€350,000 for startup EXIT071 from UNIIQ and LEH
Proof-of-concept fund UNIIQ, together with LEH (Libertatis Ergo Holding), is investing a total of €350,000 in the Leiden startup EXIT071. EXIT071 is developing a new technique for the analysis of exosomes. Exosomes are small particles (extracellar vesicles) in blood that contain specific information about their place of origin (e.g. brain, liver, etc.). This information could play a major role in diagnostics, but currently it is still technically difficult to isolate and characterize exosomes from complex biological samples. With their patented microfluidic chip, EXIT071 can analyze exosomes in a rapid, reproducible manner, for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. The investment will be used for fine-tuning the chip, developing a system that automates the analysis process, team expansion and strengthening the IP position.
Applications of exosomes show promise
EXIT071 is an early-stage startup dedicated to developing innovative technology for the analysis of exosomes. Exosomes are relatively new to the field of diagnostics and therapy, but have great potential. They are nano-sized particles made by all cells to exchange messages among themselves. They provide a snapshot of health or disease status of organs and are present in all body fluids (blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, tears, etc.). Thus, they offer enormous potential for non-invasive liquid biopsy diagnostics for oncology, pulmonary diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and prenatal diagnostics, among others. Analyzing exosomes in such biopsies can reveal diseases by comparing changes in the amount of exosomes and molecular contents (proteins, miRNAs, metabolites) of diseased cells with those of healthy cells. In addition to their diagnostic potential, the therapeutic potential of exosomes has recently been recognized, including through investments of €2bn, in 2020 alone, by pharmaceutical companies and Venture-Capital parties.
Current methods perform inadequately and are cumbersome. With EXIT071’s microfluidic chip, it is possible to separate exosomes with higher purity and yield. In addition, the chip is suitable to be used in a high-throughput setup. The original technology, depletion zone isotachophoresis, was invented and patented at Leiden University by Prof. Thomas Hankemeier, Head of the Analytical BioSciences and Metabolomics group and co-founder of MIMETAS. EXIT071 recently signed an exclusive licensing agreement and plans to bring their deep-tech innovation to the therapeutic and diagnostic exosome industry.
Nanotechnology as key to innovation
Nanosized structures are an important part of the operation of microfluidic chips and they are very challenging to produce. Therefore, EXIT071 collaborated with SINTEF MiNaLab in Norway, a professional supplier of nanotechnology, to ensure consistent and high quality. The production process of the chip was developed within academic collaboration in a EuroNanoMEd 3 Project, EXIT (EXosomes Isolation Tool.) The startup is led by founder and CEO Dr. Yuliya Shakalisava, expert in microfluidic technology. The technology will be further developed in collaboration with Leiden University with advice from Prof. Thomas Hankemeier.
The investment will be used for fine-tuning the chip, developing a system that automates the analysis process, team expansion and strengthening the IP position.
Yuliya Shakalisava, CEO EXIT071: “This investment from UNIIQ and LEH enables further development of our technology. It will allow us to accelerate the development of an automated prototype of our system and enable intensive collaboration with our customers. This is essential for the commercialization of our technology.”
Hans Dreijklufft, Fund Manager at UNIIQ: “We are proud to be able to accelerate the development of this innovative startup at this early stage. The field of exosomes has been booming in recent years and we look forward to the contribution EXIT071 will make to it.”
Rob Mayfield, LEH: “EXIT071 is a shining example of what can be achieved by combining high-quality research from Leiden University, the entrepreneurial spirit of a talented scientist, the support of a Leiden life-science incubation program (unlock_), and Leiden investment capital in collaboration with UNIIQ.”
This text has been translated from uniiq.nl/