Insights: Novel biomarker-based assays to guide personalised cancer treatment
The EIC Accelerator Programme has two types of calls: Open and Challenges. The open call has no predefined thematic priorities and is open to proposals in any field of technology or application. The Challenges have been identified in areas where breakthrough technologies or game-changing innovations developed by start-ups or SMEs can have a major impact on EU objectives. ‘Biomarkers for Cancer’ is one of the 7 identified EIC Accelerator Challenges for 2023 (EIC Accelerator 2023 Summary). In this post we layout the background and aims of this Challenge.
‘Biomarkers for Cancer’ Challenge background
Cancer has been a major research focus in Europe. Since 2007, over €3 billion was invested into more than 2,000 projects through the FP7 (2007-2013) and Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) programs. Now, under the umbrella of the Horizon Europe programme, the EIC is directly contributing to Europe’s Beating Cancer plan (A cancer plan for Europe (europa.eu)) with the EIC Accelerator Challenge “Novel biomarker-based assays to guide personalised cancer treatment”. This challenge has an indicative budget of €65 million to support innovative companies aligned with the goal. In 2023 there is one remaining deadline on 19 October. The application process to the EIC Accelerator Challenges calls is the same as for the EIC Accelerator Open calls, and details can be found here.
Goal of the Challenge
This “Novel biomarker-based assays to guide personalised cancer treatment” call aims to accelerate the development of novel comprehensive predictive, prognostic and companion diagnostic tests, in the context of precision oncology, which will improve cancer treatment and significantly increase quality of life, life expectancy and survival rate of patients.
In order to achieve the goal, the EIC has identified within the “Novel biomarker-based assays to guide personalised cancer treatment” Challenge the need to support companies that are developing novel innovative companion diagnostic, predictive/prognostic, or monitoring biomarker-based assays. Specifically:
- companion diagnostic assays, including through liquid profiling to identify who, among cancer patients, is more likely to benefit from a given treatment (guided treatment);
- companion diagnostic assays, including through liquid profiling to identify who, among the cancer patients receiving treatment, is more likely to develop side effects as a result of the treatment
- predictive biomarker-based assays to identify who, among patients with potentially precancerous lesions, is more likely to develop cancer
- prognostic assays including through liquid profiling to identify who, among the cancer patients who underwent treatment, is more likely to recur
- monitoring biomarker-based assays to effectively monitor the clinical course of the disease.
The EIC call also indicates that there is a particularly high unmet need in developing biomarker-based assays for patients afflicted by refractory cancers (i.e., cancers with a 5-year overall survival of less than 50% from time of diagnosis). Thus, companies working on diagnostics in these cancer areas are particularly suited for this EIC Accelerator Challenge.
Fitting your project to this EIC Accelerator Challenge
At Catalyze, we often find that clients are unsure of what the advantages are of applying for a Challenge versus an Open call, and whether their project really fits the Challenge.
A key advantage in applying for Challenges is that they tend to be less competitive compared to Open calls. This is due to a smaller pool of companies applying, while a considerable budget to fund these prioritized projects is allocated. To put things in perspective, in the March 2023 round only 15% of companies applied for Challenges, while 56% of all remaining budget is allocated to fund Challenges projects.
An additional advantage is that your application is more likely to be reviewed by evaluators familiar with the field, who can appreciate nuances of your innovation without dismissing the innovation positioning due to a misunderstanding of the sector-specific concepts.
How to know if your project fits?
We recommend a careful analysis of the call instructions. At times the instructions may be confusing and appear more specific than they are. For example, this Challenge emphasizes biomarker assays for refractory cancers, but at the same time they also consider preventive assays to predict development of cancer in individuals without the disease, which seems a bit of a contradiction. The call defines refractory cancers as those with a 5-year overall survival of less than 50% from time of diagnosis. But there is no list of the exact cancer indications, leaving a lot of room to fit your project into the criteria of the call.
We recommend reaching out to your National funding advisor contacts (also called National Contact Points) for the EIC programme. Also, do not hesitate to reach out to Catalyze for a free consultation to see if your project could be a fit for the programme. Catalyze has extensive experience supporting companies in raising funding in the EIC Accelerator programme. Furthermore, we have supported many companies operating in the cancer diagnostics field in raising funding. Most recently, we assisted Dxcover Ltd. (UK), a clinical stage liquid biopsy company in winning €2.5M EIC Accelerator grant funding (non-dilutive) for development of tests for the early detection of multiple cancers. Their EIC Accelerator project, aims at gaining CE IVDR approval for launch of their revolutionary first-in-class Dxcover® Brain Cancer technology – a ground-breaking blood test for brain cancer detection, which fits seamlessly into the current standard-of-care pathway. Read more about the project here.
The EIC is supporting EU priorities in Beating Cancer by launching a targeted Challenge call in “Novel biomarker-based assays to guide personalised cancer treatment”. Within this call EIC Accelerator is specifically looking to support companies that develop biomarker-based companion diagnostics to: stratify/identify patients based on their response to the treatment, predict/prognose which patients are likely to develop cancer or are likely to have recurrent disease post treatment; monitor clinical course of the disease.
There are strong advantages of applying within a Challenge call if your project is developing innovative products that fit the Challenge. If you think your project might be a fit for this cancer biomarkers Challenge but are not sure, contact Catalyze.
Want to learn more about EIC Accelerator?
EIC Accelerator 2023 guide
Our EIC Accelerator experts have written a comprehensive guide covering all key aspects of the program, application & evaluation process, past winning projects, and more!
EIC Accelerator case studies
In the first round of the 2022 EIC Pathfinder program, an Achilles Therapeutics-led consortium was awarded €4 million from the “Emerging technologies in cell & gene therapy” Challenge, to develop a proof-of-concept, first-in-class, smart bioprocessing manufacturing platform.
In the final EIC Accelerator round of 2022, Catalyze supported four successful applicants in preparing their submissions for the EIC Accelerator Open.