Dagens Industri just published an article about SAGA Diagnostics AB. It includes an introduction to the company and one of the founders, Lao Saal, talks about its development, going from creating a research group at Lund University to actually starting a company. If you want to find the original article in Swedish, click here!
At Lund University, cancer research is one of the academy's flagships. In close collaboration with healthcare and other actors, the goal is to take the university's innovations out into the real world, where they can make a real difference. A successful example is SAGA Diagnostics AB - a spinoff company that now works with, among others, AstraZeneca.
It all started in 2009 when Lao Saal, today a lecturer at Lund University, moved to Lund and started a cancer research group. The research group received financial support from, among others, the Cancer Foundation and the Swedish Research Council and studied several different types of treatment for cancer diseases. However, one area that made them raise their eyebrows a little extra was liquid biopsy.
- Instead of having to do a major operation on the patient when you take a tissue sample, as you usually do, you can get a sample by liquid biopsy, which is based on the liquid. Either blood, urine or in some cases saliva, says Lao Saal.
Through liquid biopsy, you can measure how many cancer cells a patient has in the body and how it changes. The technology measures a specific biomarker, the so-called Circulating tumour-DNA (ctDNA).
- Today, there is a great need for improved biomarkers to diagnose cancer, choose the best treatment, and monitor how the patient responds. Through ctDNA, we can solve those problems in a minimally invasive way, Leo Saal explains.
From research group to spinoff company
The years passed and cancer research continued to flourish. The research group had something big going on and an organization at the university saw potential in taking the research one step further. As a spinoff, SAGA Diagnostics, a cancer genomics company, was formed in 2015, which today develops ultra-sensitive liquid biopsy tests for early detection of cancer recurrence and precision medicine in cancer treatment.
- We actually had no plans to start a company, we only focused on research. But when the idea got presented to us and the opportunity came, we took it. Lund University and Lund University Cancer Center (LUCC) have played a major role in being able to take this significant step, says Lao Saal, who is one of the two founders of SAGA Diagnostics AB.
Lund University is creating opportunities
Six years have passed since the company was created and today the company has 20 employees who strive to improve healthcare with its ultra-sensitive services and products. The company is financed by large investors such as Segulah Medical Acceleration and collaborates with the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Swedish Alligator Bioscience.
- I am incredibly proud that our technology has reached the healthcare industry and can be used in practice. We are a young company that has come a long way in a short time. The development and commercialization we have been able to do, from starting at Lund University to actually making a difference for patients and society, means an incredible amount, says Lao Saal.