Caldera Health is an Auckland-based biotechnology company founded in 2009 to develop highly accurate and non-invasive prostate cancer diagnostic and prognostic tests.
It was formed by Dr Jim Watson and Dr Richard Forster while fighting their individual personal battles with prostate cancer. They were both victims to flaws with the industry standard PSA test, and diagnosis came at a late stage when their cancers had already metastasised. As scientists, they realised they were in a unique position to contribute to research and development efforts to meet unmet clinical needs in prostate cancer diagnosis.
Clare Elton is the Chief Technology Officer for Caldera Health. She is a molecular biologist and a graduate of the University of Auckland.
“My focus is on integrating new methods and technologies such as robotics, troubleshooting issues and managing workflows for clinical studies,” she says.
Caldera has identified RNA biomarkers that form a gene signature for prostate cancer and is developing tests to enable both diagnosis and prognosis of the disease.
“We’ve conducted several clinical studies that have validated our novel methodologies, and gene signatures in biopsy tissue. Our current clinical study addresses the aim of a non-invasive test using urine where we are testing for a unique gene signature for prostate cancer in RNA in extracellular vesicles.”
Donor urine samples collected from seven sites across New Zealand and Australia are being compared with the donors’ prostate biopsy results in a 300-patient study. Caldera currently has interim clinical results from 200 patients and will complete the study by the end of 2018.
A strong intellectual property portfolio is being built around the technology to protect the test and future applications.
“The next step with our urine biomarker test is to gain further investment and a commercial partner to complete our development journey. Our expertise in liquid biopsy biomarker development offers the potential to apply the same approach to other urological cancers and conditions of the renal tract,” says Clare.
“As with all science, our journey at Caldera has been an exciting one as we have grown our knowledge and met various challenges to develop an elegant solution to a complex problem that has the potential to change life outcomes.
“We have a great team at Caldera who are dedicated and innovative. For me, the real-life stories of our founders and donors fuel my desire to succeed and make a real difference in the early detection of prostate cancer,” says Clare.
By Prue Scott