UPMC-backed Cernostics precision medicine technology gets $5 million boost

The funding will help speed the development of a new test that uses digital images of a biopsy slide to detect Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition that can lead to cancer, the companies said.
By Bernie Monegain
01:46 PM
UPMC Cernostics precision medicine

Oncology diagnostics company Cernostics has pulled in a $5 million round of funding led by UPMC Enterprises, the commercial arm of UPMC.

The funding will go toward growing and accelerating a new diagnostic test for people with Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition that can lead to cancer.

UPMC Enterprises is also partnering with Cernostics to do the work.

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Current pathology testing is a largely manual and subjective process, with pathologists studying tissue and tumor samples under a microscope, Cernostics CEO Mike Hoerres explained.

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Using digitally scanned images of a biopsy slide, however, Cernostics’ software provides measurement and analysis of more than 13,000 features for each patient sample, including multiple biomarkers, or proteins. It also pinpoints where they are present in each cell of the tissue.

The information produced by Cernostics TissueCypher platform can then be used to provide physicians and patients with individualized, actionable scores indicating diagnosis, prognosis or response to therapy.

Cernostics has developed a test that identifies high-risk patients who are almost 10 times more likely to progress to esophageal cancer within five years of biopsy versus low-risk patients – which is difficult to determine by standard pathology.

The test could enable early intervention to prevent cancer in high-risk patients, and spare low-risk patients frequent and unnecessary endoscopies and treatments. Today, about 3 to 4 million people in the U.S. are part of active surveillance programs for Barrett’s Esophagus. 

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“This strategic investment in Cernostics not only gives us a stake in what the company already has developed but will give our physicians and scientists access to Cernostics’ advanced technology platform for potentially developing a wide range of precision medicine tests,” UPMC Enterprises president Tal Heppenstall said in a statement.

In addition to UPMC, investors in the company’s latest round of funding include Novitas Capital. Previous investors include Geisinger, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. 

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com

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