Heriot-Watt Research Team Secures Funding to Improve Cancer Diagnosis

Natantis Team

The CNAsafe device could revolutionise the way blood samples are prepared for use in cancer diagnosis, as well as treatment monitoring, researchers at Natantis claim. 

Researchers from Heriot-Watt University have been awarded more than £500,000 from Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Spin-out Programme to revolutionise cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The Natantis team, which hopes to spin-out into a commercial venture by next year, was awarded £574,500 to further develop its CNAsafe device – which is capable of extracting cell-free nucleic acids (cfNA) from whole blood.

Extraction of cfNA from blood has, until now, been a laborious, time-consuming process taking place across two stages – often in different locations up to one week apart. Using the Natantis device, samples could be extracted in just 45 minutes, researchers say, helping to deliver results that are of a higher quality.

The CNAsafe device could revolutionise the way blood samples are prepared for use in cancer diagnosis, as well as treatment monitoring, researchers at Natantis claim.

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So far, it has already been used in cancer and prenatal screening and could potentially be used in toxicology and transplant monitoring. Natantis has already generated huge interest in the technology and is currently in discussions with a host of prospective investors.

The liquid biopsy market is estimated to be worth $2-3 billion and could grow to more than $5 billion by the year 2022.

Scotland’s Public Finance Minister, Kate Forbes, visited the Natantis team at the Heriot-Watt campus this week to see the CNAsafe device first hand.

She said: “Scotland has a thriving life sciences community and a long history of world-changing innovation. The Scottish life sciences sector is incredibly innovative, accounting for almost a quarter of Scotland’s Business Enterprise Research and Development spend in 2017.

“The results of this can be seen in projects like Natantis which, with its CNAsafe device, has designed a truly innovative Scottish product with the potential to have a real impact on the liquid biopsy process. The project has already shown promising commercial interest, proving its very real market and giving Natantis the opportunity to develop into a major contributor to Scotland’s life sciences sector.”

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Natantis’ Principal Investigator, Dr Maiwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas, commented: “Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Spin-out Programme is a fantastic opportunity to bridge the gap between the academic lab and the commercial enterprise.

“We are getting essential support from both Scottish Enterprise and Heriot-Watt and we’re looking forward to moving to the new GRID building as an incubator for Natantis, just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Airport, with all the benefits of the campus’ facilities.”



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