HAWK Biosystems Speeds Up with the “EIC Accelerator” from the European Commission

With this support, consisting of €2.5 million in grants and up to €4.5 million in equity, the company will introduce a predictive diagnostic test into hospitals to enhance cancer patients’ response to immunotherapies.

  • Located in the Science and Technology Park of Bizkaia, HAWK Biosystems is a deep-tech biotechnology company spun out of Cancer Research UK and the Francis Crick Institute in the United Kingdom, whose mission is to ensure that cancer patients receive the most suitable treatment exactly when they need it.
  • Out of over 1,080 candidate companies from across Europe, HAWK Biosystems is among the only 42 companies that the European Commission’s EIC Accelerator program has selected to receive a total grant of €285 million, in what has been the most competitive funding round in the history of this specialised program for excellent deep-tech start-ups.

About the Project

The project presented by HAWK Biosystems addresses one of the “challenges” launched by the European Innovation Council (EIC) in 2023: the selection of disruptive deep-tech projects focusing on providing “Novel biomarker-based assays to guide personalised cancer treatment“, focusing on the critical goal of identifying whom amongst cancer patients are more likely to benefit from a given treatment (guided treatment). In this context, the main objective of the project presented by Hawk is to provide hospitals and researchers worldwide with a predictive diagnostic test that enables the identification of which cancer patients suffering from solid tumours can best benefit from currently available immunotherapies. This is one of the major challenges of immuno-oncology therapies, innovative therapies with the potential to revolutionise cancer treatment and which work very well in hematologic cancers but have not yet provided satisfactory response rates in solid tumours, which account for 95% of oncologic diseases. This is a very important unmet clinical need currently facing oncology.

With this project, HAWK are specifically targeting immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapies, which represent 90% of all immuno-oncology drugs currently in clinical practice. The current “gold standard” used to guide patient stratification for these therapies, expression levels of the PD-L1 protein within patient biopsies, often proves inadequate. In fact, research conducted by Hawk Biosystems indicates that in cancers such as lung cancer, this incorrect patient stratification could lead to 47% of patients receiving treatments unsuitable for their biological condition. Although clinical authorities such as the US FDA have recently approved other promising alternatives, such as the technique of Tumour Mutational Burden (TMB) analysis, unfortunately, this too has proven ineffective. This lack of adequate methods for guiding treatment contributes to discouraging response rates of patients with solid tumours to ICIs, well below 15% in most of these tumour types. Preliminary clinical validation conducted with Hawk’s diagnostic test, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (of the American Society of Clinical Oncology) in 2023 – one of the highest-impact scientific journal in the field of clinical oncology – indicates that guiding patients to the most suitable treatment for their needs using Hawk’s technique could significantly improve patient response rates to these therapies, potentially amplifying their effectiveness by up to 280%. This approach has a disruptive and direct impact on extending both response rates and survival rates of lung cancer patients, and possibly other solid tumours, offering the promise of transforming cancer care and benefiting patients worldwide.

About the EIC Accelerator

The EIC Accelerator program offers grants of up to €2.5 million to start-ups and SMEs, combined with equity investments through the European Investment Fund ranging from €0.5 to €15+ million. In addition to financial support, all projects benefit from a variety of Business Acceleration Services that provide access to leading expertise, corporates, investors, and ecosystem actors.

Companies can submit their ideas to the EIC Accelerator at any time, which are evaluated within a period of 4 to 6 weeks. So far, more than ten thousand start-ups have submitted ideas since the launch of the EIC in 2021. For ideas that meet the EIC criteria regarding excellence, impact, and level of risk, companies are invited to prepare full applications to submit them on one of the regular cut-off dates.

This year, a new set of 42 companies has been selected to receive funding from the European Innovation Council (EIC), combining grants and equity, following the latest deadline of the EIC Accelerator in November 2023.

As part of this highly competitive process, from the 1082 company proposals, 242 companies were interviewed by panels of experienced scientists, investors, and entrepreneurs, with only 42 companies being selected to receive funding.

Share this post

Skip to content