Innovative robot aims to revolutionize colorectal cancer staging accuracy

March 1, 2024

This article was first published on Waterloo News. Read the original article.

Tenomix secures $2M in oversubscribed Canadian funding round to advance a breakthrough cancer care robotics system

From left to right: Co-founders Sherif Abdou (CBO), Saumik Biswas (CEO), Mike Lavdas (Director and CTO), Eveline Pasman (COO)

Tenomix, a pioneering medical technology company, successfully closed a $2 million all-Canadian seed funding round that will help develop a groundbreaking robotics system designed improve the accuracy of colon cancer staging.

Accurate determination of colorectal cancer stages is crucial to determine the right treatment plan but is often a delicate balance between art and science. The conventional process of searching for lymph nodes after tumours are removed isn’t reliable or efficient as some cancerous nodes could be missed during the manual search process resulting in improper treatment.

Recognizing this challenge, Tenomix has invented a robot that uses ultrasound and artificial intelligence to automate the current manual lymph node screening process and significantly improves cancer staging accuracy.

“Right now, pathology staff are feeling for firm areas in the tissue and just using their visual and tactile senses. It’s really not that reliable,” said Dr. Saumik Biswas, co-founder and CEO of Tenomix. “Because of those missed lymph nodes, even if only one or two are cancer positive, it can cause issues with proper cancer staging and results in the patient not getting the right treatment at the right time.”

Tenomix’s innovative solution has garnered significant interest and support with FACIT, an Ontario-based oncology tech investor, leading the investment round.

“Our province’s life science ecosystem is world-renowned for its talent, who continue to push the envelope in developing the next-generation technologies that aid in medical breakthroughs,” said Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “Tenomix’s cutting-edge cancer screening robotics system demonstrates the best of Ontario innovation, and we congratulate them on their continued successes.”

Tenomix's Mike Lavdas CTO and engineer Jacob Tryon in front of robot display component
Tenomix’s Mike Lavdas CTO and engineer Jacob Tryon in front of robot display component

Other contributors to the funding round include $500,000 from the Ontario Centre for Innovation (OCI) through the Life Sciences Innovation Fund (LSIF), a co-investment of $1.6 million from Phoenix Fire (part of the Archangel Network of Funds), individual angel investors, and the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization, which invested through its Women in Health Initiative seed program.

“Tenomix exemplifies the spirit of innovation that Ontario is known for, and their commitment to improving the accuracy of cancer screening through technology aligns with the Ontario Centre of Innovation’s mission to invest in commercialization opportunities that will generate the highest return on innovation,” said Claudia Krywiak, President and CEO of the OCI.

The company’s benchtop, printer-sized robotics system is currently undergoing validation in hospitals across the U.S. and Canada. Tenomix envisions its technology can be used as a versatile platform with scalable software that supports the pathology process, said Eveline Pasman MD, COO, and co-founder of Tenomix.

Founded in 2021, Tenomix’s success is attributed to the collective resources of Ontario’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, including advisory support, access to subject matter experts, and high-tech equipment. The company joins Velocity with financial support from the Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

Velocity has one of Canada’s most expansive health-technology commercialization platforms to help founders address the key challenges health-tech startups face such as validation, regulatory and fundraising.

“The ecosystem helped us develop an understanding of investors’ framework of thinking so that when we had calls with them, we could be in their shoes and answer properly,” said Michael Lavdas, CTO of Tenomix. “Now we’re in a place where we can build a profitable business and give pathology staff the right tools to give patients better care.”

Tenomix’s journey has been significantly supported by The Forge, McMaster University’s startup incubator, which has provided crucial resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities. The Forge’s expertise in supporting early-stage startups, particularly in the healthcare and technology sectors, has played a vital role in Tenomix’s development and success.