Immunohistochemistry is a powerful microscopy-based technique to determine the tissue distribution of an antigen of interest. It has become a crucial technique in many medical research laboratories and clinical diagnostics. In fact, it is the primary tool for diagnosis of multiple cancers, determining if a tumor is benign or malignant and identifying its stage, grade and place of origin. However, the process is time consuming, involving many steps, and the slightest mistake or touch a contaminant can ruin the sample.
The Lausanne, Switzerland-based startup Lunaphore is disrupting the tissue diagnostics market with a new tissue analysis platform performing immunohistochemistry based on fast fluidic exchange technology. The device itself comes in the form of a chip made of glass and silicone with tiny channels 100 microns in diameter. A thin section of the tumor is placed in contact with the chip, and a fluid rich in specific antibodies that cling to the desired proteins are injected into it. The amount of protein is then detected via fluorescence. The entire analysis process is performed within 5 minutes.
Current technologies require bathing of samples in a full antibody solution for a long period of time, and the immunohistochemical assay can take up to 8 hours. In addition, this prolonged bath can give false results because the antibodies may cling to the wrong place. In Lunaphore’s chip, the sample is evenly irrigated over a definite time span, boosting reliability, reproducibility and accuracy of the test. In a clinical study conducted with 76 breast cancer patients, results show a 90% decrease of ambiguous results using Lunaphore’s technology compared to standard equipment in hospitals. And since it uses much less reagent solution, it reduces costs by 50-75%.
The innovative technology opens a spectrum of applications that has not been possible before. While existing systems are based in large central laboratories, Lunaphore offer the capability of performing the same assays in any setting. This not only mean a faster diagnosis, but potentially increasing access to a technology that play a critical role in cancer diagnosis. And as medicine, and especially oncology, is becoming more personalized and determined by panels of biomarkers, the analysis time and accuracy of Lunaphore’s technology highlight the startup’s advantage and potential. It could give a faster definite diagnosis, helping patients start treatment faster and ultimately improve health outcomes.
The EPFL spin-off was founded in 2014 and in 2015 closed a Series A financing round of CHF 2 million led by Redalpine Venture Partners with participation of private investors from Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The startup has previously been supported by FIT, and won multiple awards and competitions, including the PERL Prize, IMD start-up competition, as well as the Venture Kick final.