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Swansea biotech startup raises £1.5m for AI bowel cancer blood test

CanSense Image credit: CanSense

Biotech startup CanSense, which has developed a blood test to detect bowel cancer that uses laser light and artificial intelligence (AI), has raised £1.5m in funding.

The Swansea-based company secured funding from investment firm Mercia, the Development Bank of Wales and liquid biopsy company Nonacus.

CanSense, a Swansea University spinout, has created a test that is less invasive than a colonoscopy or faecal blood detection kits, the two primary methods for detecting bowel cancer.

The company hopes its test, which analyses small blood samples, can detect bowel cancer at an early stage and reduce pressure on the NHS.

Around £300m is spent by the NHS annually on colonoscopy procedures despite less than 10% resulting in the detection of cancer. In the UK bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths and accounts for more than 16,800 deaths every year.

The Swansea University spinout is commercialising the research conducted by Professor Peter Dunstan, Professor Dean Harris and Dr Cerys Jenkins at Swansea University.

In 2019 the trio joined with Dr Adam Bryant, now CEO and director of CanSense. Bryant was previously the executive chairman of the now-defunct London Block Exchange.

Rafael Joseph, investment manager, Mercia, said: “CanSense is one of a new generation of cancer diagnostic tools which have the potential to save many lives and lower the burden on the NHS. ”

The biotech startup will spend the additional capital on clinical trials and product development. Last year CanSense received a £1.2m grant from the National Institute of Health Research.

“CanSense’s unique and patented spectroscopy technology has shown real promise in early-stage clinical trial results as an early cancer detection screening or triage test,” said Chris Sale, CEO at Nonacus.

“In the future, the CanSense technology could be applied as a standalone test or combined as a multi-omics test with our own highly sensitive DNA-based testing as required.”