Instead of searching the blood for specific antigens that indicate the presence of cancer, a new diagnostic and prognostic test for certain cancers searches for the autoimmune signals that respond to those antigens.
Armune Bioscience Inc. is developing a test based on serum autoantibodies, which the company says are more stable than antigens and may be easier to detect during early stage cancer. First, the company is focusing on creating an alternative to the low-specificity, prostate-specific antigen test that’s the current standard for detecting prostate cancer. Then, it will turn its focus to using the same technology to help physicians detect and make better treatment decisions about lung and breast cancer, according to its website.
A recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reveals that Armune has raised almost all of a $1.5 million debt and other securities offering that started in 2009. A message left for President and CEO Eli Thomssen was not immediately returned.
The startup raised a $1.1 million angel round in 2008, won a $500,000 award in December of 2010 from the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and has received additional funding from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund.
In the U.S., an estimated 2.5 million men are living with prostate cancer, but only 25 percent to 35 percent of men who have a biopsy due to an elevated PSA level actually turn out to have it, according to the National Cancer Institute. Criticism of the test culminated in the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommending that not all men get screened with the PSA test.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new urine test for prostate cancer known as the Prostate Health Index to complement diagnostics, and several other researchers and companies are studying this space. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are developing a way to determine prostate cancer’s aggressiveness (one of Armune’s later goals), and a UCLA team is looking to reduce false positives. AnalizaDx, TeloVISION are also working on detection tests.
Based on technology licensed from the University of Michigan, Armune was formed in 2008 by members of the Apjohn Group with headquarters in Kalamazoo.