New Investment: Liquid Mine, Liquid Biopsy to Save Leukemia Patients

By Harunori Oiwa Published on Feb. 15, 2021

We’re honored to be backing Liquid Mine, a novel deep-tech startup that provides tailor-made liquid biopsy solutions with next-generation genome sequencing and gene monitoring systems, especially for leukemia patients, in their Seed funding round alongside Incubate Fund.

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About Leukemia

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood caused by genetic mutations. According to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, approximately 178,520 new cases of blood cancer are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma in the U.S in 2020 (every 3 minutes someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with blood cancer). There are several types of blood cancers, of which the number of newly diagnosed leukemias is approximately 60,000 in the U.S. in 2020 (Leukemia Research Foundation).

As for Japan, over 14,000 new leukemia cases were projected in 2020 (National Cancer Center, Japan) and there is also an increasing trend. Most importantly, the leukemia patients’ long-term survival rate is low mainly due to rapid disease progression, diversity of genetic variation, and high relapse rate after remission.

Survival Rates

There are several types of leukemia. Five-year survival rates for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), for instance, have more than tripled from 22% in the mid-1970s due to the development of molecularly targeted drugs.

However, it is still quite low at about only 25% for adult (over 20 years old) and 37% for all ages of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).

Issues

There are two major issues in the current disease monitoring test methods.

  1. Diversity of Genetic Variation

At present, PCR methods targeting specific genetic mutations are used, but the number of targeted genes is limited to about 15. In addition, monitoring of the Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) which means the small number of cancer cells in the body after cancer treatment, with conventional PCR methods is only applicable to 30% of all leukemia patients.

  1. Invasive Nature of Blood Marrow Biopsy

The collection of bone marrow fluid for the test usually requires about four days of hospitalization and involves the puncturing of the bone marrow area with a thick 3 mm needle which is about twice as thick as the needle used in vaccinations. General anesthesia is required and there is a risk of side effects such as allergies from the anesthesia and high fever. Patients must also have regular bone marrow exams to monitor their condition, which can be as many as 20 times over several years, which is very painful.

Solution: Proprietary technology that can potentially save a lot of lives of leukemia patients

So where can we improve?

Liquid Mine was founded in Nov 2019 by the Institute of Medical Science, the University of Tokyo. Many hematologists and key opinion leaders in the blood cancer space in Japan have been waiting for Liquid Mine solutions for leukemia patients.

Its solutions cover 96% of leukemia patients with Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) and greatly reduce the physical, mental, and financial burden by replacing invasive bone marrow biopsies with blood tests.

Team

The founder, Kanya is a medical doctor, and the CEO, Tomokazu experienced in the pharmaceutical industry is driving the business. When I first met with them, I was impressed by their passion for saving all the leukemia patients.

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Liquid Mine was selected for Health Batch 3 at the Plug and Play Japan program and collaborated with our corporate partners. We can’t wait for their global expansion and continue to support them on their journey.