Vladimir Savanovich is the Co-Founder, Chief Innovation and Investment Officer, Automation and Robotics Director of ARNA Genomics https://arna.bio/. Also the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation and Investment Officer of Awesom Energy B.V. In this interview with TechBullion, Vladimir Savanovich gives us an innovator’s insight into the effects of cancer, its devastating consequences and the need for breakthrough cancer detection technologies available at ARNA Genomics to save lives. He also explains how a solid-state battery technology from Awesom Energy B.V. is disrupting the sustainable power industry.
Please tell us your name, about you and your background as an innovator?
I am Vladimir Savanovich, a co-Founder and early-stage Investor in ARNA Genomics (founded 2012) and Awesom Energy B.V. (founded 2015). Initially a scientist in experimental plasma physics for a decade, I shifted my focus to applying scientific knowledge in high-tech and biotech projects. In the pure science phase, I pioneered distant robotics labs in experimental physics for distant education and developed an innovative X-Ray source using gyromagnetic electron cyclotron resonance.
Beyond science, I’ve ventured into business, working for an international consulting firm and a prominent US measurement and automation company. My role in creating successful large-scale infrastructure projects equipped me with valuable international business acumen, insights into government decision-making, and collaboration with influential figures.
While transitioning to a Managing Director position in a Swiss investment fund, I prepared to invest in infrastructure and high-tech projects, culminating in a substantial investment in a US geological high-tech company incorporating AI.
In the realm of international business, innovation, and investment, my expertise significantly contributed to ARNA Genomics’ success. My experience spans fundraising, company management, due diligence for high-tech projects, and fostering collaborations with foreign partners. This has been crucial to ARNA Genomics’ growth and validation of its technology over the past decade.
Similar strategic insight drove the establishment of Awesom Energy, where my scientific and business expertise led to the identification and subsequent establishment of a solid-state battery technology in a partnership in the Netherlands with Dmitriy Grigoriev. Prior to this, I due-dilled numerous scientific high-tech projects that led me to invest in solid-state battery technology.
My journey from plasma physics scientist to entrepreneur in biotech and high-tech has been marked by the creation of game-changing technologies. ARNA Genomics focuses on cancer detection, and through molecular biology support and advanced technology development, we relocated the company to the US in 2018.
At ARNA Genomics, efforts extended beyond investment and business collaboration to support the development of precise scientific measurement DNA fragments and protein detection system based on quantitative PCR and blockchain-based software for trials. Moreover, the full chain automation and robotization system were designed to fulfill technical demands for the human blood test system protocol.
For Awesom Energy, I spearhead business development and oversee the implementation of cutting-edge plasma discharge solid-state battery materials sputtering thin-filmed processes. The technology holds promise in reshaping energy balance, driving IoT, and transforming the handheld device and vehicle industries.
My journey underscores how expertise in both science and business can synergize to bring forth viable and impactful technology.
What is ARNA Genomics and what inspired this business?
Cancer affects nearly every family, often with devastating consequences. In the fight against this disease, two primary approaches have emerged. First, early diagnosis when the cancer is in its early stages, and second, the development of modern treatments, including chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and immunotherapy.
Early detection is critical as cancer becomes the second leading cause of death when diagnosed late. On average, 37 people are diagnosed with cancer every minute, and 80% of cancer-related deaths are due to delayed diagnosis. Recognizing this, in early 2012, a friend approached me with a final idea to create a project focused on early cancer diagnosis using molecular methods. The concept for ARNA Genomics had been brewing since 2003 when a group of university students, including the project’s founders, discussed leveraging technology developed by a friend’s father. He had spent over a decade researching methylation-based tests in the USA at institutions like Northwestern University and Rush University.
In late 2012, we decided to launch ARNA Genomics with a mission to save lives from cancer. We drew inspiration from successful projects in the USA, like Exact Sciences, known for its colon cancer DNA test, which by 2023, achieved annual revenues of US$2,3 billion and a capitalization of over US$14 billion.
Returning from the USA, our friend’s father introduced a ground-breaking technology to detect free tumor DNA fragments in a patient’s blood, eliminating the need for prior isolation. This innovation led to the development of ARNA (Analysis of Ratio of Nucleic Acids) and the establishment of ARNA Genomics.
The project’s focus evolved to create a specific test for breast cancer, recognizing the humanitarian need for early-stage diagnostics in this challenging and diverse disease group. We built a laboratory in Moscow and worked with a vast collection of blood samples, investing personal resources in the scientific lab, reagents, and clinical trials, which proved to be a substantial cost and time-consuming effort.
Starting this endeavor, we had no idea about the complexities involved, and it has been an unforgettable journey. Each blood sample for research costs at least $200, and obtaining thousands of samples, unique tubes, and consumables added to the challenge.
In summary, the quest to advance early cancer diagnosis and save lives from this formidable disease has been a demanding but worthwhile journey.
Could you give us a walkthrough of your breakthrough cancer detection technologies at ARNA Genomics, how does this work, what impacts you are making, your progress and success stories so far?
The technology developed by ARNA Genomics possesses a significant advantage over its competitors due to the absence of loss of initial quantities and ratios of DNA fragments and proteins in a single sample of patients’ blood plasma. This technology can work with individual DNA fragments and determine their initial quantities per unit volume, allowing for precise differentiation between patients without malignant oncology and those with oncology.
Starting in 2017, ARNA Genomics expanded its technology lineup to include the identification of cancer-specific proteins and their interactions, which occur and significantly increase during the breakdown and viability of tumor cells. This unified approach to diagnosis, known as multi-omics, combines the analysis of the genome and proteome. By combining these two technologies, the company achieves a high level of accuracy, exceeding 90%, which was the founding goal of the company. The markers are selected using a proprietary gene search and selection technology, comparing plasma DNA from healthy and breast cancer patients of major biological subtypes, including Luminal A, Luminal B, HER2/neu, and Triple Negative. These selected genes and enzymatic activity are protected by a know-how regime and are part of the company’s intellectual property.
Based on internal trials, exceptional results were obtained, which led to formal clinical trials. The most recent clinical trial yielded outstanding results. Out of 80 samples (44 healthy and 36 from patients), the sensitivity was 100% (confidence interval 0.99), indicating that the combined test correctly identified all patients with confirmed cancer. The specificity was 85% (confidence interval 0.99), meaning the test only misclassified 15% of healthy patients as sick, resulting in false positives.
These precise results have inspired ARNA Genomics to expand into international markets, with a primary focus on China, Europe, and the USA. The company possesses various techniques for working with human blood plasma and classical devices utilized in a unique manner. The protection of intellectual property has been a top priority. An invitation from Medical Valley in Erlangen, Bavaria, Germany, provided access to laboratory space and experts in test registration within the European Union. Moreover, the company attracted Dr. Charles R. Cantor, a prominent molecular biologist, as an investor and advisor, and Dr. Takeshi Sano joined the team as our US scientific Director. Western evaluation and clinical trials in the United States are planned for 2024, with the company having established a laboratory near Los Angeles.
The project has undergone a significant transformation since its inception. Biotechnology, in particular, is a challenging endeavor. While our early optimism was uplifting, it was eventually met with the stark reality that making a business out of scientific discoveries is an incredibly demanding task. Building a biotech startup is one of the most difficult undertakings. Failures have been instrumental in our growth, and in the realm of biotech, they are abundant. Dealing with particles that are invisible, attempting to comprehend what’s happening, and why results can sometimes be excellent while other times nonsensical, has taught us to appreciate working with tangible objects. Plasma physics, which I had previously worked on, had clear principles governed by quantum mechanics, unlike the complex nature of human blood plasma, which consists of various cell fragments, DNA, and proteins, making it a far more challenging pursuit.
Nevertheless, we have remained steadfast in our belief in the work we are doing, having traversed a decade-long journey. Mistakes were inevitable, and they came in various forms, primarily technological and managerial. However, these mistakes are typical for any entrepreneur.
As a result of our research efforts, the company developed new tools for expediting technology development, such as an automated technological process and equipment for streamlined test production with minimal human involvement, a system for real-time PCR measurement of protein fragment parameters, a sample preparation and storage system, and a laboratory information system (LIMS). This extensive work led to the creation of ARNA Robotics, a branch headed by me as the Director.
After completing clinical trials in the United States, the ARNA Genomics team plans to launch a large-scale rollout of the tests in the United States and initiate certification of the test within the European Union. The company also intends to independently develop and establish cancer test services in Western jurisdictions while forming joint ventures with major players in Asian markets.
The global liquid biopsy market is driven by increasing prevalence of cancer, could you give us more insight into this market and the trends shaping the industry?
Liquid biopsy offers a non-invasive alternative to traditional solid biopsies performed during surgery, followed by histological and immunohistochemical studies. It allows physicians to gather a wealth of information about a tumor using a simple blood sample. This sample can reveal traces of cancer cell DNA, free extracellular DNA, cancer cells, cancer tumor proteins, and extracellular vesicles found in human fluids like blood, urine, saliva, and tears. This information not only confirms the presence of a tumor but also provides insights into the most effective treatment for a particular patient.
The global liquid biopsy market is primarily driven by the increasing prevalence of cancer worldwide and growing awareness about non-invasive treatment options. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s GLOBOCAN 2020 report, there were approximately 19.3 million new cancer cases and around 10 million cancer-related deaths in 2020. Breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer, with about 2.3 million new cases yearly, followed by lung, colorectal, and prostate cancers. Cancer ranks as the second leading cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization.
Liquid biopsy technology offers several advantages, including rapid results, affordability, early prognosis, the ability to address tumor heterogeneity, minimal risk, and non-invasiveness. These advantages are making liquid biopsy increasingly popular among patients and are expected to drive its demand in the future.
Tissue biopsy for cancer diagnosis has drawbacks, such as time-consuming testing, invasiveness, and high costs. Liquid biopsy presents a non-invasive method for detecting and monitoring cancer in body fluids rather than tumor tissue. It offers an alternative for patients who cannot undergo invasive biopsies and provides additional clinical options like disease prognosis, drug resistance assessment, and drug response prediction.
Liquid biopsy facilitates early cancer detection, continuous tumor monitoring, and clinical prognosis assessment. Advances in technology have boosted the demand for non-invasive diagnostics and treatments, further fueling the demand for liquid biopsy. Market players are making substantial investments in clinical trials to develop innovative diagnostic solutions, contributing significantly to market growth. Despite being in its early stages due to technological complexities, medical system conservatism, and challenges in clinical trials, this field is expected to grow.
The primary technologies employed by global companies fall into three categories: PCR (polymerase chain reaction) at 22%, NGS (new sequencing methods) at 65%, and various other methods at 13%.
According to leading analytical agencies, the global cancer diagnostics market is projected to reach approximately USD 232.7 billion by 2025, with the liquid biopsy market expected to grow from its current USD 4.8 billion to USD 18 billion by 2030. North America represents 46% of the liquid biopsy market, Europe 30%, and other regions make up the remaining 24%.
Liquid biopsy technologies are being developed by over 100 companies worldwide, with some already achieving significant progress while others are in the early stages of development. Major players in this market include Bio-Rad Laboratories, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., Johnson & Johnson, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Illumina Inc., Guardant Health, QIAGEN N.V., Exact Sciences, MDxHealth SA, Biocept Inc., and others.
Currently, there is a global demand for test systems capable of detecting cancer in its early stages with an accuracy rate exceeding 90%.
How is ARNA Genomics leveraging digital technology in your innovations and where do you see the future of the digital economy?
Bitcoin has not only brought about a significant transformation in the global financial landscape but also appears to be making its mark on the healthcare industry. ARNA Genomics, a biotechnology firm, is illustrating the potential of blockchain technology in healthcare through its groundbreaking ARNA Panacea platform.
ARNA Panacea serves as a platform for the analysis and management of clinical trial data, aiding researchers in the collection, storage, and examination of medical trial information. Leveraging blockchain technology, the company has successfully established a comprehensive repository for cancer detection and treatment data from around the globe.
It is widely acknowledged that cryptocurrency technology introduces heightened levels of security, transparency, and data integrity. ARNA Genomics has harnessed these very qualities to create an ecosystem where clinical trial observations and results are accessible to relevant parties worldwide, ensuring that they stay informed about the progress in the battle against cancer.
Equipped with the right tools, ARNA Panacea empowers researchers to maintain their laboratory notes on the blockchain, complete with timestamps and ownership details. This capability fosters easier collaboration among researchers and their teams, allowing them to share ideas and compare findings without concerns of intellectual property theft.
A decentralized, universal repository of clinical trials, diagnostic data, disease progression, patient performance metrics, and more offers invaluable datasets for various analytical and predictive models. These models are indispensable in the realm of cancer research and related studies.
We have seamlessly integrated all the features of ARNA Panacea into our Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS). Currently, we are in the testing phase of this system within our clinical trials and research endeavors. Our LIMS system also utilizes deep learning features to expedite data analysis with higher precision.
Within our team, we are strong proponents of the digital transformation of the world. This conviction has led us to develop two integral components of our technology. The first is a digital system for the gathering, analysis, and provision of consistent and trustworthy information. The second is a fully automated system, where the potential for human error is minimized. We firmly believe in the emergence of a trusted Digital Economy in the future, characterized by an equilibrium system free from human error, underpinned by advanced AI, robotics, ethical considerations, and blockchain technologies.
Tell us more about your breakthrough rechargeable fluoride solid-state battery technology at Awesom Energy, what inspired this innovation and how does it work?
In an era marked by rapid technological advancements, the demand for efficient, secure, and sustainable power sources has never been more pronounced. The primary hurdle in the development of electric vehicles, green energy solutions, and electric aircraft pertains to the creation of electric energy storage devices that are both safe and possess high volumetric energy density and fast charging capabilities. Present-day electric energy storage technologies predominantly rely on Lithium (Li) cells, which, however, face limitations in terms of energy density, charging speed, and safety. Consequently, these batteries fail to fully meet the contemporary requirements of electric vehicles. To tackle these challenges in electric energy storage technologies, it is essential to explore new technological methodologies and materials.
Awesom Energy B.V. has achieved a remarkable milestone in the development of solid-state batteries based on Lanthanum Fluoride, commonly known as Fluoride Ion Batteries (FIB). Fluorine, as the most electronegative element with the highest charge per unit volume, holds the promise of storing a maximum amount of electrical energy. However, the significant challenge in using fluorine lies in its extreme reactivity and explosive nature.
To address safety concerns, the company’s scientists have pioneered a unique class of solid electrode materials specifically engineered to securely bind fluoride ions while allowing for their movement between the solid anode and cathode. Initially designed for applications in high-temperature and high-pressure environments, such as those found in the oil and gas and geothermal industries, these fluoride-based batteries have evolved to offer higher energy density and capacity while being capable of functioning at lower temperatures for more widespread applications.
These solid-state batteries exhibit exceptional durability, with the ability to withstand high temperatures, short circuits, overloads, and other hazardous conditions. They also offer rapid charging capabilities, requiring less than 3 minutes, and their simplified packaging and reduced cost have the potential to eliminate the need for cooling systems in vehicles over the long term. This, in turn, results in a significant reduction in weight, materials, and installation costs for vehicles.
A solid-state battery is composed of a solid electrolyte and electrodes, benefiting from the excellent conductivity of solid materials. This high ionic conductivity minimizes internal resistance, leading to higher energy density, while the resistance to electron flow significantly enhances charge retention. By incorporating fluorine-based metal-ceramic materials that can be easily formed into thin films, the overall capabilities of the system are greatly enhanced. The use of advanced materials and technologies in these solid-state batteries holds the promise of significantly improving the reliability and performance of battery systems.
As a team, we are excited to be developing the appropriate production technology for our inaugural product, the PowerCard format. This innovative format has the potential to seamlessly integrate with various devices, including smartphones. The PowerCard could serve as either a supplementary power source for smartphones or even replace their built-in batteries entirely.
In contrast to chemical and galvanic surface treatments, we utilize a specialized production technology known as Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD). PVD is a process in which a material is evaporated and then condensed to create a thin film coating on an object, often referred to as the substrate. Typically, these coatings are composed of metals or ceramics. In PVD, the evaporation process can be induced using various methods, with High Energy Ion Gun or plasma source being the primary method employed by Impact Coatings. In this method, the coating material is essentially propelled from a target by a plasma. Notably, all PVD processes are conducted within a vacuum environment.
PVD technology is environmentally friendly in several ways. It is a clean and dry process that does not involve the use of hazardous materials, does not generate chemical waste, and does not contaminate water sources. This stands in stark contrast to traditional methods that involve the use of cyanide baths for noble metal coatings and hexavalent chromium for plastic coatings, both of which have raised significant environmental concerns. In this context, PVD complies with all the requirements of environmental legislation and does not necessitate environmental licenses.
I firmly believe that the advancement of solid-state fluoride ion technology has the potential to offer solutions to the challenges humanity faces in electric energy storage and transportation systems. This progress can bring about significant enhancements in electric portable devices, including those in the Internet of Things (IoT), nanorobots, and handheld devices. Furthermore, it can expedite the development of ground and air vehicles and enable the creation of large-scale energy storage systems.
How big is the demand for the solid state battery technology, could you give us an overview of the market and the impact this is making on IoT and mobile devices?
Traditionally, the global solid-state battery market has been categorized based on battery types, including lithium-ion, lead-acid, lithium-metal, nickel-cadmium, and nickel-metal hydride. However, newer entrants such as Pellion Technologies, Sion Power, PolyPlus, Solid Energy Systems, and Ion Storage Systems are actively focusing on the development of lithium-metal batteries. Additionally, a group of companies, such as Sila Nanotechnologies and Ionic Materials, is dedicated to advancing all-solid-state battery technology. Furthermore, nearly every major battery company, including industry leaders like Samsung and LG in Korea, as well as CATL in China, is displaying a strong interest in developing their proprietary solid-state battery technology.
The surging demand for consumer electronics and efficient batteries is a driving force in the solid-state battery market. These batteries are considered safer than conventional ones, as they do not employ flammable liquid electrolytes. Moreover, automotive companies are making substantial investments in the manufacturing of solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, thereby contributing to the global market’s growth. The telecom industry, a significant end-user of solid-state batteries, is expected to expand further due to advancements in wireless technologies. The availability of cost-effective solid-state batteries for a wide range of applications also positively influences the growth of the global solid-state battery market.
Asia Pacific currently dominates the solid-state battery market due to the presence of numerous manufacturers and a large user base in the smartphone and sensor industries. The region is gaining global recognition for its extensive use of these batteries. Prominent players in the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly investing in the technology to enhance performance and design efficiency. China and South Korea are emerging as major manufacturing hubs for solid-state batteries, attracting major technological innovators to shift their production to these regions for better growth prospects, further bolstering the global solid-state battery market.
North America is also a significant consumer and producer of solid-state batteries, benefiting from abundant raw material availability and increasing disposable incomes. Europe is making substantial investments in the development of more efficient solid-state batteries, thereby positively impacting the growth of the global solid-state battery market.
Promising lithium metal cells, when packaged conventionally, have the potential to provide impressive energy densities of 250 Wh/kg or 750 Wh/L. Awesom Energy’s PowerCard, with the capacity to complement or even replace a smartphone’s internal battery, could potentially capture a market niche valued at over 100 billion USD annually. A distinctive feature of Awesom Energy’s fluoride cell technology is its exponential growth in energy density and power with rising temperatures. This characteristic not only ensures the safety of the batteries but also enhances their performance at higher temperatures. Leveraging physical vapor deposition (PVD) technology enables the creation of cells with thinner layers, resulting in superior technical characteristics, including energy density (potentially exceeding 1000+ Wh/L, theoretically up to 5000 Wh/L) and power (surpassing 5C). These technical attributes, coupled with a cost structure of less than $100/kWh for a total production capacity of 35-37 MWh/year, make this technology particularly appealing for sectors such as consumer electronics, transportation, and the IoT industry. The growing prevalence of IoT devices, which consume substantial energy, finds fluoride ion batteries, with their high energy density and safety features, as an ideal power source for these applications.
At what stage of development is your project at Awesom Energy? What are your plans for the future and what do we expect come 2024 and beyond?
Presently, our central focus is on the intricate development of the Production Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) process, which doesn’t yield immediate results. As we conducted trials involving the sputtering of ceramic electrode materials with a thickness of approximately 200 nm per layer, we encountered numerous irregularities in sputtering thickness. It is imperative for us to establish a production process that is not only cost-effective but also economically feasible before entering the market.
Another significant challenge we are actively addressing pertains to achieving suitable welding for cells with extremely thin dimensions. Traditional laser welding machines do not align with our technology, and we are currently in the developmental phase to overcome this obstacle.
Furthermore, we are fully committed to crafting the appropriate casing for our devices. We anticipate that by 2024-2025, we will have successfully surmounted all our technological hurdles and be well-prepared to introduce our flagship product, the PowerCard, to the global market.
To ensure a structured and methodical approach, we have divided our development plan into four distinct phases spanning from 2025 to 2026:
Phase One: PowerCard Prototyping & Experimental Production
Phase Two: PowerCard Pilot Commercial Launch & Establishment of Key Business Alliances
Phase Three: Engineering & Design of Production Capacity
Phase Four: Production Capacity Installation & Automation
Could you tell us about your team and the experts working with you in making positive impacts and changing lives, what makes you the best?
In startups like these, the teams are truly unique, requiring exceptional and even extraordinary abilities, as well as enduring stamina, resilience to stress, and an intrinsic self-motivation. It’s crucial that all team members possess sharp, inquisitive minds that have a thirst for exploring our world. They must also be morally prepared to face significant mistakes and miscalculations while possessing the ability to rectify these errors. Within the team, there should be a balance of strong scientists and innovative entrepreneurs who can effectively articulate and defend their viewpoints.
Furthermore, the team must excel in technical development to create new devices, as there is a constant demand for refining equipment and tools. Proficiency in software development and a solid understanding of mathematics for processing results using statistical methods are also critical, as these factors play a pivotal role in establishing credibility within the professional community. The project team is composed of unique individuals who collectively meet all the requirements of a scientific project, with a clear mission not only to develop technology but also to bring it to market as a product and service.
I have a vast and diverse social network, particularly within the international venture investment community and the science and technology sector. This extensive network has endowed me with significant experience in science, business development, and entrepreneurship. Leveraging my connections and experience, I am adept at identifying viable teams and technologies that hold promise for future success.
My background in teaching, scientific research, and management equips me to assemble the best teams, serving both as an employer and a team member. Working with me can be demanding, but it is undeniably engaging. I continually work on enhancing my personal skills and hold my team to the same high standards. I firmly believe that true leadership entails being both a leader and a peer, rather than merely a boss.
Are there any available opportunities for investment and partnerships you would like to share with us from both ARNA Genomics and Awesom Energy?
Currently, we are well-financed and actively engaged in our work. ARNA Genomics has secured an investor, and we have successfully raised $3.5 million. However, we remain open to potential partnerships. Any additional funding we secure will be allocated to strengthening our scientific team and expanding our efforts in automation and robotization. In addition to developing Breast Cancer tests, we are exploring advancements in detecting other types of cancer, including Stomach Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, and more.
As for Awesom Energy, we are currently using personal funds and plan to seek partners and investors once we have completed the final adjustments to the PVD production process. We are definitely open to establishing new connections with the right partners.
If you have any questions or require further information, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
We extend our best wishes to you in your pursuits in science, business, and personal development, as they play a crucial role in the individual prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.