ATLANTA – A new Metro Atlanta bio-tech firm is working on a better way to diagnose cancer. The founders are two teenagers, who are still in college.
Channel 2’s Wendy Corona talked to them about how a personal experience led to the company’s creation.
The two teenagers, who are best friends, started DiaScan.
They got the idea after one of them did an internship at the National Cancer Institute and the other’s father was diagnosed with a tumor.
“He had a tumor on his forehead and he basically, how they found it, he had a very serious case of vertigo,” said Sanjit Kumar, DiaScan’s CEO.
When doctors found that tumor, he realized something important.
“Overall, I realized that health is the most important thing in the world,” Sanjit said.
Sanjit said it took doctors about eight months to analyze a series of CT scans and MRI’s to determine his father’s tumor was benign.
Around the same time, his friend, Santhosh Subramanian, was doing an internship at the National Cancer Institute. Santhosh came across a research paper that found when radiologists diagnose lung cancer, they run a 96 percent false positive rate.
“That means like 96 percent of the time the radiologist will say, ‘Oh, your lung cancer is malignant,’ but 96 percent of the time it’s benign,” Santhosh said.
The two decided they wanted to do something about the long lag time between finding a tumor and determining if it is cancerous.
“We don’t want anyone to go through unnecessary follow up procedures if they don’t have to,” Sanjit said.
So they started DiaScan. They created a risk-assessment tool that analyzes CT scans with both benign and malignant lung tumors.
“It looks at past data. It’s able to convert pictures as numbers and essentially what it’s able to do is find these patterns throughout a huge data set and match it,” Sanjit said.
But Sanjit isn’t your typical CEO. He’s studying computer engineering at Georgia Tech. He does most of his work for DiaScan on his laptop in his dorm room.
Sanjit said it’s tricky balancing DiaScan with school.
“Lack of sleep, that’s the best way to put it. I really love my social life, extracurriculars as well. I hope to do a lot of other stuff too,” Sanjit said.
Santhosh is DiaScan’s Chief Technology Officer.
“So we create the algorithm that does most of the work so that we create the algorithm to isolate the tumor from the CT scans itself,” Santhosh said.
Santhosh attends the University of California, Berkeley.
“I was taking a computer science class, a math class, a statistics class, and an English class. And the classes are really interesting,” Santhosh said.
DiaScan is gearing up to raise a new round of funding from investors this summer.
“It will be a big round. We’re thinking from $500,000 to over $1 million,” Sanjit said.
Sanjit and Santhosh know it likely won’t be easy, but they are determined to launch their technology to help people diagnosed with tumors.
“I’ve seen what cancer does to people. It’s really important for people to do something about it. Otherwise it’s just going to take over peoples’ lives,” Santhosh said.
“The best way to say it, Thomas Payne, the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph,” Sanjit said.
Sanjit and Santhosh plan to work on DiaScan full-time over the summer. They’re not sure when they will launch their product.