The first application is detecting residual disease in head and neck cancer patients immediately after surgery. Earlier and more sensitive residual disease detection enables tailored patient-specific follow-up treatment to reduce cancer recurrence. The financing was led by The Engine, the venture firm spun out of MIT that invests in early-stage Tough Tech companies.

“The founders identified a new, important frontier in medicine based on their deep understanding and research into the challenges of treating cancer"

Droplet was founded in 2021 by CEO Theresa Tribble and Stan Lapidus, along with scientific co-founders Jose P. Zevallos, MD, MPH, Eugene N. Myers M.D. Chair of Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, and Aadel Chaudhuri, MD, PhD, a leading liquid biopsy researcher and assistant professor of cancer biology, radiation oncology, genetics, computer science, and biomedical engineering at the Washington University in St. Louis. With backgrounds in diagnostics, surgery, oncology, and genomics, the founding team is combining its hands-on patient experience with breakthrough science to unlock the potential of an enriched biofluid.

“Droplet’s mission is to dramatically improve patient outcomes by leveraging the unique and vital features of lymphatic fluid,” said co-founder and CEO Theresa Tribble. “Lymph is a minimally explored scientific frontier that can transform the way we identify recurrence risk. Droplet technology will significantly improve on blood-based monitoring diagnostics by aiding clinicians at the most consequential treatment decision point. Additionally, we see massive potential for the lymphatic data coming out of our research to generate new approaches to patient selection and treatment response.”

Wendy Winckler, PhD, Droplet’s Chief Scientific Officer added, “The lymphatic system is the most common route of metastasis in over 90% of cancer cases. As the most proximal biofluid to a recently resected tumor, the lymph contained in surgical drain fluid offers critical information for assessing metastatic risk at the source of potential spread – before it can travel to other parts of the body. Because Droplet’s test takes place immediately after surgery, the results can aid clinicians in adjuvant treatment decisions, unlike blood-based liquid biopsies that can take weeks or even months to identify recurrence risk.”

“The founders identified a new, important frontier in medicine based on their deep understanding and research into the challenges of treating cancer,” said Ann DeWitt, General Partner at The Engine. “We are thrilled to support this team with an equally impressive track record of bringing transformative diagnostics to market.”

Fueled by increasing cancer rates, advances in sequencing technology, and demand for earlier, non-invasive monitoring across the patient journey, the liquid biopsy market is expected to accelerate significantly over the next decade, with annual growth rates ranging from 12% to 23%. Droplet’s diagnostic approach is differentiated from current products in the liquid biopsy market because it will deliver earlier and more sensitive results compared to existing blood-based assays.