abstract will also be published as an online supplement in the November issue of The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics. Poster number ST01 will be presented on November 19, 2020, in the section “Solid tumors“.
Twenty-five years ago, the AMP was formed at a small molecular diagnostics workshop. Since then, it has grown to a diverse global community of molecular professionals, counting more than 2,500 members in over 50 countries. AMP is recognized for its unmatched expertise in all aspects of molecular diagnostics.
The AMP meeting will, as always, explore how cutting-edge technology and developments in molecular testing and diagnostics continue to have a major impact on patient care, and ways in which our community remains at the forefront of precision medicine. A comprehensive program will be offered during this conference, including educational sessions, a virtual Expo Hall, and numerous networking opportunities.
Elphogene, s.r.o. received grant from the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (referred to as the “TA CR“) for the project “Sample prep system and technology for cancer testing by liquid biopsy”.
Prague, September 10, 2020 – Elphogene, s.r.o. in cooperation with Thomayer Hospital and the Institute of Analytical Chemistry of the CAS, v. v. i. (IAC) received a grant from the TA CR within the Program for the Support of Industrial Research and Experimental Development TREND.
The aim of the 4-year project is the development of new methods and technological procedures for the diagnosis of cancer, based on liquid biopsy – a non-invasive testing for the presence of a tumor in a patient's body.
“Receiving financial support for our project will allow us to continue adapting and further developing our oncoMonitorTM technology test, which we currently provide to cancer patients to monitor treat- ment and early detection of disease recurrence.“ says Marek Minarik, principal investigator of the project, Co-Founder and CEO of Elphogene.
The newly developed methodology will be universally applicable in the sample preparation process and compatible with the current most commonly used methods for liquid biopsy. The ultimate result will be an increase in the analytical sensitivity of the test, which will enable the extension of clinical utility. The project, which represents a unique involvement of the three different types of entities – a commercial start-up, a research academic institution, and a top medical facility, thus has a social dimension as well.
“The development of a new version of the test, carried out as part of the supported project, aims at a possibility of using a liquid biopsy in earlier stages of cancer, or even for the diagnosis in asympto- matic individuals. This, in turn, can contribute not only to reducing mortality and improving patient health care but also soften the economic impact due to reducing the overall cost of the health care in relation to this highly serious disease.” says Tomas Buchler, Head of the Department of Oncology of the First Medical Faculty of Charles University and Thomayer Hospital.
The project will also be the first where Thomayer Hospital participates in a research and develop- ment leading to the commercialization of a service or product with the support of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Without the direct involvement of this Comprehensive Oncology Center, it would not be possible to perform clinical validations that are key to the planned outcomes.
Czech scientists present a unique technology to detect the relapse of colorectal cancer, which can prolong patients’ lives.
Prague, 13th June 2019 – A team of Czech scientists from the Elphogene company presents a unique diagnostic method called oncoMonitor™, which offers cancer survivors an improvement in regular control screening aimed at the verification of their treatment’s success or timely detection of the disease’s recurrence.
The Prague-based biotechnological start-up Elphogene has received an initial investment from i&i Prague in order to implement its oncoMonitor™, a liquid biopsy technology into a commercial assay for non-invasive diagnostic monitoring of patients in advanced stages colorectal cancer. This method brings a key benefit of personalized testing to detect potential new metastases and the timely option to select a further treatment.
“We have completed pilot studies demonstrating the analytical sensitivity of the oncoMonitor™ assay, and the data were presented at the annual conference of American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Atlanta, USA, in April. We are very happy with the results of this test, which can be applied universally to various forms of solid tumors, and currently, we are initiating clinical validation in cooperation with leading domestic oncological centers,” says Dr. Marek Minarik, Co-Founder and General Manager of Elphogene.
The company has been founded earlier this year as a spin-off from the Genomac research institute, a leading Czech private research center widely recognized for its strong record of scientific projects in clinical cancer genomics. Originally developed at Genomac and now exclusively owned by Elphogene, the oncoMonitor™ liquid biopsy technology, will further be developed and validated in a clinical setting at company headquarters and laboratories located near Prague Vaclav Havel airport in Ruzyne.
The initial investment was provided by the i&i Prague company, which is a leading Central European biotechnological incubator and investment center providing financial support to promising projects in the field of living-nature science, biotechnology and modern medicine. “Liquid biopsy is a newly emerging field with fascinating growth potential, destined to change modern medicine from diagnostics to therapy fundamentally. We have been following the oncoMonitor™ technology for some time, and we are now excited to collaborate with the team at Elphogene in its clinical implementation “, says Dr. Jaromir Zahradka, the CEO and a co-founder of i&i Prague.
In the long run, the Czech Republic has been occupying leading places in patients with colorectal carcinoma. Thanks to extensive campaigns aimed at the importance of screening and early detection of colorectal carcinoma, the number of patients who lose their fight with this insidious disease has been dropping. On the other hand, there is an ongoing lack of non-invasive methods which help post-op detection of recurring cancer activity and prolonging the lives of patients in advanced stages of the disease.
According to the available data from the National Cancer Registry, a total of 7800 patients was newly diagnosed with colorectal carcinoma in 2016, 1508 of which suffered verifiably from advanced stages with the occurrence of metastases. In the same year, almost 4 thousand patients succumbed to this disease. To compare the occurrence of colorectal carcinoma in Europe, according to the 2018 data by Globocan, the Czech Republic takes the 15th place in the number of newly diagnosed cases and the 18th place in death rate. In a whole-world comparison, it takes the 23rd place in newly diagnosed cases and the 22nd place in death rate. Colorectal cancer usually appears in older patients, and in the Czech Republic, colorectal carcinoma is a more frequent phenomenon in men.