Health Valley
Text: Tiago Pires
Photo: Illustration by Mónica Gonçalves

Detecting cancer in minutes

Based in Lausanne, the start-up Lunaphore has developed a technology that can quickly identify cancerous tissues.

After many long years of research, the new generation of cancer-detecting tools from Lunaphore has moved on to the manufacturing phase. The technology of the Vaud-based start-up results in increased accuracy and significantly reduces the time it takes to analyse the specific biomarkers present in cancerous tissues. This EPFL spinoff is competing with the current technology used in laboratories, known as immunohistochemistry, which locates cellular proteins within tissue samples using specific markers. Lunaphore uses microfluidics instead. Chips equipped with minuscule channels are used to colour tissues so they can be more easily observed.

"Our analysis method produces results in under fifteen minutes. Compared to traditional cancer-detecting solutions, our technique saves hours, and sometimes even days", explains Déborah Heintze, the company’s co-founder.

The speed of this diagnostic kit creates new opportunities in precision medicine because it allows laboratories and hospitals to run multiple tests to analyse various markers.

For the time being, the young company's technology will be used in immuno-oncology research and tissue analysis in emergency situations, such as during surgery. "With our technology, a surgeon could receive specific information about a patient's type of cancerous tumour and how it is spreading in the body before the surgery is complete."

Lunaphore has earned several awards for its innovation, including the Swiss Technology Award, which was presented last November for the "Start-Up" category. The company wants to capitalise on its visibility to market its diagnostic platform this year. Lunaphore signed a partnership agreement with the Italian pharmaceutical laboratory Menarini, which will distribute the product to the European market.