Spotlight on: ConquerX, StartHub’s Startup to Watch for Oct 2017

October 26, 2017

Each month as part of StartHub Startups to Watch Program we connect with the winning company to learn more about them.  Our October Startup to Watch is ConquerX -- their ​mission is to make early cancer detection simple and accessible to all.  Recently we had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Zanforlin, CEO & Co-Founder of ConquerX.  Here’s what we learned:

Tell us about your company. What is ConquerX?

ConquerX is on a mission to make early detection simple and available to all. We do so by building a rapid and affordable molecular profiling platform called Metachip to detect biomarkers that are linked to diseases for 8 times less expensive and 10 times faster than competing technologies. Right now we are focusing on developing a rapid and low-cost pan cancer test using Metachip.

What is your background? 

My background is in biosensor engineering and biochemistry. I was doing a Ph.D. in Applied Biology at the University of Pernambuco in Brazil when I decided to drop out to pursue ConquerX full time in Boston.

How did you come up with the idea for ConquerX? Who is your target customer?

The idea for an electrochemical biosensor to detect biomarkers – which is the core technology of Metachip - came from my research for my Master thesis, but we have come a long way with the prototype of Metachip since then.

We are currently focusing on cancer diagnostics, and our target customers are individuals with unspecific symptoms who go to their primary care doctors to see "what’s wrong." In addition to other routine blood tests, they would benefit from a simple, first-line pan-cancer test that informs them whether cancer is a possibility that they should follow up on.

How do you think ConquerX is going to disrupt the market? What are the main differentiators between you and your competitors?

Like an app store to app developers, Metachip opens up limitless possibilities for disease detection and precision medicine. Right now, molecular profiling – the method of looking deep into the molecular level to identify biomarkers (e.g. circulating DNAs) for diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive purposes - holds great promise because of its ability to provide non-invasive snapshots of disease (e.g. cancer tumors) before it can be detected by conventional techniques such as imaging or biopsy. Traditional methods of molecular profiling are too complicated, slow and expensive to be applied seamlessly in clinical settings. Metachip will cut down the most complicated steps of traditional molecular profiling such as qPCR and/or sequencing to save time, cost and logistical barriers. Metachip's speed and affordability will be the deciding factors in bringing applications of molecular profiling into the hand of millions of people worldwide.

Who are your main investors? 

We are looking for angels and VCs who focus on early-stage life sciences startups.

Why did you decide to start your business in Boston? How long has your company been around? 

The team met in Boston in 2015 at MIT. We founded the company in early 2016 and shortly after, got accepted into the MassChallenge 2016 cohort. Locating the company’s lab in Boston has been a super easy decision for us because of the dynamic biotech ecosystem the city has to offer.  

What resources in the startup community have contributed to the success of ConquerX?

The startup community here has been incredibly generous and resourceful to us. We were alumni of MassChallenge 2016 and PULSE@MassChallenge 2017, which opened the doors to everything that we needed: office space, lab space, mentorship, investors, research collaborators and peer talents. We were accepted into the Venture Development Center at UMass-Boston, which helps us secure an H1B visa to work in the U.S. and provides us with access to lab space – which is extremely hard to secure in Boston. The resources available really help ConquerX accomplished 3 major milestones: secured a pre-seed round of funding, completed the first prototype, and started the first collaboration for clinical data. 

How do you use StartHub professionally? 

We use StartHub to be informed about all events and courses that are happening in Boston related to startups, healthcare and investments. We also use to look for investors and find incubators/accelerators programs here. 

What are the next steps for ConquerX?

We are working around the clock to improve the prototypes and collect clinical data. We are looking to raise a seed round of $1.6M by the end of this year to expand our operations and collaborations with the aim of launching the product in less than 3 years.

What is the most important thing our readers should know about ConquerX?

Our mantra: early detection for all. The main motivation of ConquerX team does not only want to bring an innovative solution for early detection of cancer but also be able to provide the solution with affordable prices in developing countries as well.

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