Indiana seed fund invests in breast cancer detection startup company

INDIANAPOLIS One of Indiana University's newest life science ventures, CS-Keys, Inc., has been awarded $285,000 from the Indiana Seed Fund.

The company's focus is on early detection of breast cancer through a new diagnostic tool developed in the laboratory of Linda Malkas, Ph.D., the Vera Bradley Professor of Oncology and professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

The new technology may change the way women with breast cancer are diagnosed and treated and potentially lead to more targeted therapies and improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients, said Dr. Malkas.

"This new diagnostic tool utilizes current medical practices in use for detecting breast cancer," she said. "It is anticipated that in the future, with a simple blood draw, physicians will be able to tell their patients whether they have breast cancer in its earliest stages. Pathology labs do not have to invest in any additional equipment; they only need a minimal amount of training and a stain that we have developed for this purpose."

CS-Keys was formed in February 2005 with two other IU faculty, Robert J. Hickey, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine, and Derek J. Hoelz, Ph.D., assistant scientist in the Department of Medicine. The new company will use the Indiana Seed Fund investment to complete several key scientific and business milestones. They include validation and clinical studies and completion of a market and product strategy study. The company will be located at the Indiana University Emerging Technologies Center in Indianapolis.

CS-Keys' biomarker distinguishes healthy cells from cancerous cells and can detect the diseased cells when there are only a few present. This diagnostic tool may be useful in identifying cancer in its earlier states and have a positive impact on breast cancer treatment and the reduction of mortality rates from the disease.

The technology is easier to use than current methods, provides greater accuracy and could potentially be more cost effective than other technologies currently available, said Dr. Malkas. The market in the United States for molecular cancer diagnostics is estimated at $5 billion by 2009.

The $6 million Indiana Seed Fund is available to Indiana life sciences entrepreneurs. It is managed by BioCrossroads, Indiana's life sciences initiative, with financial support from the Indiana Finance Authority, the Indiana Health and Educational Facility Financing Authority and BioCrossroads. The fund was created to help narrow the gap between the discovery of an idea and actual venture capital funding.

"Our mission is to invest in truly novel life sciences businesses, through vehicles like the Indiana Seed Fund," said David Johnson, BioCrossroads president and CEO. "The other part of our mission is to work with our stakeholders, like the Indiana University School of Medicine, to uncover potential businesses opportunities and match them with the resources they need to grow."

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