Mexican research Liza Velarde won the Cartier Women’s Initiative, an international award for women entrepreneurs, for creating a solution with the potential to change the lives of millions of cancer patients.
The 27-year-old entrepreneur and her partners Alejandro Abarca and Juan Felipe Yee created in 2012 a device that allows doctors to monitor cancer cells in patients. Through a platform the device finds and retrieves tumor cells, which give oncologists a more complete picture of the tumor and possible mutations. The technology allows diagnosis and personalization of therapies.
“Cancer mutates or develops resistance to therapies, it is very difficult to determine at what precise moment that happens with current techniques,” says Velarde. Delee, the device, takes a step forward to solve that problem. Velarde removes a blood sample from the patient and places it in the device that filtrates the cells. “The test is very fast. In 15 minutes you isolate the tumor cells to do studies,” she says.
Thereafter, every two or three months, the patient should perform routine tests to monitor the behavior of the cells. “We have shown that it works in people with prostate cancer,” says the Mexican researcher. The company works to expand tests in patients with other types of tumors.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world. One in six deaths are due to this disease, says the agency. The biggest problems occur in less developed countries, where in 2017 less than 30% had oncology services to care for these patients.
Following their participation in Y Combinator in the winter of 2017, entrepreneurs raised a million dollars from Silicon Valley investors. The money allowed them to move from the functional prototype to a first version of their platform. Velarde says the product is already being used at the University Hospital of Nuevo León and by researchers at Stanford University.
The company will seek more financing to continue developing its technology and take it to more doctors; a plan in which the Cartier’s price has been fundamental. “The economic prize (of 100,000 dollars) is always important, but the networking has been more,” says Velarde.
From December 2018 to April 2019, Velarde worked with Joost Leeflang, CEO of the Marqt food sales platform, who as a mentor to Cartier helped start-up generate its global sales strategy. “As entrepreneurs it is very difficult for you to reach that kind of knowledge. It helped us understand the subtleties of the market, how to sell to the public and private sector, what are the price caps,” explains Velarde, who believes that the company is ready to take its device to the whole world.
Source: Agencia ID