- Date: December 11, 2019
In Spain, 1 in 20 men and 1 in 30 women will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime. If precancerous polyps are detected and removed, it is estimated that 90% of cases can be prevented. However, existing screening methods fail to detect approximately 22% of polyps.
The need for a more accurate diagnosis is what brought Marta Guardiola and Glòria Fernández together. Marta is a microwave imaging expert from Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), and Glòria, an endoscopist at Hospital Clínic de Barcelona (HCB). When they met back in 2015, they realised that they could combine their areas of expertise to improve the prevention and diagnosis of colorectal cancer. With their startup MiWEndo Solutions, a spinoff from UPF, and a former CaixaImpulse project, they are developing a medical device that enhances the field of view in polyp detection and reduces subjectivity, both of which contribute to a rigorous diagnosis.
Marta Guardiola, who is now the CTO of MiWEndo Solutions, explains the journey of this innovative technology towards the market.
The MiWEndo Solutions team (from left): Glòria Fernández Esparrach, CMO (medical), Marta Guardiola, CTO, and Ignasi Belda, CEO
Can you tell us a bit more about MiWEndo?
MiWEndo is a small microwave accessory that increases the field of view of standard colonoscopes to 360º, thus allowing more detailed scans of the colon.
Conventional colonoscopy has a field of view between 140º-170º, and poor rates of detection for flat polyps and those located between colon folds. MiWEndo is attached at the distal tip of the colonoscope, and takes data at the same time as the colonoscopy is performed. When it detects a polyp, an alarm is emitted to warn the endoscopist, similarly to a car parking radar.
Is the wider field of view the only advantage it has over current colonoscopies?
No, there are more. MiWEndo not only automates the detection of polyps and increases the field of view, but it can also provide functional information to differentiate benign and malignant tissues.
This will help doctors to make more informed decisions based on objective data during colonoscopy. Moreover, in future, the functional information may reduce the number of biopsied tissues, preventing the overload of hospital pathology services.
What inspired you to start this project in the first place?
As with many other stories, there’s a bit of serendipity. The inception of this project goes back to 2015 when Glòria Fernández Esparrach and I first met. Glòria, who is an endoscopist, explained to me the limitations of current colonoscopy, and together we realized that microwaves could potentially be used to solve them.
Motivated by an unmet need, we formed a consortium between UPF, UPC and HCB to fundraise and develop the proof of concept. Soon UPF Ventures started collaborating with us to focus the project on technology transfer.
What stage is the project at now?
MiWEndo is in prototyping phase and preclinical validation. We will reach the market by 2023 when we expect to obtain marketing authorizations in Europe, US and Japan.
How did the support of CaixaImpulse help this project?
CaixaImpulse helped us at a very crucial time: the proof of concept of our technology. At that point we still were a purely scientific team, and it was the CaixaImpulse training programme that guided us through the start of the technology transfer process in the medical sector.
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