Cape Town biotech startup developing affordable test for cancer

Local biotech startup BioCODE is currently developing a cost-effective test for cancer and cardiovascular disease.  

The rapid test aims to identify cancer and cardiovascular disease

The innovative test aims to identify early-stage cancer and cardiovascular disease. In addition, the rapid test will determine an individual’s risk for the development of the above-mentioned diseases. 

Este Burger Research and Design Engineer for BioCODE explains that the tests are currently in the pre-prototype phase and adds that the rapid tests will detect novel inflammatory markers in a drop of blood for the early identification of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. 

“These tests will be affordable, accessible, and as easy to use as a glucose sensor or a pregnancy test. They will be used by healthcare professionals to screen and identify patients who are possible risk cases and monitor patients’ response to treatment.”

The innovative biotech startup aims to launch a commercial prototype at the end of 2021. 

BioCODE

Launched in 2020, BioCODE forms part of several startups that launched during lockdown via Stellenbosch University’s LaunchLab’s Countdown programme. 

As a biotech startup, BioCODE has created a two-in-one nanosensor that identifies disease risk in patients at an early stage, for example; the technology adopted at BioCODE can detect inflammatory biomarker levels from a drop of blood. 

Founded and created by Professor Resia Pretorius is the head of SU’s Physiological Sciences Department in the Faculty of Science, the unique technology can be used by a medical practitioner and nurses in mobile clinics. 

In addition, the innovative technology created by BioCODE has been accoladed as a finalist in the Science startup category at the 2020 Falling Walls Breakthrough of the year awards. 

The Countdown programme is an eight-week business building programme that focuses on testing and analysing the merits of an early-stage business concept. The programme has placed a strong focus on the following sectors; climate, agriculture, and health and aims to use private-sector entrepreneurism to solve public sector challenges present in Africa. 

Burger comments on the immense impact that the programme has had on the startup’s business model and the role that the incubator’s mentorship has played. 

“We’re nearing the end of SU LaunchLab’s Countdown programme and cannot emphasise enough how it has rewired our brains towards business thinking,” says Burger. 

A global health challenge

The World Health Organisation has reported that at least 4 500 cancer and 8 0000 cardiovascular disease fatalities take place each day. Within developing countries, the lack of access to effective and affordable health care further exacerbates these numbers and BioCODE aims to provide an effective and affordable solution to this with the rapid tests currently being developed. 

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Featured image: BioCODE team (Back row, left to right) Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, Prof Wim de Villiers; Prof. Willem Perold, Electronic Engineer; Dr. André Du Toit, Biochemist and PhD student, Greta de Waal. (Front row, left to right) Este Burger (MEng), Research and Design Engineer; Prof. Resia Pretorius, Founder and Physiologist; Prof. Anna-Mart Engelbrecht, Physiologist and Dr Chantel Venter. (Supplied) 

Ishani Chetty: Editor
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