There are more than 100 types of cancer, and about 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. The number of people living with cancer is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024.
Think that’s too big a problem to disrupt? Think again.
Startups across Chicago are finding ways to fight the chronic disease through innovations in pharmaceuticals, diagnostic tools, big data, medical devices, survivorship plans and even subscription gift boxes. While creating a business in any medical field is difficult, university startup centers, such as University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Northwestern’s N.XT Fund, as well as incubators MATTER and Healthbox, offer medtech startups business resources and funding to get their big ideas off the ground.
If these startups succeed, the return on investment is far more than money. It’s improving the quality of life, and perhaps even saving the lives, of the millions of people suffering from cancer today.
Here’s a look at 25 startups in Chicago that are fighting cancer.
Jivana Biotechnology: This preclinical-stage biotech company down modulates an anti-apoptotic protein in cancer cells through the process of gene silencing. By preventing production of the target protein, they’re able to increase cell sensitivity to chemotherapeutics and other inhibitory drugs, according to the startup.
Latona Therapeutics: This startup out of Illinois Institute of Technology and University of Chicago Booth School of Business is developing a novel drug-delivery technology that uses light-activated nanoparticles to directly target cancer cells while avoiding healthy cells. They’re initially focused on triple-negative breast cancer, which can only be treated by chemotherapy.
SurgiNet: This startup has created a patented mesh that’s used for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. SurgiNet took the top prize at Northwestern University’s 2016 Venture Challenge.
LifeMotion Technologies: This medical device startup provides individualized rehabilitation technology that improves TMJ function for patients suffering from Trismus due to head and neck cancer, as well as other conditions that impact jaw mobility.
Exicure: This sRNA platform company previously raised $40 million in funding and entered into a $790 million partnership to develop a drug for psoriasis, but its next products are focused on oncology, as SNAs have been shown to lead to long-lasting disease fighting innate immune response, the startup says.
Innoblative: This startup is creating specialized electrosurgical devices that can improve on multiple surgical procedures. Their first product is a radiofrequency ablation (RFA) applicator that allows surgeons to intraoperatively coagulate and ablate soft tissue beds, according to the startup.
Nanocytomics: This startup is creating a technology platform that aims to provide highly accurate, low-cost, non-invasive cancer screening, which are intended to identify patients that are likely to benefit additional cancer diagnostic procedures, such as colonoscopies, CT scans, and biopsies. They’re commercializing the technology through Preora Diagnostics.
RiMo Therapeutics: This University of Chicago startup uses nanotechnology to deliver low-dose x-ray treatments which has been shown to be highly effective in eradicating solid tumors. The startup received $250,000 from the University of Chicago Innovation Fund in 2016.
Ohmx: This diagnostics company is working on an electronic detection platform for the early detection of cancer. Previously the startup was awarded a $1.5 million SBIR grant from the National Cancer Institute for a prostate cancer biomarker project.
Third Coast Therapeutics: This biotherapeutics startup is aiming to stop the spread of cancer cells throughout the body through a precise targeting method to alter the activity of key kinases involved in the metastatic process, the startup says. The startup received funding from Northwestern’s high tech fund N.XT.
GliaLab: This artificial intelligence startup that works with existing medical imaging devices to create faster, smarter breast cancer diagnoses. Founder Abu Qader told us last year the software is between 93% and 99% accurate, and gives results in real-time.
PrescriptIQ: This University of Chicago startup has a proprietary “Genomic Prescribing System” (GPS) that includes a database of how patients with particular genetic profiles react to specific drugs that physicians can access for better prescriptions. PrescriptIQ received $100,000 from the Innovation Fund in 2014.
SurvivorPlan: This startup offers clinicians a cancer survivorship care planning platform, enabling cancer centers to meet CoC Survivorship Care Plan Standards.
Actuate Therapeutics: This Northwestern University and University of Illinois at Chicago biopharma startup is focused on creating compounds that can better treat cancer and inflammatory diseases. Their lead molecule, 9-ING-41, has demonstrated anti-tumor activity for brain, pancreas, lung and breast cancer.
MicroSensor Labs: This startup is creating a cancer biomarker detection platform that focuses on liquid biopsies in order to detect cancers at very early stages.
Thriveosity: This startup offers a subscription box service with all-natural goods that address a cancer patients’ pain points and side effects, such as lotions for rashes and brain games to improve mental stimulation.
Quantitative Insights: This University of Chicago startup has a computer-aided diagnosis system that integrates data from MRIs, ultrasound and x-rays to help radiologists more accurately diagnose of breast cancer. Quantitative Insights is a Polsky incubator company and has received funding of $50,000 and $100,000 from the UChicago Innovation Fund in 2011 and 2014, respectively.
Cancer IQ: Cancer IQ is a digital health platform that provides doctors with a patients’ cancer risk assessment, prevention, and genetically-informed treatment plans. CancerIQ took fourth place in the 2013 New Venture Challenge.
American BioOptics: This startup has created a non-invasive test for colorectal cancer screening process as a means of identifying patients at high risk for cancer who are in need of additional follow-up.
Ariel Precision Medicine: This digital health startup has a platform that integrates a patients’ symptoms and genetics with complex medical information, then compares this with a databases of disease patterns to identify the underlying cause of the disease and the best treatment plan.
Diagnostic Photonics :This medical device company provides handheld, high-resolution imaging systems that help clinicians view whether they’ve removed all cancerous tissue at the microscopic layer.
Innocrin Pharmaceuticals: This Matter member pharma startup discovers and develops novel oral selective inhibitors of CYP17 lyase, which is a validated target for the treatment of advanced breast and prostate cancer, the startup says.
MetriTrack: This medical device startup is working on proprietary automated solutions for precise and efficient hand-held ultrasound exams.
Tempus: This Chicago startup, founded by Groupon founder Eric Lefkofsky, uses machine learning and genomic sequencing to better understand a patient’s tumor, as well as create personalized treatment plans based on the data.