This cancer startup drew lessons from a refugee camp

In the months before the formation of Bangladesh in 1971, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to India to break out mass killings. Among them have been 4-year-antique Pradip Majumder and his own family, who left Kushtia district for one of the many refugee camps in West Bengal. Sitting in his office in Bengaluru’s Electronic City, Majumder is extended from that refugee camp in Hemnagar. Still, it revels that it has stayed with him and shaped him on his journey through All India Institute Of Medical Sciences, Harvard University, and the founding of cancer tech startup Mitra Biotech. “Everybody starts offevolved from 0. However, I commenced from bad,” he says with a smile.

This cancer startup drew lessons from a refugee camp 1

Majumder has brilliant reminiscences of bombs exploding as his family trekked 100km to attain Hemnagar. Growing up, faculty came second as everybody labored to hold the circle of relatives afloat. His older sister became an instructor and helped him through high school and university. “Each degree becomes a triumph. Every time I notion, ‘This is the last; permit me to do my satisfactory,'” he says.


The idea for Mitra Biotech got here to Majumder while shuttling between Harvard and Merck. On the Harvard Medical School’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute faculty, he would shadow clinical fellows to examine their dealing with sufferers. Many sufferers wouldn’t return, so he asked where they had been. The answer was that the patients had moved into hospices or died. Pharma businesses weren’t creating the proper pills, they explained. Merck had installed a lab within the Harvard Medical School two blocks from the most cancer institute. Majumder presented to expand drugs better focused on most cancers. He built a crew for Merck’s first initiative in oncology and created capsules. However, one “failed miserably.” Merck informed him thattors hadn’t recruited the proper patients for his drug. When he requested whyjumder, Ma realized that matching pills and patients had to be more personalized.


For 50 years, tablets had been examined on cancer cellular strains taken from unique tumors, cultured, and saved. A drug has a 20-30% hazard of reducing a tumor. Cancer cell lines inside the lab are exclusive from a tumor in the frame. Immune cells, connective tissues, and blood vessels around a tumor play a function in its increase. Majumder’s concept is to recreate that micro-environment inside the lab to test which drug might paint a selected affected person. Harvard favored the idea but wanted him to get a supply.

That becomes hard in the submit-2008 commercial enterprise environment. But his buddy Mallikarjun Sundaram, adjunct college member at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founder of Momenta Pharmaceuticals, was fascinated. They co-based Mitra Biotech in 2010 with 1/2 one million greenbacks in angel investment.

The first hurdle became to get stay tumor samples to broaden their technology and validate it. Patient biological materials are highly priced in the US, where corporations and educational labs want them. So, Mitra Biotech moved to Bengaluru. The early investment came from Accel, Karnataka Information Technology Venture Capital Fund (Kitten) for biotech startups, and India Innovation Fund (IIF). Kitchen and IIF were given an exit in 2016, while Sequoia Capital and Sands Capital co-led a series B spherical of $27.Four million. Last year, Northpond Ventures from Maryland led a $40 million Series C spherical. Northpond’s specialization in life sciences will assist Mitra Biotech in its final lap to move commercially.

Starting up in India has blessings. “Getting the right of entry to docs, patients, and information is probably less difficult and extra value-powerful here than within the US,” says Anjana Sasidharan, essential at Sequoia Capital. The connection between oncologists, researchers, and businesses is well-mounted in America.

The trouble turned into Mitra becoming a startup with a new concept in an immature atmosphere like India. IsIn the initial days, biopsy samples trickled into its lab. Over time, Mitra has installed a modern-day lab at a fee of $5 million. She receives 1,200 pieces monthly to test tablets and apprehend the biology of a tumor’s micro-surroundings.

There’s no clinical basis for a medical doctor to pick out a drug for cancer at the gift. After three months, if one medication doesn’t work, every other is attempted. “As a population, every accredited drug works, but as a man or woman, you don’t recognize for you to work,” he says. A drug that works for 30% of patients may seem exceptional but can be devastating for 70%. Mitra’s product, CANscript, can inform eight forms of most cancers and whether a particular affected person will reply to a drug. A one-centimeter biopsy pattern is broken into 30 elements to check six to 10 pills. Each part is immersed in a “cocktail” that mimics the stroma surrounding a tumor. Blood comes with the pattern to “feed” the tumor within the lab just as it might in the body. Traditional cancer mobile cultures, in contrast, use a bovine serum. The stay sample is cultured and tested for three days. Data from multiple biomarkers is run through a gadget-mastering machine. What emerges is a document for an oncologist stating which drug works and which doesn’t for his affected person.


With the maturing of its research work in Bengaluru, the organization moved its headquarters to Boston under Mitra RxDx. Mitra is collating records to show the efficacy of CANscript before releasing it inside the market. Majumder says the plan is to sell it to hospitals and oncologists. The first rollout might be in the US. “The US is the gold fashionable,” he says.

“That’s now not real. However, that’s the attitude in healthcare. In India, they ask: ‘Woh bahar use hota hai kya (is it used abroad)?'”The next step is to embed mini-labs in fundamental hospitals throughout the United States. Mitra entered a partnership with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to apply a script for checking out the usage of viruses to treat mind tumors. Pharmaceutical companies also use hands to test pills that have not yet been launched. Majumder has had many personal encounters with patients who attempted the product. For one physician with breast cancer, the lab found that a drug not endorsed for breast cancer labored. “She determined to attempt it,” he says. “I got Diwali and New Year greetings from her for four years. The closing message came two years in the past.” Majumder is reluctant to call if he finds out she is no greater. Most sufferers who strive for a product but to be released have late-level cancer. He looks forward to the day when useful diagnostic resources can be used in hospitals for sufferers to pick the right drug early.

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