The Interreg project Codex4SMEs (Companion diagnostics expedited for small and medium-sized businesses) project plans to improve healthcare by enhanced adoption of Personalized Medicine in North-West Europe. The objective is to establish a network, which supports SMEs along the value chain of Companion diagnostics (Cdx) development.

West-Hollands regional economic development agency InnovationQuarter is partner. So far, companies in West-Holland have been very successful in obtaining support through this project. Earlier this year, Idris Oncology was the first company to receive human tissues through this project. In the last weeks four other companies also received support:

“The procedure of obtaining living tissue is time consuming: transfer and commercialization rules differ from country to country and cultural barriers have to be overcome. With living tissue time is of the essence.”

The company Skyline Dx based in Rotterdam has succeeded to receive a biomarker validation award. SkylineDX has the goal to to give physicians the genetic tools to better guide the most effective treatment plan for their patients. The team of SkylineDX is driven by scientific and data research in the field of molecular diagnostics leading for example to their product MMprofilerTM, which is a clinical test used to aid physicians in the prognosis of multiple myeloma (blood cancer). Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg will execute the biomarker validation to facilitate SkylineDX in expanding their pipeline with new products and services.

The Leiden based biotech start-up Vitroscan will receive living tissues from the BioBank of Graz which will be prospectively be obtained during surgery on patients that all gave permission (informed consent). The procedure to get this access was quite time consuming, not only were the material transfer and commercialization rules different between countries and institutes, also cultural barriers had to be overcome. Willemijn Vader, CEO of Vitroscan: “Even though I sometimes almost stopped believing that we would succeed in getting the tissues through this route, the end result is quite fulfilling: we’ve now proven that we can prospectively source living and expandable tissues from across the continent. This ensures the long time independence of my company and is thereby an important step in the development of diagnostic tests to improve selection of drug treatment for cancer patients.”. Based on the expansive cross-country questionnaire and interviews, it became evident that almost all SME’s source their tissues from hospitals in their direct vicinity. Being able to source across countries is preferable as it makes an SME less dependent on individual contacts and a broader scope of patient genetic background.

Apart from the validation services for Skyline and the samples for Idris and Vitroscan, three vouchers for knowledge transfer were awarded. One to the aforementioned Vitroscan to facilitate the process of getting these samples alive from Graz to Leiden. The other two were awarded to Mimetas and Ocello to cover the costs for a masterclass in Biobanking, also in Graz. The Biobank in Graz is the only European knowledge institute that provides a Msc in Biobanking on top of a broad set of cources. Ocello and Mimetas will train their personnel to further expand their knowledge on general biobanking skills.

“We’re happy and proud that the companies in our region have been successful in obtaining these awards,” says Stefan Ellenbroek senior business developer Life Sciences and Health at InnovationQuarter. “This proves that the time spent on projects like this is useful not only from a networking- and societal point of view, but also simply from an economic point of view. As there are still a few awards to be handed out, interested companies can contact me.”

Other activities relevant for companies are, for example, a webinar featuring Tom Miller, founder of Greybird Ventures. Miller speaks about the VC perspective on companion diagnostics. The next stage will be a pitch training, that companies can now apply for, followed by a pitch session for VC’s, pharma and diagnostic firms on December 4th. This is a side session of the EIT health summit in Paris.

Stéfan Ellenbroek

Senior Business Developer Life Sciences & Health