John Cassidy’s family has been the leader of cancer research for almost three generations now. The Cambridge-educated co-founder and CEO of Cancer Diagnostics Company Cambridge Cancer Genomics were just following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps when he dove into researching the disease in college.
Cassidy’s father was in charge of cancer therapies at Glasgow University and his grandfather was a professor who researched cancer there as well. Combined by three other PhDs from Oxford, Cambridge and Kings College, Cassidy feels like it’s his chance to move to the forefront.
Cambridge Cancer Genomics, through a mix of new sensing technology and machine learning, is developing a technique that can identify how well cancer treatments are working. That’s really important for getting different therapies to market quicker, and for making sure that targeted therapies are working the way they need to- resulting in a decrease in overall cost for cancer treatments.
“You can detect when people should be off of treatment 7 months earlier than traditional means of analysis,” using the CCG technology, reports Cassidy. That’s vital for patients that are diagnosed with the types of cancers that Cassidy and his colleagues are working with, such as pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer.
Cassidy is joined on this journey with Harry Clifford, who previously was a cancer bioinformatics PhD at Oxford University who will serve as Chief Scientific Officer,
Evaline Tsai; the Chief Technology Officer who has a BSE in chemical and biological engineering from Princeton; and Nirmesh Patel, the company’s Chief Medical Officer, whose background is in translational cancer medicine, which he studied at Kings College London.
“Two of us come from the same lab in Cambridge,” states Cassidy. “We knew that Evaline was doing a PhD in biosensors at the same time. The other guy was doing a PhD in translational genomics,” Cassidy added.
The company currently has a clinical partnership with the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center in Bakersfield, Calif. to pilot its technology.
“How patients were being treated was stuck in the ’80s,” he reported.
“When you think about something like targeted therapies… they’re super expensive,” Cassidy explained. “The reason they’re expensive is that it’s very difficult to figure out who the drug is going to work for. If you can tell whether the drug is working or not… there’s implications for getting drugs through clinical trials faster.”
CCG keeps track of mutations in cancer cells, Cassidy explains. “The mutations are easily pinpointed changes in base pairs in DNA. We look for these changes in a patient’s blood,” he added.
The company just recently graduated from Y Combinator’s recent batch of startups, has already secured pre-seed funding and is on its way to a $1.3 million targeted seed round.