Pepijn from ECsens talks about innovating, competing and winning the 4TU Impact Challenge 2019
Current tools for detecting cancer are slow and lack prognostic, however, a new technology developed by ECsens has more and better possibilities. This amazing concept has made ECsens win both the UT challenge and the 4TU Impact Challenge! In this interview, we ask them how they are currently doing.
Dear Pepijn, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions and sharing your views. To start, how would you describe the Ecsens’ idea to people who have not yet heard of you.
We developed a biosensor that can measure very sensitive and very reliable small fragments of tumor cells. To create a more fine-tuned diagnosis for better treatment as a result.
You and your partner won the edition of the UT challenge 2019, after which you also scored high in the 4TU final and took home the title. What did your life look like after that?
After we won the 4TU final, we received a lot of attention from different parties. We triggered quite some interest and have done many interviews with interested parties. The challenge took place in November, and the month after, in December, we received two additional grants which we needed to continue with our projects.
And then the Corona crisis happened, which in the first place put a hold on everything. However, because of the virus, we rewired our product to perform virus detection. Currently, we are moving forward fast, you may have seen us in some newspapers. Moreover, we are negotiating with potential investors and suppliers, while simultaneously we are in the middle of improving technological aspects. At the end of this summer, we started measuring samples of corona patients of the first wave. If that goes well, then probably many new doors will open for us.
When looking at your current events, are you and your partner focusing on virus detection only? And have you recruited more employees in the meantime?
Our initial product is a cancer detection model and the research is still ongoing, we also receive patient samples for this. In addition, we received a grant for bacterial detection from the same partners that are providing us with these samples. The initial product is put on hold for now. Meanwhile, we have four students helping us, and next year another employee will help us in the lab.
And after this COVID-19 period, where does ECsens see most possibilities?
It can go two ways, either the product works and we could stop there and retire. Or if it doesn't work, the coronavirus has offered us an opportunity to create a good demonstration of our technology. In that case, we can slowly move forward with our initial product. Besides, the virus detection technology must be established within a year, otherwise there’s no point anymore. Bringing this project to the market right now is extremely ambitious, so this will be quite the challenge. However, on a positive note, things are moving forward fast, it’s not too difficult to get approval and funding. Moreover, people are immediately attracted when they realize we are working on a virus test, which causes supplier priority.
Sounds like ECsens is becoming an important player in the startup world. Where do you think the company will be in a couple of years?
Perhaps if the virus detection works, we could start a subsidiary company. With the money earned, we then can continue developing our initial product: cancer detection. If it doesn't work, we can still slowly continue with our research and company.
You already have some solid plans for the future! What would say to current and future participants of the UT challenge?
I think it’s good to think about how to present something as simple as possible. Because there are probably many high tech ideas, and the key is to simplify it so that you can convey it to everyone. You can have a very elegant story, but the jury will listen to 40 stories in a row and yours will not stick if it is not short and simple. Especially now that everything is delayed, you have had several months to think about it.
That is a valuable tip! Thank you very much. We wish you the best of luck with ECsens and hope to hear more from you in the near future. Read more about ECsens on their website.