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New Catalan start-up specialized in cancer treatment participates in Irish acceleration program

Morai Biodesign is developing a diagnostic test for acute myeloid leukemia using $100,000 of private investment

08.07.2016

Moirai Biodesign's aim is to develop new diagnostic tests and treatment to fight against cancer. The start-up began in the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) in April this year, and took part in the third Indie Bio acceleration program for early-stage biotechnology companies, held in Cork (Ireland).

During their stay, the team have started to develop a diagnostic test for acute myeloid leukemia and draft a business plan. To achieve this with $100,000 of investment from the SOSV Investment Partner and start-up funding company Indie Bio. The company allocated €50,000 to pay for participation in the program, with the rest of the investment in cash.

Together with another 12 participating projects, Morai Biodesign have been working on their project on University College Cork facilities, receiving mentoring from industry professionals from a range of different fields, covering everything from the business and marketing side to intellectual property.

“It is an intense, comprehensive experience, both an incubator and an accelerator. They cover all the business aspects, and we now know what we will be up against once we leave", explained the company CEO, Amadís Pagès. On 28 July, the final day of the program, the projects will be shown to investors in a pitch presentation. "They support us from start to finish, so we can end up raising funds", Pagès said. The Indie Bio program was started in San Francisco, and has been held in Ireland since 2014.

Following this experience, Morai Biodesign want to settle in Barcelona to further develop their technology, with the aim of finishing it by September and launching a first round of funding. The first prototype produced by Morai Biodesign is a test to diagnose acute myeloid leukemia (AML) using a blood sample, via a colorimetric test.

This non-invasive technique means diagnosis times are reduced and avoids biopsies. “Our idea is to use it for other types of cancer, and in the long-term we would like to produce new cancer treatments so that our technology can move from diagnosis to treatment using the same sensor”, explained Amadís Pagès.

The company's founding, which is made up of five researchers from Pompeu Fabra University, have a wide range of experience in cancer treatments, and the new technology they have developed is based on RNA. Their biodevice is called 'Plug and Play', and is made up of an RNA molecule in two parts: a sensor that detects a specific RNA biomarker and a "trigger" that encodes a specific protein. When the 'Plug and Play' biodevice enters a patient's cells and discovers the RNA for acute myeloid leukemia, the protein programmed in the biodevice is transcribed.

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The Morai Biodesign team includes two biologists, two computer science professionals and a statistics expert - Photo: © Brendan O'Leary/oleary.photo.