The biotech start-up Twelve Bio is part of the fall run of the Business Acceleration Academy. Their current focus is the unmet need for a CRISPR diagnostic to detect early-stage lung cancer which has a very high mortality rate.
The company is founded by Associate Professor Stefano Stella and Research Director, Professor Guillermo Montoya, both from the Center for Protein Research at University of Copenhagen. They brought on two business developers to build the company and the team’s ambition is to raise money to develop a diagnostic test that can reach the market within a few years.
We had a talk with Business Developer Peter Mouritzen, MSc in Business Administration and Bioentrepreneurship and MScEng in Pharmaceutical Design and Engineering, about the company. He is working alongside Business Developer Maria Perestrello Henriques de Jesus, PhD in Biotechnology, who also is part of the Twelve Bio team.
What problem are you solving?
Lung cancer has the absolute highest mortality rate amongst cancers with almost two million people dying annually of lung cancer. It’s partly due to the lack of effective treatment options but especially due to the lack of screening methods. The majority of lung cancer patients are diagnosed at a late stage which is related to a poor prognosis with less than 1 in 10 people surviving after being diagnosed in stage IV. In comparison, 8 in 10 survive diagnosis in early Stage I.
How do you do that?
We want to bring an ultra-sensitive diagnostic test that can identify lung cancer from a blood sample to the market. Our core technology, based on our CRISPR-Cas12a variants, identify and bind to target circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) from cancer cells which induces the amplification of a detectable signal. Thereby, it’s possible to identify the tiny amounts of ctDNA originating from cancer cells present in the blood.
What is it like to be part of BII?
It is awesome. There is a great vibe and a casual tone, and it creates good synergies to work alongside other start-ups and the BII team. We have many talks amongst each other, and we openly discuss our thoughts and ideas. Each team has an anchor person in BII, and it is very valuable to have a person that has an eye on our process to give feedback and help us set the direction.
What has been the biggest eye opener during the BAA program?
I have read many stories about the struggles of start-ups and the barriers they need to overcome to be successful. But building from scratch is even harder and a bigger challenge than I imagined because there are so many things to consider in the very beginning. On the other hand, it comes with a huge satisfaction to see the results from all our work.
Do you want to follow Twelve Bio? Connect with them here.