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Curing cancer with the power of AI: Asylia Diagnostics

For start-ups that bridge the gap between AI and the life sciences industry, Flanders is hard to beat as a breeding ground. The combination of an open innovation culture and strong government support forms an excellent foundation for innovation. That’s also the conclusion that Asylia Diagnostics, a start-up with roots in Russia, the UK and the Netherlands, arrived at when looking for a location to set up its business activities.

Saving lives by digging through data

Asylia Diagnostics uses cutting-edge AI technology to sift through patient data and determine the right treatment for each patient’s form of cancer – specifically whether or not immunotherapy should be used for patients with melanoma or lung cancer. “In 20 to 30% of cancer cases, immunotherapy leads to a rapid decline instead of a convalescence,” Andrey Khmelevskiy, CEO of Asylia Diagnostics, explains.

“Our platform enables healthcare professionals to identify biomarkers in the RNA of their patients, which allows them to test the patient non-invasively for their receptiveness to immunotherapy. In this way, we make sure people receive the treatment that’s best suited for them, saving lives and often also reducing costs, as immunotherapy is very expensive.”

Working with Flanders' hospitals and healthcare industry

To make the platform work and test its data models, Asylia Diagnostics needed patient data – the more the better. That’s why Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) brought Andrey into contact with several hospitals in Flanders that were interested in collaborating, as well as with the umbrella organization for local biobanks.

Andrey: “Highly professional hospitals such as AZ Alma and the university hospital of Ghent showed great willingness to work together. This was a major deciding factor for us to set up our business activities in Flanders. Being able to collaborate with healthcare professionals allowed us to take our platform to the next level.”

Working together with Flanders’ hospitals allowed us to perfect our platform.

Andrey Khmelevskiy
CEO Asylia Diagnostics

A warm welcome and all-round support

Andrey wasn’t just welcomed by Flanders’ hospitals and biobanks, but also by a broader team of representatives from the region’s business ecosystem. Tomas Van Stappen, manager foreign investments at the FIT The Hague office, worked closely with Kristof Lowyck, his counterpart at FIT HQ in Brussels, to set up meetings in Flanders with all relevant government and business organizations for Asylia Diagnostics.

Tomas: “To help Andrey get started in Flanders, we held a meeting with the Life Sciences Welcome Team, which consists of life sciences cluster organization, research institute VIB, Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship and investment firm PMV. Because we knew Andrey needed patient sample data, we also invited potential partners for that purpose – the Belgian Cancer Registry, for example – to the initial meeting.”

Andrey: “The connectivity within Flanders’ business ecosystem is really great. Everyone I talked to was very supportive and eager to help with whatever question I had, from the paperwork required to set up my business to handling my immigration journey. For the latter, I even had a direct contact, Isabelle De Boer, who guided me at every step of the way.”

Asylia Diagnostics took the support it received from Flanders and ran with it. The medtech company got into programs from J&J incubator JLABS, BlueHealth Innovation Center and imec.istart. The latter even backed Asylia Diagnostics to get the company into a prestigious tech start-up program (US).

I was particularly impressed by the support, outreach and high level of connections that characterize Flanders’ business ecosystem.

Andrey Khmelevskiy
CEO at Asylia Diagnostics

Improving clinical trials

Thanks to the widespread support for Asylia Diagnostics, Andrey hopes to start using his platform for cancer tests and have a working prototype by early 2021. However, he has also realized a second useful application, in the field of clinical trials – which often take place in Flanders due to the fast turnaround. Andrey: “Our tool can help companies complete clinical trials by assisting in the trial patient selection. By filtering out patients who are not likely to benefit from a certain potential medicine, we increase trials’ success rates. This service will be available from late 2020.”

More info

Asylia Diagnostics
Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT)
11 August 2020

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