Xilis: A Game-Changing Platform That Saves Lives
Cancer is among the deadliest diseases in the world. As the second leading cause of death worldwide, cancer kills over ten million people annually. Despite all breakthrough advances in treating it, the cure for cancer is yet to be discovered.
As renowned scientists are still trying to dig deeper for answers, more and more targeted treatments are on the rise.
Putting an end to this almost aimless search and offering a possible solution is Xiling Shen and his dedicated platform - Xilis! Xiling Shen developed Xilis not out of joy, but need.
He first learned the importance of proper cancer treatments when he lost a family member to the disease. Longing to deliver a silent promise to cancer patients worldwide, Xilling’s platform relies on smart technologies in determining precision therapy for countless cancer patients and even accelerating cancer drug discoveries.
From a painful personal experience to a personalized platform used on a global scale, Xiling’s medical mission is the revolution thousands of cancer patients have been waiting for.
The Boy Who Loves Medicine
Born in the 70s, Xiling Shen roots from your average Chinese family. His mother's burning desire to see her son become a doctor started reflecting on him ever since a young age. With her help, Xiling learned the basics of medicine after finishing elementary school classes for the day. In no time, Xiling not only acquired the medical knowledge his peers could dream of, but he also realized his future profession lied with medicine.
Sadly, a tragic event that happened during his high school years shattered his life. Suddenly, the dream of a promising medical future seemed distant and impossible to achieve.
Namely, Xiling’s loving uncle-in-law felt suddenly ill. For over four months, the man was misdiagnosed with pneumonia, and it took doctors a while before they noticed the fast- spreading cancer eating away at his lungs. Unfortunately, the late diagnosis led to the man’s untimely death, leaving Xiling brokenhearted and desperate for answers.
"How could medicine be so flawed?" Xiling thought in grievance - and it put him on a path.
Seeing his uncle spending his last moments clinging to life was a burden Xiling couldn't bear at the time. Shortly after his uncle’s death, Xiling told his mother that he could never face such pain again, and quickly abandoned his dream of becoming a physician.
Enrolling in college, Xiling chose to deal with machines rather than going through another emotional turmoil. Four years later, he acquired an electrical engineering bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, with no medical aspirations to be seen.
A Doctor To Be
Early in 2005, Xiling obtained his Ph.D. whilst parallelly working as an electrical engineer. During this time, yet another event turned his life upside-down - his advisor was diagnosed with kidney cancer. However, as luck would have it, a timely diagnosis helped save his life.
For Xiling's future, this moment was crucial, because Xiling realized the number of lives that could be saved by properly tending to patients. It was at this time when Xiling first started wondering how both his acquired and early knowledge could serve a distinguished medical purpose. Before you know it, he began modeling biological circuits using engineering tools, combining the best of both worlds with one sole vision in mind - to help cancer patients in need!
Surprisingly, he found that seemingly uninteresting features within those circuits are crucial for proper human functioning. If these circuits were malfunctioning, things could easily go wrong in diagnosing and treating patients.
Diving deeper into biology he was unaware that he set the foundation of what was going to become a pioneering company that fights cancer with all its might.
By 2009, Xiling was ready to pass the knowledge to others, so he redirected his career yet again, this time teaching electrical engineering at Cornell University. Nevertheless, the young professor was equally passionate about biological circuits as he was about engineering.
Especially intrigued by the regulation of biological processes on the cell cycle, in the years that followed, Xiling started giving speeches on the topic, which is about the time he was also approached by a clinical geneticist specializing in colorectal cancer. After sharing several drinks and an elaborate conversation, Xiling became even more adamant in discovering a way to fix biological circuits that malfunctioned in patients.
Holding a paper from Hans Clever's lab, Xiling exhausted an article describing how a completely new technology called 3D organoids could potentially help manipulate primary patient tissues.
The technology could study everything from the interaction of new cells to the different drugs used in eradicating various diseases. Additionally, Xiling and the team had perfected a technique for growing tiny versions of internal organs for research, opening new doors to smart cancer treatment based on the simplest biological processes.
This was also a time when new gene-editing and genomic sequencing technologies were improving in the blink of an eye. This made all previous struggles scientists faced in solving abnormalities much easier and more attainable. Thanks to the newest technology, Xiling could finally study patients breaking down circuits at the DNA level.
It then struck Xiling that people can make error-free genomic measurements today, using an enormous quantity of living tissue samples. In other words, this technology would bring the precision of medicine and essential biological data in one unified concept promising great results.
Although Xiling hadn't realized that he was a step closer to founding his first start-up, he pursued his dream passionately because of the sheer idea of saving human lives. However, what he lacked was a crucial element to help him realize his dream.
In 2015, Xiling took yet another career path, as an associate professor at Duke University. While teaching computational biology at the department for biomedical
engineering, he met a person that would soon lend a helping hand in bringing his dream to life. Dr. David Hsu was a professor and researcher at Duke University who eagerly shared Xiling’s vision. Armed with an idea, the two professors teamed up to advance Hans Clevers technology from its core. Initially, they decided to cultivate and sustain patients' tumors to help doctors find the right treatment for all cancer types and variations.
When their first clinical trials surfaced, the duo realized that the results were far better than expected. With such promising results, the pair decided to open a company that could solve the same issues. Even so, the twosome first needed to raise enough funds to speed up the process of saving cancer patients worldwide.
To give life to the idea, Xiling and David raised a ravishing $3 million in seed funding from Felicis Ventures in 2019. The same year, Xilis was founded.
While most would turn to spend and doubling their assets, Xiling and David decided to use their fundraised money to buy the necessary apparatus and employ a solid staff base. From there on, the duo was onto reaching the greatest of medical heights, occasionally looking back at just how far they had come.
Xilis Fights Cancer
Today, Xilis is revolutionizing precision medicine by developing the first micro-organoid technology platform. Xilis’ miniature-organoids are thirty times as fast, saving three hundred times the lives, compared to regular organoids formerly used in the industry.
Xilis uses these micro-organoids to create 3D models of a patient's tumor in a week’s time. Once the data is collected, it is used to carry out a drug compatibility test.
The company’s headquarters reside in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with the platform’s extension, XilisμO, allowing prompt diagnostics, patient-derived models, and individualized drug screening for easier patient treatment and symptom recognition.
Despite the fact that cancer remains predominantly incurable, the Xilis team is fighting against all their might. The company is still very much in-bloom all the while making valuable promises to patients worldwide. Even though the company is only celebrating its second birthday, the progress it has made thus far is beyond monumental and ultimately takes a
massive, decade-in-the-making burden off the shoulders of researchers - all for the greater good of humankind!