Image: Cancer Cells. Source: Wikimedia Commons under CC2.0 License

In tandem with its fund-raising announcement, Unicorn India is also announcing the first investment that it has made through the 2nd equity fund. And looking at how health-tech startups, more specifically in diagnostics, are going to be hot favorites for some time now, Unicorn India too has chosen neo-diagnostics firm SaScan as its first investment.

SaScan is a neo diagnostic startup that is working on both hardware and software front, to bring about its first non-intrusive Oral Cancer screening device ‘OralScan’ to the market. The company is also working on clinical trials for a device to screen for another common type of cancer.

Cancer has alarmingly become one of the most prevalent diseases in India. Cases for some of the most common cancer types, such as Oral, Breast and Cervical cancers, saw a staggering 324% increase between 2017 and 2018 alone, according to government data released in November 2019. In terms of absolute numbers, out of the 65 million patients who visited for such illnesses, at least 160K were diagnosed with one of these common cancer types, up from 35K a year before. And these are just government clinics data. Research suggests that cancer is the second most common disease in India responsible for maximum mortality with about 0.3 million deaths per year.

Doctors worldwide suggest, that early detection in cancer is a key to successful treatment, since most late-stage cancers are not curable. But early screening is generally expensive and highly intrusive in nature, thus preventing most cases with mild symptoms, from taking such tests. SaScan aims to change that trend, with a more accurate, low cost and fast solution to early cancer screening.

Its first device, ‘OralScan’ is a handheld, oral screening device that uses an in-built camera to provide far more accurate and real-time assessments at a lower cost than current industry leaders. The device also points doctors to the most malignant site in a lesion for tissue biopsies. SaScan’s second device, for diagnosis of Cervical cancer, detects morphological and biochemical changes in cervical tissues to screen for early stages of cancer with higher diagnostic accuracies than conventional techniques such as Pap smear or a coloposcopic (VIA and VILI) examination. In addition, the device will help in identifying the optimal site for biopsy, thereby avoiding under-diagnosis, and unneccessary pain for patients.

With fresh capital, SaScan will explore the possibility of developing its proprietary technology for diagnosis of other types of epithelial cell carcinomas and pre-cancerous abnormalities with a vision to build a comprehensive diagnostics solutions range for easy, accessible and early cancer detection.