ANCON Medical Inc.
September 24, 2018 Issue
Q&A with Wesley Baker, CEO of ANCON Medical Inc. developing a revolutionary Non-Invasive Diagnostics Device for Detecting Lung Cancer by using Nanoparticle Biomarker Tagging and Artificial Intelligence to Analyze Volatile Organic Compounds in the Breath of a Patient
CEO of ANCON Medical Inc.
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – September 24, 2018
CEOCFO: Mr. Baker, what is the vision behind ANCON Medical Inc?
Mr. Baker: ANCON is basically a company that was formed with a vision behind it to create a device for noninvasive detection of disease through breath. We started to set about discovering the best way to achieve that and the high sensitivity in order required. With our technology, the aim was to basically break down every single molecule in the air, so we can identify what every single molecule was. That led the company down two different routes. It lead it down the security and military route that allows us to pursue detections of explosives and chemicals for the security market. It also led us now into the medical market where we can detect disease very, very early on.
CEOCFO: Would you give us a general idea about detection through breath? Why does it work, how does it work?
Mr. Baker: Detection by breath goes back a long time. It goes back to ancient Greek times and beyond. In theory, we all know that a dog can detect cancer. In fact it is one of the best methods for detecting lung cancer, for example. How does it work? In a nutshell, when a disease is in a body it changes the chemical makeup of the cells within the body and they create, what we call, biomarker chemicals. Those chemicals come out as volatile organic compounds. Those chemicals are released, and certain types and certain combinations are released per disease. The key is knowing how to pick those up, the detection of how many of those molecules are in there, what those chemicals are and putting it all together. Then we have a machine learning artificial intelligence on top of that. This defines the illness and the disease even further and then allocates it according to the category that it is in. In a nutshell, that is how it works.
CEOCFO: What are you working on today at ANCON?
Mr. Baker: Today we are working on lung cancer. In fact, we are specifically looking at working on very fast screening for lung cancer. We are hoping to be in the situation where you breathe into a device for one minute and within five to seven minutes you will have a diagnosis of cancer or not, effectively. The screening device that we are doing will actually be used to assist clinicians in early stage detection. Basically, we will identify cancer, we will know it is there and this particular device will then allow it to go on the doctor’s to then see what they want to do with it, whether it is early stage or not, and they will look at it as MRI and CT scan. Our second stage device which is very well advanced, is the diagnostics device, which is just a slight amendment on the current device. That will basically provide one hundred percent diagnostics and at a very, very early stage.
CEOCFO: What is being measured exactly when someone breaths into your device?
Mr. Baker: You breathe out. As a person is breathing from the lower parts of their lungs they are letting out volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) with the breath. It is in everyone’s breath. What we are actually analyzing are those compounds, that chemical makeup of your breath. Within that you will see individual biomarkers that would identify those areas that we are looking for.
CEOCFO: How are you analyzing? How does the device work?
Mr. Baker: Generally, what happens is that your breath is taken into a number of chambers. Within those chambers we then enlarge your breath molecules. We individually tag the molecules of your breath. Then we enlarge those molecules and using our high sensitivity and unique IP technology we laser read them. Then we find exactly what is there and we then we analyze, and we are looking for specific ones for specific diseases that we already know the biomarkers for. We already know what certain biomarkers we are looking for, so when that breath comes in the intelligent software is already looking for the disease. It then finds that, it comes through another chamber, comes out and gives us the reading that we want. That is then sent up to the artificial intelligence which will them put it in a massive data base looking at existing data that we already have. We look for mutations and what level and what standard that particular disease is at. That, in a nutshell, is what is happening to your breath. The minute you breathe out your breath is totally ripped apart and we look at everything that is in your breath. We discard ninety nine percent of it and just keep the one percent that we need.
CEOCFO: Is the medical community onboard with using breath in this manner?
Mr. Baker: There are two different areas in the medical community. First of all, we are a disruptive technology. Being disruptive means that we are effectively a danger for an awful lot of technology that exists out there at this moment! We have never seen it as that. We have always seen it as an aiding technology. What we have found is, within lung cancer, for example, and any number of different other diseases and cancers, there is a tremendous demand for our type of sensitivity detection. That is because we can get it at a very, very early stage. It is also noninvasive. It is such a quick procedure to do it and it provides such a good high level of detection and avoids all those false positives. There is a growing demand and desire within the medical community for out type of technology. Particularly, the sensitivity that we have makes it extremely attractive. As I said, at the moment we are working very closely with a number of places like Cleveland Clinic, for example, and we have got tremendous close connections with some of the world’s top lung cancer doctors.
CEOCFO: Is there a clear-cut interpretation? Is there a part that requires human intervention to interpret?
Mr. Baker: There is always going to be human involvement. The good thing about this technology is that it removes the excessive use of the medical doctor at the early stage. If the patient comes in and breathes into our device, it can be a normal technician that can do the test. Therefore, you have taken away the need for that doctor to do the actual procedure itself. Yes, there is human involvement. Obviously, the artificial intelligence is there, and I keep on about that because it is very important in what it is actually doing, because it is learning and constantly building the data from all the readings that we get coming in. However, the need for a medical doctor to actually look at the results and then analyze it and then have another look and double check things is always going to be there. We are not removing the need for a doctor. We are enabling them to diagnose early enough in order to save lives. That is the crucial part. It is the ability to be able to diagnose at such an early stage a disease compared to where we are now.
CEOCFO: Would this be done at a central location? Could it be in many different doctors’ offices?
Mr. Baker: Basically, in a very clear picture, this is where I would like to be in ten years’ time. In ten years’ time I would like numerous versions of this to be throughout hospitals, also in your local surgeries, even on the pharmacy level where we can be used for diabetes and other tests. For example, we can pick up influenza and other types of viral infections and use it to diagnose patients and then treat them at that level. That is because these are small devices. They are the size of a small suitcase or had luggage. Therefore, they are small and portable. We see them in remote locations. We see them being used in pandemic situations. Also, this is crucial; we see them for disease management as well. If a patient is having chemotherapy or other forms of drug biologics treatment, there is always a doubt in the doctor’s mind, “Is this drug is actually working?” We are putting a particular patient under extreme stress with this medication.” My son, is very ill at the moment and he is undergoing chemotherapy and the question is, “Is it actually working effectively.” With our technology we will actually be able to use that to monitor the disease as it moves forward, and we will be able to see, “Is it working – yes it is. The chemical breakdown is changing.” We can actually see the makeup of that disease changing and the effective work of the drug. Of course, if the drug is not working we will also be able to say that the drug is not working because the patient is deteriorating and here is the evidence of it. There is a very exciting element to this coming on. We also see a part where eventually you will get to a relatively hand-held device. That is some way off a long way in the future, but this is the technology that leads to the ins and outs – the bolts, shall we say, of the technology. That is where we are going with it.
CEOCFO: What else are you able to detect in medical or will you be with the same lung area?
Mr. Baker: In medical, we are hoping to have a data base with ten years where we will actually be in for over four hundred diseases and illnesses. That is the level at which we are hoping to achieve. Initially, we will be doing between one and ten, so there will be a choice of diseases. We will be focusing on lung cancer, which is obviously one of the primary ones we are focusing on at the moment, because it is the world leading killer in cancer. However, then we are moving on to other illnesses such as tuberculosis. We could even probably turn back a few years ago, when the Ebola crisis was happening we had a senator from Washington call up and ask if we could use out technology to detect Ebola and how quickly we could do that. The challenge there was whether the biomarkers existed for Ebola, regarding to organic compounds. We knew they existed in the blood, but we need to detect them through the breath and we needed to be able to monitor.
CEOCFO: What is going on today outside of medical?
Mr. Baker: Outside of medical; that is just as exciting! We can effectively detect explosives a long way away, buried deep in the ground, just by literally being in that vicinity. We can have a device simply in a room in an airport and we can smell everything that is going on and we can position where it is actually coming from through different sensors. It is the same with chemicals. We can detect a whole host of chemicals and a whole host of explosives as well. Therefore, we are very, very high tech in that respect and we have been working very closely with the US military and the UK military and Ministry of Defense and the US Homeland Security on these types of things and including in airports for looking at ways that we can actually improve the detection facilities they currently have. Of course, from that there are other things as well. There is veterinarian. Potentially, we can help within the vet market. Then moving on from that, our technology can even potentially detect oil and gas without actually having to dig or go down into the ground; just by the molecules that are coming up through the air.
CEOCFO: How do you decide how to focus your efforts when you are working on many different levels, many different all important areas?
Mr. Baker: That is the key. The draw for the company has always been medical. However, because of the changes to the world environment in the early 2000’s, it actually helped the medical side of the company in a roundabout way. We have always aimed to become a fully-fledged medical company. We slipped into military and security because we realized that our technology was able to help in particular requirements. What has happened is we have been successfully funded by numerous governments; both the US and UK governments, in order to fund our technology forward. Because that technology goes down one particular path up until a certain point; at about twelve months ago we reached that point where we start to separate medical from the military. It is also very sensitive to the timing required. The military aspect and the security aspect need instantaneous results within seconds. As medical, it does not have to be that quick. We can have a longer period of results, so we change our technology slightly for that. How do we focus on it? Bear in mind that the end goal has always been medical. We have just been using the military route in order to build an area of IP and develop the company to a point that we can license that off to particular companies outside of the medical arena. That is what we are in the process of actually doing now over the next twelve months. That area of the company is kind of winding down now, so the full focus is going towards medical right across the board with every member of the employee staff.
CEOCFO: Where does the cost of the equipment come into play for a potential customer?
This is the
exciting thing! There are two models around the world. There is the part of
the medical system that is in North America and there is a sort of socialist
medical system, which is in the UK and Europe and other parts of the world.
The one thing about this technology is that it does make medicine cheaper!
It does make detection cheaper and it still does with the private market.
The private hospitals can make their own economic benefits from it; we have
got a different plan that shows this. In short, the technology itself would
probably market for about USD $39,000. That is just for the device. We have
individual, basically disposable, breath product that you breathe into. They
are disposable. There is a small charge there for those products. That will
be dependent on the hospital and everything else, but you can sort of
imagine that a hospital will be charging about USD $100 or USD $175 for the
test, maybe. Then there is a charge for when it has gone up to the cloud and
our software and our technology is working on it. Therefore, to a hospital
and to a doctor, this technology is extremely cheap compared to that of an
MRI and a CT scan. However, it is extremely effective and it is very, very
fast as well. It changes everything! The hospitals in North America, the US
in particular, are looking to save money and also looking to improve their
service and this technology changes and enables that to evolve.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us a little bit about the organization between the UK and US and segments?
Mr. Baker: The UK was the original founding base of the company. It started in the Cathedral City of Canterbury. It started there and grew basically after coming out of innovation in the University set up. We then spread to Minnesota in 2014. Minnesota is going to be the main base of the company regarding medical. We have some work done here in the UK. We will also have some work done in Asia, South East Asia and China. Therefore, we have a whole global plan in place, but Minnesota is the main hub in medical alley along the Mississippi area, where we are going to be focusing our efforts. That is basically because the recruitment is fantastic in Minnesota for medical. The expertise that we want is all there and puts us in a good position for what we want to achieve in North America.
CEOCFO: What is the regulatory path?
Mr. Baker: That is a little bit more complex, because this type of technology does not exist. We were originally looking at the 510K route, but I do not think we are going to be able to find our way in there. Therefore, we are going enter initially as a screening device. We will go through the de novo route and we will answer as a screening device. We will be as a screening device for eighteen to twenty-four months in the North American market and then we will switch to a diagnostics device shortly after that. However, to be honest with you, the doctors using the device will automatically know that it is a diagnostics device. They will see, straight away, the results and what they are getting from screening is accurate and can form a highly effective results. That is the pathway that we have discussed with the FDA and that is the route that we will go. It seems to be the best pathway for us to go forward.
CEOCFO: What surprised you as you have grown the concept and the products?
Mr. Baker: Yes, I have had a lot of surprises! I think that probably the biggest one is that I thought it would be pretty easy to obtain investment and pretty easy to obtain support within the industry in the early days. What we found was that there had been many false claims by other companies attempting to do this type of technology for quite a while. Really, they claimed things and never actually delivered it, particularly out of Israel and some in Europe and some in North America. Their biggest problem was sensitivity, so we have had to clean up that sort of market where there had been misinformation put out there and prove our sensitivity in that part. That was frustrating! The investment side is frustrating because it is a disruptive technology. Investors always look at it differently and I find that unbelievably frustrating, because everyone is going to fall ill, everyone is going to get a disease at some stage in their lives and this technology can help them and may save their lives. Yet they are not prepared to part with funds in order to move this forward. However, when you do find the correct partner, which we have done, we move forward very swiftly. I think the struggles with getting the expertise as well. We really have to employ the best of the best and that is always hard. Therefore, we are very much a global company. We have employees from all over the world working with a number of different nationalities. We do not look at it as a British company or an American company. We look at it as a global market company. We need the best scientists in the world, because we are at the forefront of this type of technology.
CEOCFO: Why pay attention to ANCON Medical Inc? Why is the company important?
Mr. Baker: NBT is going to save many lives. We are going to be able to diagnose diseases at very early stage just simply by breathing into a device. That, on its own, is an incredible innovation. It removes all the barriers that exist at this moment in time of going into a doctor’s clinic, of having to draw blood; all those fears are removed instantaneously, just simply by breathing into our NBT device. The ability to monitor your body and monitor the makeup of your body and what your body is doing and being able to treat it at such an early stage is critical, in think, in the evolution of human kind. That is why they should take notice. Because of or artificial intelligence, that adds a very exciting component to it. That was not even involved with the company up until three years ago. The benefits of the artificial intelligence are just staggering; what we are going to be able to achieve and how we are going to be able to monitor a disease or an illness will be fantastic. For pharmaceutical companies if offers an opportunity to be able to look at the diseases and how they can counter the changes in the disease for medical insurance companies that want to screen their patients and effectively know what they are dealing with straight away when the insurance policy is taken up. All of these things are exciting, and it just changes the marketplace in many ways and that is exciting if done right and it is cheap! It is cheap and simple.
“NBT is going to save many lives. We are going to be able to diagnose diseases at very early stage just simply by breathing into a device. That, on its own, is an incredible innovation. It removes all the barriers that exist at this moment in time of going into a doctor’s clinic, of having to draw blood; all those fears are removed instantaneously, just simply by breathing into our NBT device.”- Wesley Baker
ANCON Medical Inc.
+44 779 693 6812
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