The Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute and its Office of Innovation and Commercialization have taken the step of establishing the first spin-off company based on science developed within the Hackensack Meridian Health network. The company aims to make tests detecting cancer and other diseases earlier than ever before. 

EValuate Diagnostics will market a new system for the capture of extracellular vesicles (EVs), including exosomes, which have been elusive to medicine thus far. Novel diagnostic assays derived from this technology will help select and identify disease biomarkers for earlier-than-ever detection of tumors and a wide range of other diseases, according to the organization. 

“This is a remarkable breakthrough for our health network, and for patients of the future,” says Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, the chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “We are taking the science produced by our terrific minds at the Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute, and then moving it to the market so it can benefit all. Detecting deadly cancers as soon as possible means lives can, and will, be saved.”

Experience in Cancer Biomarker Research

The company is based upon the work of Olivier Loudig, PhD, an associate member of the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), who is directly involved with the development of EValuate Diagnostics. His Laboratory at the CDI has developed research programs for biomarker discovery and early detection of  breast, lung, and prostate cancers using liquid biopsies. 

Developing cancer lesions, which may remain elusive due to their small size by traditional imaging approaches or tissue biopsies, still leave a molecular trace in biofluids such as blood. The laboratory of Loudig has homed in on this minute trail and, using highly sensitive next-generation-sequencing technologies, has been able to detect RNA signature indicative of the developing lesions, according to the organization. The development of gene expression assays for diagnostics is widely used for evaluating large tumors, but with this novel tracking technology, and applied to early detection has the potential to exponentially help save patient lives. 

“We are really establishing the threshold of detection,” says Loudig.

A core tenet of the mission of the CDI, founded in 2019, is translating cutting-edge science to rapidly impact patient health for New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive health network. EValuate Diagnostics is a direct product of this research ethos, driving the discoveries of the Loudig Laboratory to help patients in the very-near future. 

“This is a thrilling development,” says Sandra Powell-Elliott, the chief innovation officer for Hackensack Meridian Health, who leads the network’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization. “The health network supports so many great initiatives – but this is a new way for the health network to really bring innovation to the next level.”

Further reading: CAP Molecular Proficiency Testing Programs Show Accurate Clinical Cancer Sequencing Results

The Office of Innovation and Commercialization launched in 2022, and promises to support innovations and discoveries across Hackensack Meridian Health. One of its marquee programs so far is the Bear’s Den – an innovation incubator launched in 2017 which brings together a panel of experts, including Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Garrett, leading physicians, key network executives, venture capitalists, patent attorneys, who gather regularly to vet proposals from entrepreneurs. The health network’s novel incubator has vetted many products and strategies to streamline care delivery, reduce infections, lower hospital readmissions and help patients partner in their care with physicians. 

“This is a new milestone for innovation at Hackensack Meridian Health,” says Ihor Sawczuk, MD, FACS, Hackensack Meridian Health’s president of Academics, Research and Innovation, founding chair of the Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute, and also associate dean of Clinical Integration and professor and chair emeritus of Urology at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “The work of Olivier Loudig is promising, and we want to fulfill that promise with all the support we can provide.”

Credit: EValuate Diagnostics