Molecular diagnostic firm Caldera Health is in the final stages of developing a proprietary gene-sequencing test, but it needs more biopsy samples from men to further prove its concept.
Some of that help may come from Taiwan following a visit by Taiwan’s Deputy Health and Welfare Minister Tzou-Yien Lin and members of the Nomura Research Institute. Caldera was one of two companies specially selected for its investment potential, but Dr Lin says the 8000 bed hospital group he has worked for may well be keen to participate in the current clinical trials.
Caldera Health’s managing director Graham Watt says the company plans to replace the controversial PSA blood test with men being able to simply “pee in a pot”. The urine would then be tested for RNA biomarkers.
“We have done enough to know the urine test is possible, but for our test to stand up in the medical world we need to further validate our biomarker panel from many more biopsy samples,” Mr Watt says. “We need more men to give their permission to their urologists to send us a small part of those samples.”
Mr Watt is a former executive at Roche Diagnostics, part of the Roche Group, the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs. He says Caldera Health conducted its first trial last year, using stored prostatectomy tissue, to establish RNA expression changes that correlated with the Gleason Score currently used to confirm prostate cancer from biopsy samples.
Caldera Health uses a Next Generation Sequencing platform to run its analytical processes and novel integrated software and it has capacity to run hundreds of samples. It has filed patent in 2009 and 2010 and is about to file another.
The company is also in the midst of raising capital to accelerate its clinical studies and put the research in front of potential commercial partners. It has attracted NZ$5.93 million since it was founded in 2009 from investors including the NZ Government’s Venture Investment Fund and its science commercialisation arm Callaghan Innovation and Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1. Chairman Alastair MacCormack says they are now responding to international interest.