BCAL Diagnostics

Developing a universal screening test for early breast cancer

Dr Amani Batarseh from BCAL Diagnostics talks about why their work is important and how the Sydney Knowledge Hub is helping BCAL achieve their aims.

Tell us about BCAL Diagnostics

BCAL Diagnostics is developing and commercialising a universal screening test for early detection of breast cancer by analysing lipids in the blood and aims to shift the paradigm in breast cancer screening by introducing a blood test for detection of the disease that can help women regardless of age, race and geographic location and is accessible to women everywhere. 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women, therefore, improving the effectiveness of the screening and diagnosis technology used is a high priority. The implication of such a technology could revolutionise the way we manage breast cancer by allowing a blood sample to be taken remotely from the site of analysis.

BCAL was co-founded by Ms Jayne Shaw and The Honorary AO Ron Philips, ex-minister of health for NSW. They bring together extensive experience in the health sector, specifically women’s health.

Why did BCal decide to join the Sydney Knowledge Hub?

We became members of the Sydney Knowledge Hub primarily to: 

  • collaborate on ARC Linkage grants
  • offer student work placements
  • work nearer to Sydney Mass Spectrometry
  • develop clinical and strategic partnerships with Sydney University and the RPA campus.

Dr Ben Crossett, the manager of Sydney MS approached BCAL in Jan 2019 to invite us to meet the earlier team that was establishing SKH, for he saw the value and synergy in the mission of SKH and the needs of BCAL as a small promising start-up.

How has joining the Sydney Knowledge Hub been beneficial to you?

As BCAL progressed, we started expanding our operations, which required more space and access to facilities and systems that the University could provide. The Hub has been instrumental in providing us access to core facilities and services and worked quickly to address several of our needs and getting us set up.

The various networking opportunities, partnerships, and webinars were all vital in helping me spread the BCAL mission. As was the introductions to key contacts in the commercialisation team at University and Westmead.

Most of all, having the opportunity to be in an environment with other companies that are going through similar experiences gave us support, a sense of belonging, and the energy to keep going.

Tell me about a project or initiative that you’ve collaborated with the University on or are planning to collaborate on?

We are very excited that surgeons at LifeHouse, RPAH and NSW BreastScreen are considering running a pilot study with the BCAL test to assess its clinical utility. As part of this pilot, we want to apply machine learning and AI to enhance the accuracy of our test by training an algorithm on real-world samples. We have also reached out to other start-ups at the Knowledge Hub that may be interested in joining our initiative.

What connections have you made at the University through joining the Knowledge Hub?

The Knowledge Hub, through the capable leadership of Rupal and her wonderful team, has assisted in introducing us to partners from across multiple disciplines. A connection to a Breast Cancer research group at Westmead Breast Cancer Institute opened the door to meeting clinicians at Westmead Hospital, who began working with us along with clinicians from LifeHouse and RPAH on an ethics application to start a local sample collection to validate the BCAL test.

Introductions to the commercialisation department connected us with lead academics at the University, which has allowed discussions for ARC funding applications. We also connected with fellow Knowledge Hub start-up, DetectED-X, a breast cancer imaging start-up, about potential collaborations. These are just a few examples of the versatile connections established thanks to Sydney Knowledge Hub.