OncoFilter student team earns another honor, more funding

Posted: September 17, 2013

Jeff Kessler, Kinshuk Mitra, and Brett Geiger in the lab
(l to r) Jeff Kessler, Kinshuk Mitra, and Brett Geiger in the lab
An Ohio State University student team has notched another accomplishment—and more funding—on its way to commercializing a novel cancer diagnostic technology.

Comprised of two biomedical engineering students and one Fisher College of Business student, the OncoFilter team recently earned a Stage 2 E-Team Program Grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). The grant includes $19,400 in early-stage funding, as well as professional business training and access to mentor coaching for one year. A Stage 1 award last year brought the team $5,000 in funding and business plan training.

The OncoFilter team is led by Kinshuk Mitra, a fourth-year biomedical engineering major, Brett Geiger, a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering, and Jeff Kessler, a Fisher College of Business undergraduate student.

The team’s business plan is constructed around Mitra’s biotechnology brainchild, a microbead mesh that quickly and cost-effectively separates cancer cells from healthy cells in blood samples. Cells being shed from primary tumors into the blood stream are one of the earliest physiological signs of cancer.

OncoFilter won top honors at the 2013 Ohio State University Business Plan Competition in March, a victory that included $25,000 in cash and more than $60,000 worth of business and legal consulting.

The OncoFilter technology has reached unprecedented levels of reliability, sensitivity and accuracy in isolating cells present in extremely low concentrations. The ability to detect these cells could result in earlier diagnosis than is currently possible. Early diagnosis of cancer is associated with higher rates of survival, as well as more targeted treatment. And since OncoFilter can take the place of several tests, cost and time savings also become a major market benefit.

chip prototype

OncoFilter is initially focused on ovarian and breast cancer, due to their increased tendency of shedding multiple types of tumor cells in the blood.

Ohio State’s Technology Commercialization Office is helping the team protect the intellectual property with patents and navigate the path to commercialization.

According to Mitra, OncoFilter should be registered as a company by mid-October.

“Following that, we’ll continue to develop prototypes to optimize the filter technology and begin applying for more funding,” Mitra said. “Right now we're really looking for exciting scientific talent, grad students and such, to join our team and help us fulfill the technology’s promise.”

Professor and Stefanie Spielman Chair in Cancer Imaging Michael Tweedle is OncoFilter’s chief scientific advisor. The advisory board also includes researchers from Ohio State, Stanford and MIT.

The NCIIA E-Team program is part of the $1.5 million in grants that NCIIA provides annually, accounting for the largest total grant funding of its kind for U.S. collegiate innovation. Since NCIIA's founding 17 years ago, more than 180 companies have launched as a result of early-stage support from NCIIA grants and training.