When a patient is being treated for cancer, it’s often very difficult to know which treatment will work best.
Chorom Pak, president and founder of Lynx Biosciences, wants to change that.
She and her team are working on a system that lets medical oncologists determine prior to treatment which therapies will be effective for treating various blood cancers.
Their testing system, called MicroC3, works by isolating a tissue sample from the cancer patient. This sample includes both tumor cells and non-tumor cells, to see how certain medicines will interact with both types of cell as they naturally interact.
“We are incorporating normal and supporting cells, which no one else is doing right now,” said Pak, who was interviewed as part of a new business series done this fall by UW-Madison students.
This idea arose from her Ph.D work, where frustrations stemming from lack of available cancer cells for testing pushed her to team up with David Beebe, a professor of biomedical engineering at UW-Madison, to find a new way to examine these image samples.
Their current design for the MicroC3 goes beyond examination, allowing them to create a model of cancer cells as they interact with surrounding healthy tissues. This model can be used for testing, like a miniature petri dish that reacts to treatment the same way that patients’ cells do.
“We felt like we had something that could actually help patients,” Pak said. “This could be really awesome.”
A crucial benefit of the MicroC3 system is minimizing the risk of potentially mistreating the patient, using the tissue model as a guinea pig rather than the patient.
Also important is the speed of the test – three days after the model is created, the drugs that work best can be determined with no need for a second biopsy.
“You don’t have to waste two months on a therapy to find out whether or not it works,” Pak said.
The MicroC3 is classified as a CDx, or companion diagnostic, because it doesn’t actually diagnose cancer.
“Our test goes alongside therapies, because we act to predict which medicine will work best for people,” said Pak. “We’re kind of like a little buddy to other therapies out there.”
With this relationship in mind, Pak gave her company a name that reflects its central philosophy and mission.
“The idea is that we are linking patients, clinicians, pharma companies, etcetera. We are linking them all to the right therapy,” said Pak. “We all depend on each other, and we have to work together to provide the best care for patients—it’s a team effort.”
Lynx Biosciences took part in the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, Nov. 16-17 in Madison, where she and her team sought $350,000 from investors to support the next phase of the company’s growth.
If the fundraising is a success, some of the money will go towards designing an upcoming clinical trial as well as hiring consultants to help with the regulatory side of the business.
“While we know we’re awesome, we need some help,” Pak said.
According to Pak, at least a third of the money raised will support distribution efforts as well as setting up an automated online platform for ordering, which she said will make people’s lives easier.
“It’s great to get exposure for our company, being able to show not only Wisconsin folks what we do, but other people as well. Seeing other people getting excited about this is very rewarding,” Pak said. “It means a lot.”
–By Alex Moe
Moe is a graduating student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.