Caldera Health secures $1m for prostate diagnostic technology

A New Zealand company has secured $1 million to help advance development of its technology to diagnose prostate cancer.

A New Zealand company has secured $1 million to help advance development of its technology to diagnose prostate cancer.

Venture development and investment firm Pacific Channel Limited, which is focused on early-stage life science and cleantech innovation, led $1 million of new equity investment for Caldera Health Ltd.

In June 2010 it also secured $560,000 in seed capital for Caldera.

Caldera Health director, Dr Jim Watson, says Caldera has developed a "true partnership" with Pacific Channel.

"Not only had Pacific Channel acted as lead manager on the capital raisings, it was also an investor. It brought commercial expertise to the table in developing business strategy, and provided scientific, commercial and director-level recruitments."

Pacific Channel managing director Brent Ogilvie says all Caldera's funding has come from within New Zealand, with backing from the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and a number of individuals.

Four new investors have come onboard since the 2010 round of funding, he says.

Caldera is led by Watson, the founder and former chief executive of Genesis Research and Development, and Dr Richard Forster, co-founder of biofuel-technology company Lanzatech. Both suffer from prostate cancer, which claims the lives of about 600 Kiwis a year.

With early diagnosis, at least a third of those who die from prostate cancer could be saved, according to the scientists who first worked together 20 years ago.

Both men were misdiagnosed by the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of PSA found in the blood. High levels can indicate prostate cancer.

Watson, who has a background in steroid hormones and immunology, and Forster, with a background in genetics and biochemistry, began identifying biomarkers that could be used as diagnostics. They say these biomarkers will produce more accurate results.

Ogilvie, who worked with Watson at Genesis, says the technology will lead to surer diagnostics. The standard PSA test, he says, is sub-optimal and delivers misleading results to a "significant" degree.

According to Caldera, the PSA test overestimates prostate cancer by more than 40 percent and does not detect early-stage cancer.

Caldera's non-invasive molecular in-vitro tests (using urine samples) are designed to be carried out in a controlled environment outside a living organism and would enable treatment to be individually tailored for patients.

Also on the drawing board are plans to patent its diagnostic and immune programmes in the US, and establish prostate cancer support clinics in major New Zealand cities.

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