Cancer research start-ups are regional Seedcorn winners

GenoME Diagnostics chief operating officer Shannon Beattie
GenoME Diagnostics chief operating officer Shannon Beattie GenoME Diagnostics chief operating officer Shannon Beattie

TWO Belfast start-ups involved in the fight against cancer each emerged €20,000 richer after winning the Northern Ireland regional section of InterTradeIreland’s investor-ready Seedcorn competition.

GenoME Diagnostics and SonoTargfought off tough competition having delivered an investment pitch via video conference in front of an expert judging panel.

They were crowned ‘Best New Start’ and ‘Best Early Stage’ respectively, and they progress to the all-island final on December 2, where the overall winner will pocket €100,000 to contribute to its business growth.

GenoME Diagnostics was established in 2020 as a spin out of the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research at Queen’s University.

Founded based on research conducted by Dr Paul Mullan, Dr James Beirne and Dr Laura Feeney, it is developing a blood test for the earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Its chief operating officer Shannon Beattie said: “We're aiming to supply our innovative ovarian cancer diagnostic globally and this prize money will provide us with a fantastic opportunity to increase our business visibility and networking opportunities at various international conferences and trade shows.”

SonoTarg Ltd, which spun from Ulster University and was established in 2018, has developed a new targeted ultrasound therapy for treatment of solid cancer tumours which claims to be more effective and less toxic than conventional chemotherapy.

Chief scientific officer Professor John Callan said: “Having demonstrated the effectiveness of SonoTarg in a range of pre-clinical tumour models, our next step is to test the technology in a first-in-human clinical trial. The advice obtained throughout the Seedcorn competition will be very beneficial when engaging with investors to raise the funding needed to complete this next phase of SonoTargs development.”

Since the competition’s inception in 2003, more than 3,100 companies have been through the programme and finalists have raised in excess of €256 million in equity funding, emphasising Seedcorn’s position as the premier competition for high growth start-up companies on the island.

Connor Sweeney, Seedcorn programme manager at InterTradeIreland said: “It’s a great achievement to win the regional final, as the standard of entries from Northern Ireland this year has been particularly high.

“Both companies demonstrated vision, innovation and passion, all of which the judges look for when assessing the potential and longevity of a business. I wish them luck as they go on to compete against other jurisdictions in the overall final next month.”