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An SEngine Precision Medicine employee in the company’s lab. (SEngine Precision Medicine Photo)

Every patient’s cancer is unique and every patient responds to cancer drugs differently. But right now, all patients with the same kind of cancer are treated with the same drugs.

SEngine Precision Medicine is hoping to change that with new platform, called PARIS, that grows and analyzes a patient’s cancer cells to figure out which drugs will work best for them.

Wednesday, the startup and its research partners — Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Portland’s Oregon Health and Science University — got a $3.1 million boost to bring that tech from the research lab into hospitals around the country.

The funding comes from the National Institutes of Health and will help the three organizations conduct studies to commercialize the PARIS test over the next five years. SEngine will receive a total of $755,000 funding over that period of time.

SEngine CEO and former Fred Hutch researcher Carla Grandori. (SEngine Photo)

“The goal of this grant is to make the testing broadly available to patients and the oncologists who treat them throughout the United States,” SEngine Founder and CEO Dr. Carla Grandori said in a press release. “We arrived at this point only with the collaborative effort involving teams at the Fred Hutch, as well as Seattle Cancer Care Alliance oncologists, Providence Health Services, and Dr. Brian Druker at OHSU.”

SEngine spun out of Fred Hutch in 2015 and its leadership team includes several former or current Fred Hutch researchers, including Grandori.

PARIS uses a robotic system to grow a patient’s cancer cells in a lab — effectively creating a tumor in a petri dish  — and then find its genetic weak points. The company says the test can provide tailored cancer drug recommendations for 70 percent of patients, versus the 10 percent of patients who can get personalized recommendations by simply sequencing their DNA. OHSU uses a modified version of the system to analyze blood cancers, which do not form solid tumors.

The startup has used the PARIS test on more than 150 patient samples to date, publishing several studies on the results. SEngine and its research partners will now move into more thorough trials, gathering data needed to get approval for the Centers for Medicare and Medicade Services to cover the cost of using the system.

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