At the High Tech Campus, seven start-ups have been busy with the HighTechXL accelerator program for the last three months. They are on their way to the XL Day on 6 December, where they can win over future investors. E52 takes a glimpse into the crowd and works towards XL Day with portraits of the start-ups. Today: Hakken Enterprise.
The Mexican start-up Hakken Enterprise started in 2013, seizing the opportunity to give young scientists employment. Co-founder Su Lin Casanova tells more about the start of her company: “Almost all jobs for young scientists are at a university, but often, a tenure is very long and you have to wait for a position to open up. We tried to solve this problem by creating a company that would employ them focusing on leveraging science to address the health challenges in the world today. Not just writing papers and forgetting those as soon as you published them, but creating useful applications that can have a real impact.”
How does a company from Mexico make it all the way to Eindhoven? “It was most of all circumstantial. Because of our employment strategy, and Hakken´s excellent track record landing government financing for projects, our local government in Mexico was interested in us and we started to develop a good relationship with Ministry of Science and Technology. They invited us to participate in a contest from which we were selected to come here.”
“People are dying because they have a sexually transmitted virus and they probably don’t even know.”Su Lin Casanova, Co-founder
Focused on health challenges, Hakken Enterprise decided to develop a urine test for HPV. “One of the biggest health challenges we have in Mexico is increased cancer rates. Breast, cervical and prostate cancer, are very highly occurring types of cancer. What is interesting for us is that cervical cancer is caused by a virus, by HPV, which is completely preventable when taking the right measures. People are dying because they have a sexually transmitted virus and they probably don’t even know.”
The existing tests for HPV are urethral and cytology scrubs. “That is why we created a simpler tool to monitor HPV, which is painless and can be used for men and women. Because all the efforts of the governments are focused on women. Vaccinations, tests, monitoring, are basically focused on women, but HPV also affects men. Maybe it takes a bit longer and maybe doesn’t show for ten or fifteen years, but two things are still happening: men are still spreading the disease and men don’t realize that it is also related to prostate cancer.” Hakken Enterprise focuses on preventive medicine. “We believe in the power of prevention, rather than trying to solve a problem that is already there. You can save time and money if you focus on prevention.”
The development of the test is almost finished and the start-up is already planning the future. “We are running our clinical trials right now in Mexico and it will be ready to launch in July of 2018. By then it will be certified in Mexico.” The first priority of the company is delivering the service to public hospitals. “In doing so, we can reach more people and try to stop cancer before it happens. Also, we can save a lot of money for cancer treatments.” Casanova hopes that it has covered Mexico halfway through 2019. “Then we will think of a way to take these test to other markets.”
The goal for the future is to prevent more diseases. “We focus on personalized medicine, so everyone can know more about their genome, and their possible health risks, enabling us all to take responsibility for our own health and empowering people to make better decisions. In the future, we would love to have the development of vaccines for the prevention of more diseases.”