Epicapture named UCD Start-up of the Year

2 Dec 2020

Dr Antoinette Perry. Image: Nick Bradshaw

An early-stage venture developing a novel urine test for aggressive prostate cancer has taken the top prize at the VentureLaunch final.

At the end of a two-month remote accelerator, health-focused start-up Epicapture has emerged as University College Dublin’s Start-up of the Year.

The award was presented to Epicapture at a virtual event hosted on Wednesday (2 December). The prize fund for the winning company comprises €10,000 sponsored by AIB, a professional services package to the value of €10,000 and incubation space at NovaUCD to the value of €12,000.

Currently supported by the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund, Epicapture has set out to develop a simple urine test to detect prostate cancer. This test measures six epigenetic biomarkers that are indicative of aggressive prostate cancer, using a widely available PCR platform.

Epicapture’s novel urine DNA test has potential as a non-invasive screening test to augment the current PSA blood test for the early detection of aggressive prostate cancer. A second application is as a repeated use monitoring tool for men with low-grade disease, to identify tumour progression.

Dr Antoinette Perry pitched the idea at the VentureLaunch event on behalf of her team at the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science.

“We are delighted and honoured to have won the 2020 UCD Start-up of the Year Award, which is testament to the research, dedication and hard work of the Epicapture team over the last number of years,” said Perry.

“Epicapture performance thus far looks really promising. We’re currently at the stage of validating the results in an independent cohort, and we anticipate results by mid next year.”

Perry thanked all the patients who have donated urine samples to the team as they developed their test. “Without their participation, none of this work would be possible. I would also like to acknowledge grant funding from Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society, Movember, Science Foundation Ireland and the US Prostate Cancer Foundation, which has enabled this research.”

Remote acceleration

In all, five VentureLaunch start-ups competed for this year’s top prize, including AquaB Nanobubble Innovations, Recsyslabs, SeamlessCare and recent Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week, Joyst Instruments

Each of the five start-ups pitched the business plans they had developed and refined over the course of the VentureLaunch accelerator, which is hosted annually by NovaUCD, the UCD start-up hub.

“It is great to be able to support our UCD research community to accelerate the creation of exciting new start-ups through our VentureLaunch programme, which of course was held online this year,” said Tom Flanagan, director of enterprise and commercialisation at NovaUCD.

The overall winner was selected by a judging panel including Dr Helen McBreen from Atlantic Bridge, Denis Dudley from AIB, Caroline Gaynor from Lightstone Ventures, Conor Mills from ACT Venture Capital and some of NovaUCD’s entrepreneurs in residence.

All five of the start-ups are currently seeking seed investment.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.