Irish start-up Epicapture makes it to finals of European accelerator

17 Aug 2022

Epicapture founders Dr Antoinette Perry and Edward Simons. Image: Epicapture

Cancer-detection start-up Epicapture now stands a chance of securing €1.5m from EIT Health as it prepares to get investor-ready.

University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out Epicapture is in with a chance of winning €1.5m in funding as it advances to the final stage of a European health accelerator programme.

The health-tech start-up is one of eight innovations in the EIT Health Wild Card finals and the only Irish entry that remains in the competition.

Wild Card is an annual competition that invites innovators from across Europe to respond with ideas to solve pressing health challenges.

A former UCD Start-up of the Year, Epicapture aims to change the way the medical industry tests for prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers affecting men.

While traditional detection methods include blood tests, rectal exams, MRI scans and prostate biopsies, Epicapture has developed a urine-based diagnostic test for prostate cancer.

The urine test is run on PCR machines, which are also used to test for Covid-19. It was found to be non-invasive and accurate in two independent studies of men in the US, Europe and Asia.

Epicapture was founded UCD researcher Dr Antoinette Perry and Edward Simons.

Marc Butterly, business creation lead at EIT Health Ireland-UK, said that this year’s Wild Card challenge searched Europe for companies providing disruptive technologies to advance cancer diagnosis, with the potential to ultimately improve cancer survival rates for EU citizens.

“Epicapture’s urine diagnostic test for the more dangerous forms of prostate cancer was identified as solving an unmet need, in being minimally invasive over the alternative, which is biopsy,” he said.

The Wild Card accelerator programme is backed by EIT Health, an EU-funded network of European health-focused innovators that provides funding, training, mentorship and networking opportunities to start-ups.

In April, EIT Health revealed that it has backed 76 Irish start-ups to date – nine of which, all medical device companies, raised a combined €31m in 2021. Several Irish digital health, biotech and medtech start-ups are being supported by EIT Health this year.

The final phase of the Wild Card competition involves in-depth mentoring over an eight-week period starting 23 August. Of the eight finalists, four are working towards the early detection of cancer and the other four are focused on mental health.

One start-up from each category will be awarded up to €1.5m in funding, with winners announced in November.

“As we enter the final stage of EIT Health’s Wild Card competition, we see this as an opportunity to build and strengthen our business model and get to investor-ready status,” said Perry.

“We will launch a seed funding round later this year, and Wild Card has given us invaluable access to carefully selected Europe and US-based mentors to support our preparations.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic