Chalmers spinout Elypta is working on a metabolism-based liquid biopsy for early cancer detection that it hopes will catch any type of the disease.

Elypta, a Sweden-based molecular diagnostics spinout of Chalmers University of Technology, has raised $21m in a series A round backed by the institution’s venture arm Chalmers Ventures.

Bonnier Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of media group Bonnier, led the round. Although healthcare may seem an unusual choice for a media corporation, this is not Bonnier’s first foray into the sector: its portfolio already includes companies like Pilloxa, a platform that aims to improve poor medical adherence in clinical studies.

Founded in 2017, Elypta aims to reduce cancer mortality by enabling multi-cancer early detection (MCED) systems. Its blood and urine tests would catch the disease before patients show any symptoms and would also be capable of detecting a recurrence of kidney cancer specifically.

The spinout exploits research pioneered by co-founders Francesco Gatto, chief scientific officer of Elypta, and Jens Nielsen, a professor at Chalmers University of Technology and chief executive of life sciences incubator BioInnovation Institute.

Gatto said: “Our MCED test has the potential to greatly increase the share of cancers detected at the earliest stages when treatment could mean a cure besides being less costly.

“Detecting stage 1 cancer is the key challenge here, and whereas other MCED tests based on cell free DNA struggle to find cancer at this early stage, metabolism-based biomarkers could really make a difference.”

Pontus Ottosson, head of investments at Chalmers Ventures, added: “We see a strong development at Elypta. Elypta has a unique potential to develop technology for early detection of cancer, which in turn will reduce the mortality rate from cancer.

“For us, this is an important impact investment to contribute to better cancer care. Therefore, it is both exciting and important to see that key investors are following suit, and that Bonnier Ventures is choosing to get involved. We look forward to following the development of Elypta’s technology and business.”

Indeed, cancer treatments continue to remain at the forefront of university venturing with an array of other spinouts also focused on molecular diagnostics and sequencing. With the World Health Organisation citing that “cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, or nearly one in six deaths”, the interest in catching the disease early, when the odds of survival are highest, is understandably high.

One example of another spinout operating in this area is Bluestar Genomics, spun out of Stanford University, which is working on screening tests that rely on the epigenome and is working on a non-invasive test for pancreatic cancer – a cancer that is notoriously difficult to spot at the early stages and has a 5% survival rate 10 years after diagnosis, according to Cancer Research UK.

Elypta’s series A round also attracted Industrifonden, Norrsken VC, Nina Capital, and Navigare Ventures, the venture capital unit of Wallenberg Investments, itself the investment company for family office Wallenberg Foundations.

Chalmers Ventures previously contributed to Elypta’s €6.1m ($6.8m) seed round in December 2019. The round was co-led by Industrifonden and Sciety, and also included Norrsken VC and Nina Capital.

To learn more about Chalmers Ventures’ investment approach, listen to our interview with chief executive Sara Wallin on Talking Tech Transfer.