Lunaphore has set out to accurately detect cancer in record time. Created in 2014, the EPFL spinoff hopes to compete with traditional techniques used in laboratories and hospitals. Cancerous tumors in a tissue sample are currently identified using specific biomarkers, most often a protein. The underlying technology is called immunohistochemistry, in which antibodies react when in contact with the biomarkers, staining the tissue. This indicates the existence of a cancer.
After years of research, Lunaphore’s three founders – Ata Tuna Ciftlik, Diego Dupouy and Déborah Heintze – have optimized the precision of the staining process and achieved faster diagnosis using microfluidics. Tiny canals are integrated onto a chip to stain tissue and better observe it. “Our method of analysis can produce results in 10 to 30 minutes,” says Déborah Heintze, Co-founder and COO of Lunaphore. “We save several hours, even days, compared with traditional cancer detection and monitoring techniques.”
«Scale-Up Vaud is crucial and essential. The program supports
young companies in their growth phase and serves as a platform where startup leaders can come together to discuss and work on shared challenges.
Déborah HeintzeCofounder and COO, Lunaphore
Lunaphore’s three founders: Diego Dupouy, Déborah Heintze and Ata Tuna Ciftlik.
The young company plans to market its technology in two main industries: diagnostics at hospitals and clinics, and immuno-oncology research laboratories. Lunaphore’s device hit the research market in 2019 and will be available on the diagnostics market at some point this year. For diagnostics, the technology developed by Lunaphore offers a considerable advantage in emergency situations such as surgery. “For example, during a procedure,” Heintze says, “a surgeon can get specific information on the type of cancer and how much it has spread in the body.” Lunaphore has signed major partnership deals with international companies to distribute and sell its product on the European market. To support its business in Europe and its expansion into key markets, i.e. the United States and Asia, Lunaphore plans to launch a Series C funding round to strengthen its positioning and gain market share.
“The assistance provided by the Canton of Vaud has helped Lunaphore grow,” says Déborah Heintze. Since the company was created in 2014, its three founders have benefited from different types of support from the Vaud Economic Promotion, including financial aid granted by the Office for Economic Affairs and Innovation (SPEI). “This funding has been used to file patents and participate in conferences,” the COO says. Over and above the financial and entrepreneurial aspects, Déborah Heintze also applauds the Office’s human approach to economic development. “On social media or in developing our image, the Vaud economic development organizations has always been extremely caring and supportive. This close relationship has been beneficial, and even life-saving, especially in the hiring phase.” Lunaphore is now part of the Scale-Up Vaud program, a community of young, high-growth companies. “This initiative is crucial and essential. It supports young companies in their growth phase and serves as a platform where startup leaders can come together to discuss and work on shared challenges.”