Program 2

Novel diagnostic for pre-cancers in the colon

The incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) is rising, particularly in young people. The current standard-of-care for CRC prevention, colonoscopy, requires significant pre-procedure preparation, a physician visit, and an endoscopy team. Moreover, the colonoscopy miss rate for small, precancerous lesions is unacceptably high. Inconvenience and lack of easy access lead many at risk people to defer screening colonoscopy in the USA and presents an increased challenge in the developing world. The standard-of-care “non-invasive” CRC tests use PCR to detect common DNA rearrangements, RNA expression profiles, and/or epigenetic changes to detect CRC. While effective at detecting fully developed cancer, these tests have poor sensitivity for pre-cancerous lesions.


Microbial Machines has engineered a probiotic bacterial strain capable of specific binding to early pre-cancerous lesions but not adjacent normal tissue in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Upon binding, the bacteria enter pre-cancerous cells and deliver DNA, RNA, and/or protein payloads allowing for expression of genes delivered from bacteria to dysplastic cells. Upon entry into dysplastic cells, these payloads can then lead to the production of a signal easily detectable in feces, blood, or urine to act as a marker for pre-cancerous lesions.