Amplified Sciences secures $400,000 grant to develop pancreatic cancer diagnostic test

Health care providers and their patients could know with greater confidence whether pancreatic cysts are benign or potentially malignant, and if surgery is required to remove them, by using a new diagnostic test currently in development.

Amplified Sciences, a clinical-stage life sciences diagnostic company that licenses Purdue University innovations, has received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, grant of approximately $400,000 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop the test. The company focuses on accurately detecting and categorically assessing the risks of debilitating diseases.

CEO Diana Caldwell said the incidental detection rate of cystic pancreatic lesions has increased significantly due to the aging population and advances in clinical imaging technologies. However, there is a lack of definitive diagnostics to accurately assess if a cyst is benign or potentially malignant.

Health care professionals need better tools to help them manage these patients and identify individuals most at risk for pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cysts are a window to early detection and represent an important risk factor in identifying pancreatic cancer early."

Diana Caldwell, CEO, Amplified Sciences

Caldwell said clinicians must balance the risk of missing a potentially malignant cyst with taking unnecessary surgical action to remove a benign cyst. She said retrospective studies have found almost one-fourth of surgeries to remove pancreatic cysts are unwarranted.

"However, previous studies have also revealed that when clinicians use a wait-and-see approach to monitor the development of pancreatic cancer, up to a quarter of patients receive surgery too late," Caldwell said. "The dual-edged nature of this process highlights the need for better early-stage diagnostic tools."

Caldwell said the NCI grant will help fund important technical and clinical validation milestones, including the procurement of banked patient samples and clinical trials.

The company's pancreatic cancer diagnostic products are based on technology invented by V. Jo Davisson, professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology in Purdue University's College of Pharmacy and a faculty member of the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery. Davisson serves as the chief scientific officer of Amplified Sciences.

"This award recognizes the strength of our scientific team, the potential of our chemistry platform and the National Institutes of Health's interest in supporting early-stage diagnostics in this disease state," Davisson said.

The state of Indiana is also supportive of startups earning SBIR grants. Through a program managed by Elevate Ventures, the company is eligible for a Phase I grant match of up to $50,000.

Amplified Sciences licenses Davisson's intellectual property through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

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