Cancer survival rates in England are at an all-time high with over 7000 more people surviving cancer than three years ago. However, urgent GP referrals to specialists have increased by over 500,000 since 2014, to in excess of over 1.7 million people. By 2035, it is projected that at least 500,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year, an increase of 40% compared to current levels.
With UK incidence rates of all cancers on the increase, the greatest opportunity to improve the number of patients who survive lies in increasing rates of early diagnosis through improved cancer screening.
Today SBRI Healthcare, the NHS England funded initiative championed by AHSN Network, announced its latest round of development awards. It will support high potential cancer screening solutions. The ten successful companies that share in a £1 million investment have all demonstrated the ability to transform screening and facilitate both earlier and faster diagnosis of cancer.
Among the winning technologies is:
- a digital platform that supports GPs to identify patients with suspected cancer early using the latest evidence from multiple diagnostic pathways to recommend appropriate tests, investigations or referrals a patient in under 30 seconds.
- a non-invasive prostate liquid biopsy test for risk stratification of men suspected of prostate cancer to aid identification of those who will benefit from prostate biopsy and those who could safely forgo it.
- an AI enabled diagnostic technology for the automatic identification of metastatic regions in lymph nodes to increase accuracy and speed of a cancer diagnosis. This will alleviate the current diagnostic bottle neck and associated delay in starting a patient’s treatment.
- a development to an existing AI melanoma screening tool which assesses pigmented lesions at an early stage in a primary care setting, and has potential to significantly improve the skin cancer pathway and patient outcomes.
The 10 successful projects each receive between £94,000 and £100,000 funding and will benefit from support from the SBRI Healthcare team to demonstrate technical feasibility over a six-month development phase. After this, all businesses will have the opportunity to pitch for a further £1 million for further development and commercialisation of their technologies.
Professor Stanley Kaye, Professor of Medical Oncology, The Royal Marsden Hospital commented: “Earlier cancer diagnosis is now a major priority in the UK. With this in mind, it has been extremely encouraging to have the opportunity to examine the projects brought forward by SBRI Healthcare, who have played a major role in this context. The scope of the call was deliberately wide, the quality of applications was very high and judgement was therefore challenging.
“There are opportunities for improvement at various stages along the cancer journey, from initial presentation to more personalised screening and treatment, and the range of successful applications reflects this. We certainly look forward to hearing of the initial findings, and for cancer patients in the UK we are confident that the investment will be a worthwhile one.”
David Shackley, Medical Director of Greater Manchester Cancer added: “We have seen some really excellent bids from small businesses in this round of SBRI Healthcare with a key theme coming through of the evolving interest in developing computer aided diagnosis, in both radiology and pathology. Such technology will I am sure, transform cancer care with faster and more reliable diagnosis by supporting doctors make the right decisions. It’s fantastic that companies are helping the NHS develop such solutions.”
Dr Bhavagaya Bakshi, co-founder of funded company, ‘C the Signs’ said: “We are extremely grateful to SBRI Healthcare for this award. The funding will enable us to develop our technology further and make a significant difference to patients’ lives. As two NHS doctors, we founded ‘C the Signs’ to revolutionise the early diagnosis of cancer. Covering the entire spectrum of cancer, C the Signs is a digital platform that can identify patients at risk of cancer in under 30 seconds. The tool is currently being used in three health authorities, covering one million patients, with the plan to roll it out across the NHS.”
The companies (and supporting Academic Health Science Network) are: Aidence BV (The Netherlands), C the Signs Ltd (Eastern AHSN), Cambridge Oncometrix Ltd (Eastern AHSN), Chromition Ltd (Greater Manchester AHSN), CorporateHealth International UK Ltd (Scotland), DeepMed IO (Greater Manchester), FaHRAS (East Midlands AHSN), Oncimmune Ltd (East Midlands AHSN), Skin Analytics Ltd (Imperial College Health Partners) and VODCA Ltd (Imperial College Health Partners).
About SBRI Healthcare www.sbrihealthcare.co.uk
SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) Healthcare is an NHS England funded programme that provides funding and support to innovative companies to solve healthcare problems. The SBRI Healthcare team works closely with clinicians and frontline NHS staff to identify key challenges from within the service, focusing on specific areas recognised as priority by NHS England and the 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN). The programme aims to improve patient care, increase efficiency in the NHS, and support the UK economy by helping smaller companies grow.
The SBRI Healthcare programme is based on taking a two-phased development approach. Projects start with an initial feasibility study (Phase 1) and can then move on to detailed product development (Phase 2). Phase 1 contracts for feasibility testing are valued at up to £100,000 and last for six months. Phase 2 contracts for prototype development are worth up to £1 million and can extend over two years. Each contract is 100% funded by SBRI Healthcare and while the public sector has the right to license the resultant technology in certain circumstances, its intellectual property remains with the company.
The programme’s network of innovative companies extends throughout the UK. Since launching in 2009, £75 million has been awarded to over 150 companies developing solutions for major NHS challenges such as cancer detection, dementia care, mental health in young people and self-management of long-term conditions. SBRI Healthcare supported companies are already making an impact.
About AHSN Network http://www.ahsnnetwork.com
There are 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England, established by NHS England in 2013 to spread innovation at pace and scale – improving health and generating economic growth.
Each AHSN works across a distinct geography serving a different population in each region. As the only bodies that connect NHS and academic organisations, local authorities, the third sector and industry, AHSNs are catalysts that create the right conditions to facilitate change across whole health and social care economies, with a clear focus on improving outcomes for patients.