INTERVIEWS

MultiplexDX to End Cancer Misdiagnosis. How?

Pavol Cekan, MultiplexDX

As a direct result of the flaws inherent in current diagnostic methods and technologies, cancer misdiagnosis occurs more often than you may think.

There is a company, though, hoping to eliminate misdiagnoses altogether and offer patients 100% clarity through accessible, accurate, and quantitative diagnostic tests. Thus, saving the patients’ money and giving them certainty in their situation.

Diagnosing the company: What is MultiplexDX?

MultiplexDX, founded by Pavol Čekan and Vladimír Wolf in 2016, is a daring biotechnological startup with a mission of putting an end to cancer misdiagnosis.

It has made waves in the last couple of months by winning three Central European Startup Awards (CESA) in the Slovak round (Best Biotech Startup, Best Social Impact Startup, Founder of the Year), the Best Social Impact Startup in the CESA’s CEE regional competition (among startups from ten other countries), and by a successful Seed B funding round, in which they raised EUR 1.2M. Company’s previous funding round amounted to EUR 400K from Neulogy Ventures.

Central European Startup Awards is a startup festival and contest seeking to inspire, stimulate and connect the community. It is held annually, to recognize the accomplishments of the regional startups.

Though MultiplexDX is a fairly new biotech startup company, they have already unveiled three products, with two more in development, and received several awards.

MultiplexDX’s performance over the last years has brought such achievements as Horizon 2020 Seal of Excellence by the European Commission or Prestigious JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Award 2018, and the company was listed in the New Europe 100: Eastern Europe’s Emerging Technology Star by Res Publica, Google, Visegrad Fund, and the Financial Times.

Products that could save lives

Company’s mission is divided into two activities: commercial (sub-products and the fully validated diagnostic products ready for market) and R&D (development and validation of diagnostic products and applications). Their product range follows the same pattern and splits into two main categories.

The first one goes as “Diagnostics” consisting of the Multiplex9+ diagnostic service for breast cancer, currently awaiting pre-clinical validation. The second category is labeled as “Sub-products” and is additionally divided into two lines, “Visualization” and “RNA Sequencing.”

These two product ranges represent the two diagnostic technologies MultiplexDX uses to ensure the accuracy of test results. The readings from both these tests are taken and cross-validated with each other. “It is nearly impossible for both tests to be wrong at the same time,” explains Pavol Čekan.

Visualization is a technique used to show and quantify cancer biomarkers and the tissue structure and morphology. RNA FISH probes are the foundational product for this particular diagnostic technique. You can purchase them in different amounts and in a variety of combinations.

The more “complete” experience, for those with no prior experience, is available in the form of the FullRNAlook kit. It consists of all the necessary RNA FISH probes and reagents needed to visualize biomarkers.

Vladimir Wolf and Pavol Cekan, founders of MultiplexDX
Vladimir Wolf and Pavol Cekan, founders of MultiplexDX

RNA Sequencing doesn’t show the biomarkers, but merely counts them and determines the precise amount of cancer biomarkers present in the tissue. In addition, RNA sequencing reveals the exact sequence of RNA biomarkers (also with potential errors coming from inherited mutations and/or mutations occurred accidentally), which is another very important diagnostic information.

In this product line, only the Sequencing Adapters are currently available. Full sequencing kit is in development and validation.

Born and raised in America

MultiplexDX’s customer base spans through both the American and European market and consists mainly of universities, biotech companies, and other startups. Their main focus has been B2B, but the company plans to eventually delve into the B2C sector as well, with affordable tests and solutions available for individuals.

In 2016, the startup won that year’s Slovak Startup Awards. As a part of their prize, they were granted participation in the US Connections program by Slovak-American Foundation. This is not to mention that America is the place where the company was originally founded.

The idea for MultiplexDX came to Pavol Čekan when he worked as a Post-Doctorate Associate at the Rockefeller University. He, later on, came to say that, “after our breakthrough in the multiplexed cancer diagnosis method, it was only a matter of time before I would find the right way and the right people to start a company.”

The force behind MultiplexDX

Dr. Pavol Čekan holds the CEO position and acts as a company representative in Slovakia. Company’s Chief Operations Officer, Dr. Peter Kilián, studied biomedicine and biophysics at Comenius University in Bratislava and at Université de Sherbrooke in Canada. Dr. Vladimír Wolf (CBO), a molecular biologist, is the company representative in Maryland, USA, and takes care of the business development.

The remaining members of the team are Marina Markevich and Matej Hlaváček, both in charge of marketing and corporate identity. One of the latest addition is Katarína Šoltys who studied a neuro-immunology at Comenius University in Bratislava and will be helping with product development. Just recently company hired Evan Paul, an American scientist, who acted as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Stress Neurobiology and Neurogenetics.

Pavol Cekan at the Startup Awards 2016 where MultiplexDX won the main prize and the US Connections prize
Pavol Cekan at the Startup Awards 2016 where MultiplexDX won the main prize and the US Connections prize

Three prominent names are also on the advisory board of the company – Dr. Ronald Cook, Prof. Thomas Tuschl and Mr. Peter Gajdoš.

Ronald Cook is thought of as the father of the RNA visualization technique. He started his own company, Biosearch Technologies, in the ’70s and sold it in 2015 to an international corporation LGC. Thomas Tuschl is a prestigious German scientist, currently working at the Rockefeller University in New York. He is a pioneer in RNA Molecular Biology including RNA sequencing methods and is now doing more research into cancer diagnosis by way of RNA analysis.

Peter Gajdoš is the Managing Director & Portfolio Manager at Presidio Partners venture capital fund in San Francisco. For more than 11 years, he has been investing in various startups including those in the biotech industry. He was “involved in Presidio’s efforts backing Auspex (NASDAQ: ASPX) and Ardelyx (NASDAQ: ARDX) in their IPOs”.

“No pain, no gain”

All the success in the past few months has allowed MultiplexDX to grow and develop, not only in their product range but as a company too. In the near future, they plan to expand their team and hire five more people, especially looking for nucleic acid chemists working on MultiplexDX commercial activities and molecular biologist joining their R&D team focusing on Multiplex9+ clinical validation.

“There is so much ahead of us. However, we are looking forward to all the challenges we have to face in the future. No pain, no gain. We at MultiplexDX know this better than anyone,” concludes Pavol Čekan.


Photos: MultiplexDX

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