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Lung cancer screening from Astraeus Technologies wins MIT $100K

Early detection breath test could be first on new platform to quickly and cheaply diagnose deadly diseases

May 12, 2016

Astraeus Technologies team

The Astraeus Technologies team: Graham Lieberman, Jay Kumar, Alexander Blair, Joseph Azzarelli

Astraeus Technologies, a team developing a breath test for cheap, accurate detection of lung cancer, won the $100,000 grand prize May 11 at the MIT $100K Launch competition.

Based on research by MIT PhD candidate Joseph Azzarelli and others, Astreaus’ L-Card technology bests CT scans by detecting gases in human breath and reading results through an iPhone app, said Astraeus co-founder Graham Lieberman, an MD/MBA candidate at Harvard University. By detecting gases indicative of lung cancer in human breath, Astraeus aims to bring early diagnosis to millions of people not currently screened. CT scans, Lieberman said, are expensive, need to be read by a radiologist, and in a small number of cases can cause cancer through radiation. For those reasons, only a small percentage of patients seen as at risk are ever screened.

The vision for Astraeus’ L-Card is to incorporate lung cancer screening as part of a routine physical. The team now begins the long process of clinical trials. Eventually, the technology may detect more than lung cancer. There are gas profiles already identified for five other cancers without reliable screening tests, as well infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and Ebola.

“Our very long-term vision is, if we can build this out as a diagnostic platform applicable to many different types of diseases, then part of our research arm would be to identify other dissolved molecules in the breath and excreted fluids in the body of other diseases,” Lieberman said at the competition, held on the MIT campus.

Astraeus Technologies previously won the MIT $100K Accelerate competition, and the Audience Choice award at the first MIT Healthcare Innovations Prize, both in February.

Audience choice and other winners

The $5,000 Audience Choice winner was Spyce, developers of “the world’s first automated restaurant.” The team’s prototype, Spyce Kitchen, is a robotic full-service kitchen that can cook a fresh meal in minutes, with no staff, and wash the pots and pans.

Developed by four MIT engineering students, Spyce aims to redefine fast food, targeting high traffic places that can’t fit a food court, like college dorms and shared offices.

There were 106 applications for the MIT $100K Launch competition, whittled down to 50 finalists by 90 judges, then to eight finalists by a team of 30 judges. Those 50 finalists were provided with access to mentors and advisors in their industries to help develop business plans.

All 50 finalist teams were eligible for additional prizes. The MIT Creative Arts Award, a $15,000 prize, went to Tekuma, which curates art for hotels and Airbnb rentals. The $10,000 Booz Allen Hamilton Data Prize went to Revive Med, creating a computational drug repurposing platform, and the $10,000 Thomson Reuters Data Prize was split between Hive Maritime, which uses big data to increase efficiency in global shipping operations, and Swift Calcs, producing a notebook capable of advanced math calculations.