In the labyrinthine corridors of medical research, many mysteries remain unsolved. Yet, every so often, a glimmer of hope emerges, promising a brighter future. CAPTEC Medical, a biotechnology startup based in Hungary, is one such beacon. Founded by the trio of Paul Stolk, Johan De Jonghe, and the Hungaro-American scientist Andras Guttman, the origins of CAPTEC are deeply personal and profoundly impactful.
Figure 1: The visionary founders of CAPTEC Medical
Johan, who witnessed the devastating effects of cancer up-close with the loss of both his parents, was introduced to Prof. Guttman’s groundbreaking work. In 2013, Guttman’s team had conceived a high-throughput microfluidic concept for the antigen-antibody binding process, specifically designed to capture cancer cells from blood. Recognizing the potential of this innovation, Johan, along with Paul, envisioned transforming this technology into a life-saving treatment. Their aim? To purify the blood of cancer patients, removing harmful cancer cells and offering them a renewed lease on life.
CAPTEC’s solution is both straightforward and pioneering. In a world where most industry giants focus on drugs to eliminate tumour cells or bolster the immune system, CAPTEC adopts a different approach. They’ve developed a novel immuno-affinity cell capture cartridge. This device, leveraging the specific antigen-antibody binding, excels at capturing specific cancer cells directly from the bloodstream. By simply attaching this cartridge to a standard hemoperfusion system, CAPTEC offers a revolutionary way to filter out Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs) – cells that are notorious for their metastatic capabilities.
Figure 2: CAPTEC’s groundbreaking device, a testament to innovation and hope
The journey hasn’t been without challenges. Tackling a formidable adversary like cancer comes with its own set of complexities. Every step is a dance between anticipation and adaptation. Yet, CAPTEC’s resilience shines through. Partnering with an experimental veterinarian institute, they conducted large-animal biosafety pilot tests. The results were promising, propelling the technology into the clinical trial phase and setting the stage for mass production.
The Labena Ventures corporate accelerator programme further enriched CAPTEC’s voyage, underscoring the importance of preparation. As they navigated the intricacies of the startup ecosystem, three learnings stood out: (1) the paramount importance of communication,
(2) the art of understanding different perspectives, (3) and the wisdom of leveraging external expertise.
For CAPTEC, the journey is as much about reflection as it is about innovation. Asked about advice for other startup founders, the CAPTEC team emphasizes the essence of taking the initiative. “Do not wait to start. Start! Any idea could be successful if there is someone who makes it successful.”
In the vast landscape of medical innovations, CAPTEC Medical emerges as a tale of determination, innovation, and hope. Their story, still unfolding, promises a brighter horizon for countless individuals, offering a tangible weapon in the relentless battle against cancer.