Cancer Care Startup Ecosystem on the anvil in Kerala

Kerala Startup Mission, Malabar Cancer Centre ink MoU to promote cancer care startups

With the aim of establishing a Cancer Care Startup Ecosystem in the state of Kerala, the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Malabar Cancer Centre (MCC).

The MCC, based in Thalassery in Kannur district, provides comprehensive cancer care for North Kerala, neighbouring parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, besides Mahe, a district in the Union Territory of Puducherry. An autonomous not-for-profit institution funded by the state government, MCC is engaged in state-of-the-art Research and Development (R&D). The MoU documents were signed and exchanged by Dr. B Satheesan, Director, MCC and Mr. John M Thomas, CEO, KSUM, at Infopark in Kochi.

According to John M Thomas, CEO, KSUM, said “a medical incubator for cancer research will bring together experts in the relevant fields to spur cross-functional innovation.”

While the MCC will bring in medical expertise and awareness of biggest problems that need to be solved, the Startup Mission, which has access to the broader startup ecosystem including the IEDC network in arts, science and engineering colleges, can bring in experts and form enterprises that can solve problems. It can also provide them with required infrastructure and funding, he added.

Medical incubator for cancer research planned

The pact will facilitate the MCC and KSUM to bring together researchers and startups to create solutions for early detection of cancer.

“Some cancers are very common in our part of the world, especially lung cancer and breast cancer and their incidence are actually going up. So, we want to see if we can detect them early so that curative treatments can be provided and morbidity and mortality of these cancers can be reduced,” said Dr. B Satheesan.

Eradication of cervical cancers is another area that the MCC wants to explore. “For that we need a state-centric approach. We need to explore if solutions like testing for cervical cancer can be brought to the doorstep, so that hospital visits and discomfort to people can be reduced, Dr. B. Satheesan said.

MCC also wants to promote research into plant molecules through the endeavour. The biodiversity in Kerala is huge and there are lot of plant products which are unexplored. This also means that there is always a possibility that some of these plant products could be useful in management of cancer.

Another potential area is artificial intelligence and IT-enabled solutions for medical problems that can be used to speed-up the diagnosis and reduce errors.

To promote research in plant molecules

The KSUM has dedicated some prime real estate which are expected to be fine-tuned for the requirement for entities or startups in the space. The incubator will have common research and testing facilities. KSUM will also connect them to mentor network as well as various sources of funding including VCs and HNIs. The KSUM would also assist the startups in marketing these solutions once they are in place, nationally and globally, it is learnt.

In the first phase, the KSUM and MCC would collaborate to identify potential startups, which are into the field of research and treatment of cancer and co-develop products used for treatment and clinical validation.

In the second phase, MCC, one of the apex cancer centres in the state, would join as one of the knowledge partners of BRIC (Centre for Biometric Research, Innovation and Commercialization in Cancer Care) project. The BRIC is cancer-focused incubator that would bring together oncologists and technologists to develop solutions for early detection and diagnosis. The incubator would be located at Kerala Technology Innovation Zone, Kinfra Hi-Tech Park, Kalamassery.

The KSUM, founded in 2006, supports the Kerala startup ecosystem through various schemes and programmes, along with sector-specific partner organizations currently hand-holds more than 3,100 registered startups.