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More, from less, for more: One company’s quest to tackle early breast cancer detection in developing countries

October 5, 2017

Startup Spotlight: UE LifeSciences

 

By Deanna Crusco

 

“More, from less, for more.”

 

That’s the guiding principle of UE LifeSciences. The Philly-based company is revolutionizing the cancer realm, and giving women who typically do not have access to early breast cancer detection, a fighting chance. Founded by Mihir Shah and Matthew Campisi in 2009, UE LifeSciences has developed a noninvasive handheld device that is used for early detection of breast tumors, at a cost of just one dollar per scan.

 

During National Breast Cancer Awareness month, we’re reminded of breast cancer’s pervasive existence, not only in our country, but across the globe. Access to early detection isn’t the norm in more than 90% of the developing world. In turn, 7 out of 10 breast cancer deaths are reported from these areas. [1

Inspired to learn more about breast cancer after seeing its effects in his own family, Shah researched the disease and noticed a staggering difference in the survival rates of women based on their location. “Women in India and the majority of developing countries don’t have access to early detection,” says Shah. “And so they present at a later stage of the disease and that’s why even if they have access to treatment, the survival rate is poor.”

 

Shah’s curiosity was the impetus that got him to think creatively about making early detection screening both accessible and affordable. In 2010, his team licensed the technology behind the UE LifeSciences’ product, iBreastExam, from Drexel University. Drs. Wan and Wei Shih, engineering professors at Drexel, developed the sensor technology after receiving one of three inaugural QED grants from the Science Center.

 

iBreastExam is a palm-sized device that allows for a painless breast scan, producing results within five minutes. The device, which is US FDA cleared and CE marked, has been validated in over 4,000 women and is operable by any community health worker. Before the end of 2017, over 500,000 women will have received the benefit of an early detection breast exam for the first time in their lives. But, UE LifeSciences isn’t stopping there.

“Along the way somewhere we realized that this is actually a platform, this is not just a single purpose device,” says Shah. “The technology behind the device can function the way a drill bit would,” he explains. The sensor that screens for breast cancer has the potential to become a removable, interchangeable sensor, allowing health workers to test for various cancers. What’s even more promising? The cost of these scans would remain the same, just one dollar.

 

“I think it’s just superbly exciting,” says Shah. “That you can look at multiple cancers, it’s disruptive at many levels.” UE LifeSciences’ work isn’t going unnoticed. The company is nominated for the 2017 Aspirin Social Innovation Award for their innovative work in the healthcare world.

 

What keeps Shah and his team motivated to push forward and tackle these troubling statistics? “It’s just this ferocious desire to solve the problem,” says Shah. We can’t wait to see the progress UE LifeSciences continues to make.

 

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UE LifeSciences was a member of the second class of  the Science Center’s Digital Health Accelerator Program. Learn more about their connection to the Science Center in our Annual Review.

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