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Promising cancer diagnostics tools from Slovakia

Published 08.06.2023

We continue our series of introducing successful Slovak startups. This time, we present MultiplexDX and its CEO, biotechnologist Pavol Čekan.

It is rather unusual to change one's career focus several times. The exceptional person and successful scientist Pavol Čekan did it every five years.

​​​​​​​He switched from protein biochemistry, to nucleic acid chemistry, then RNA biology, molecular pathology and oncology. ​​​​​​​

"It was a natural process, I was not afraid to venture on a new scientific path even though it was difficult," he admits.
"Thanks to this I gained a much wider perspective, an important thing when it comes to the development of new diagnostic tools."

According to Čekan, science chose him and becoming a scientist was the logical conclusion of everything he had inherited from parents and what he learned during his life. He would not have had it any other way, even though a scientific career is very demanding.

He spent ten years in Iceland where he graduated from the University of Iceland, and another ten years in the US, working at Rockefeller University in New York with biochemist Thomas Tuschl, well-known for his RNA research; as well as the prestigious National Cancer Institute in Maryland.

In 2016, while still in the US, Pavol Čekan along with the scientists Peter Kilián and Vladimír Wolf founded the biomedicine startup MultiplexDX. A year later they returned to Slovakia and in 2018 moved the laboratories to the Comenius University Science Park in Bratislava. ​​​​​​​
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​​​​​​​The goal of the company is to improve breast cancer diagnostic tools. According to Čekan, their technology deals with precise and personalised diagnostics, which allow scientists to discover as much as possible about the cancer in a patient’s body in order to know what kind of treatment is necessary. The technology essentially assigns what Čekan calls a "bar code" to each cancer subtype based on RNA biomarkers. His team’s research allows them to increase the accuracy of the diagnosis from 70 to 98 percent.

At the end of 2019, MultiplexDX became the first Slovak company to receive a €2.5 million grant from the European Innovation Council program called EIC Accelerator.

It was a huge success due to being the most-coveted grant among small and medium-sized companies in Europe. More than 2,000 apply for the grant, but only 70 receive it in the end. Čekan explains that his company had to apply ten times to finally get the money and convince the Council that they are capable of delivering.

"This confirms that our research meets high requirements placed on research and development projects worldwide," says Čekan. The money will be used to fund pre-clinical trials as well as test and validate the technology on the archived tissues of patients.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, MultiplexDX developed tests to detect the coronavirus. The company donated a great number of the tests to humanitarian causes and Čekan himself gifted them to the Pope.

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​​​​​​​Pavol Čekan is not just a talented scientist or supports the development of new technology at both the national and international level. He is also an important innovator and visionary. Together with his team he brings forth ideas that make the world a better place.

​​​​​​​Photos: MultiplexDX
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