Cancer diagnosis startup raises funds via Skolkovo investment service

UNIM, a resident startup of the Skolkovo Foundation’s biomed cluster that provides remote cancer diagnosis services, has raised investment from Medme, a strategic investor on the digital medicine market. Under the terms of the deal, the details of which are not being disclosed, Medme has become a shareholder of UNIM, which is valued at $2 million. The investment deal was concluded with the participation of the Skolkovo Foundation’s investment service.

UNIM uses Digital Pathology to make digital slides that can be examined by doctors anywhere in the world. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

UNIM uses Digital Pathology – the conversion of glass slides into digital slides – to allow patients to obtain a histological, immunohistochemical or molecular analysis of their tumour and consultation on treatment and rehabilitation from the top specialists in their field, regardless of the patient’s location and without the need to travel to another city or abroad. It was the first company in Russia to introduce Digital Pathology to the field of cancer diagnosis.

“We believe the field of remote interpretation and diagnosis is a highly promising one,” said Ilya Slutsky, a managing partner at Medme. “Today, histological and immunohistochemical research is the only definitive diagnosis method in the world. At the same time, in many areas, and not only in Russia, there is a huge deficit of pathologists and specialists. UNIM’s service helps to solve this problem.”

A full analysis of the tumour is used to determine the most effective form of treatment for the cancer, from chemotherapy and radiation treatment to surgery. In Russia, the remote cancer diagnosis system devised by UNIM is used by 10 federal and regional cancer centres. UNIM’s principle is that several specialists examine the materials, and if they cannot agree on a diagnosis, specialists in Europe and the U.S. are consulted at no extra cost to the patient. The Digital Pathology system is used by 1,400 specialists, having more than doubled in size last year, in countries including Russia, the U.S., U.K. and Germany. 

The global digital health market's value is estimated at trillions of dollars over the next 10 years.

“We haven’t just developed a good product, we’re managed to introduce new technologies into the process of diagnosing cancers, which is much more difficult,” said Alexei Remez, founder and CEO of UNIM.

“Together with our new partner, we’ve set ourselves the ambitious and interesting mission of becoming a leader on the cancer diagnosis market in Russia and of introducing digital technologies into the process of making cancer diagnoses,” he said.

UNIM became a resident of the Skolkovo Foundation in 2015 after winning the diagnosis systems category of the OncoBioMed competition jointly organised by the foundation and the Federal Agency of Scientific Organisations. The startup was awarded prize money to develop its technology.

“In 2016, UNIM made it through to the final of the [Skolkovo Foundation’s annual] Startup Village, and we’re really pleased now that the project is attracting funding from a strategic investor,” said Vera Rybko, a project manager within Skolkovo’s biomed cluster.

“We hope that future support from Skolkovo and Medme will help with UNIM’s further development,” she added.

Medme works with innovative digital health clusters in Russia, Italy, France, Poland and other countries to develop the field and create points of growth on the global digital health market, whose potential value is estimated at trillions of dollars over the next 10 years.

UNIM is also backed by the Internet Initiatives Development Fund, a state-backed venture capital firm. In the past year, the medical startup has increased its revenues by 150 percent.