OXcan secures £1.28m in oversubscribed seed funding round

Dr Peter Jianrui Liu and Andreas Halner, OXcan

Dr Peter Jianrui Liu (L) and Andreas Halner

OXcan (Oxford Cancer Analytics), a startup that uses machine learning and liquid biopsy for early lung cancer detection, recently raised £1.28M in an oversubscribed seed round and is now supported by Cancer Research UK, Civilisation Ventures, the Francis Crick Institute, Oxford Technology Management, and MegaRobo.

Joining the international group of backers are business angels such as the Chief Digital Officer of T-Mobile USA, Marcus East, and the former European President of GlaxoSmithKline, Brad Wilson.

Every day in the UK, around 130 people are diagnosed with lung cancer. If you’re diagnosed during its earliest stage, you have a 57% chance of living for more than five years. If you’re diagnosed during its latest stage, your chances of survival are reduced to just 3%. That’s why lung cancer is the deadliest cancer anyone can face. However, OXcan is striving to identify more cases, earlier.

OXcan is the brainchild of two Oxford-educated scientists, Dr. Peter Jianrui Liu and Andreas Halner, who want “to shape a future in which early cancer detection becomes the norm rather than the exception”.

They apply machine learning techniques to anonymised patient data sets in order to flag risk levels, and combine this with cutting-edge liquid biopsy techniques, searching for biomarkers indicative of stage one lung cancer.

CEO Liu says that in this way they can “revolutionise cancer management”, whereas “current approaches are only scratching the surface of what’s possible”.

OXcan is trying to build a future in which patients will no longer have to wait for an anxiety-inducing series of X-Rays, CT Scans, and Bronchoscopies — a procedure which involves passing a tube down your throat and into your airways in order to scrape off cells for analysis.

If lung cancer is caught earlier with OXcan’s painless screening technology, then fewer patients will have to face agonising rounds of ultimately unsuccessful treatment.

Liu first met Halner when the former was serving as President of the Oxford University Scientific Society, aiming to foster interdisciplinary scientific collaborations.

After beating 100 other entrants to win the Oxford University All-Innovate competition in 2019, the pair worked through a series of incubators such as Oxford Elevate, KQ Labs, and the Alderley Park Oncology Development Programme.

Liu and Halner are now using their seed funding to rapidly scale the business and hire talent in the fields of AI, clinical medicine, business development, and regulatory affairs.

To ensure that as many at-risk individuals as possible can get access to easy, effortless screening, they’re partnering with hospitals, clinics, and doctors, from Canada to China.

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