Founder And Director Of Rarecan Andy Hall

Andy Hall, a fellow Director and Co-Founder of RareCan.

Speeding up and reducing the cost of recruitment for clinical trials, the RareCan platform and bioresource is giving hope to the 70,000 UK individuals diagnosed with rare cancers each year. Here, Founder and Director Simon Allocca speaks to UMi about how the company has evolved from idea to proof of concept in less than a year.

Tell us a bit about your business? When and why was it established, what does it offer and to whom?

RareCan was established in August 2020 to accelerate research into rare cancers.

The founders are a small group of highly motivated people who have direct experience of rare cancers, either as researchers or from a patient perspective.

They are frustrated with the very slow pace of change and lack of research relative to more common cancers, so have created a platform to make it easier for researchers and patients to connect, enabling more research to happen more quickly.

This is an exciting prospect in a space where change is urgently needed.


How has the company developed?

In addition to successfully launching the RareCan platform, we are currently working with a multinational contract research organisation (CRO) to provide tissue samples for pre-clinical trials. With this contract signed, we will then be able to explore opportunities with other similar CROs.

We have also joined up with the Institute of Cancer Research as well as Imperial College London, Birmingham University, Sheffield University and Edinburgh University to support them with tissue collection and storage in a bioresource for medical research.


What’s the business’s USP? 

RareCan brings together patients and researchers to advance the discovery of cures and treatments for rare cancer.

Rarer cancers account for almost a quarter of cancer cases in the UK.  If you are one of the 70,000 people diagnosed with a rare cancer each year, you are 50% more likely to die within five years than if you are diagnosed with one of the ‘big four’ common cancers.              

The problem is recruitment – it is hard to find rare cancer patients. Researchers can spend months ringing around individual oncologists and cancer centres looking for a few needles in multiple haystacks.

This means few patients get the option to enter a trial and fewer trials are done, meaning there are fewer breakthroughs and advances in treatments for rare cancer. 

RareCan has created a platform, populated by willing rare cancer members who offer themselves for medical trials. It puts all willing patients in one place so that researchers can find them in a keystroke. It also curates the data researchers need to reduce the costs and risks of researching rare cancers.


What investment have you sourced for the business and how has this helped you to go further?

We raised our pre-seed funding in November 2020 and since then we have been working on our proof-of-concept projects. These are all progressing well and by the end of summer 2021 we will be in a position to approach seed investors to take the business forward.

From being an idea to proof of concept, it will have taken less than 12 months.

We recognise that in order to be successful, we need to demonstrate that we can generate revenues. The proof of concept demonstrated that we can attract patients to our platform and enter into commercial agreements with both commercial and academic organisations, as well as establishing a bioresource. All of this will provide valuable data and assets as we build out our business model and product offering.

Other than the co-founders, we now have 1.5 full-time equivalent employees. We will be looking to increase this when we are financially able to do so, after the next funding round.


What is the most important thing to remember when applying for funding/investment?

We are looking for social impact investors and therefore funding. We want our investors to make a return, but the most important thing for us is improving the outcome for patients with rare cancer. Our investors need to have the same goal.

Equally, from inception, RareCan has had a focus on being a patient-centric organisation and getting the right balance between business (profits) and doing the right thing (Social Benefit Trust).

In practice, this takes the form of the co-design of our business with our major stakeholders, setting up a Social Benefit Trust to support the wider rare cancer community and having the right level of corporate governance and transparency by preparing the company to become a B-Corp.

We believe that RareCan goes even further than this and that the business meets UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 and specifically target 3.4.


Can you give us an example of an impactful collaboration your business has been involved in? Why has it been a success?

We teamed up with GIST Cancer UK and PAWS GIST support groups to grow our membership.  Support groups are a lifeline to people with a cancer diagnosis. 

Using workshops, virtual meetings and a social media campaign, RareCan and GIST Cancer UK successfully onboarded a fifth of GIST Cancer support group members onto the platform within five months of launching it. 


What has been your company’s greatest achievement?

We have joined up with the Institute of Cancer Research and four NHS trusts to support them with tissue collection and storage in a bioresource for medical research. The tissue collection process will allow us to develop working relationships with multiple NHS trusts and help build our patient membership.

Patient membership will be the driving force behind our ability to introduce patients to clinical trials with the pharmaceutical world.


What is your business’s short and long-term plans?

We are expecting over the next 12 months to have on boarded at least three contract research organisations, as well as signed up patients into clinical trials and significantly grown our team.

Our proof-of-concept work will be completed by mid-summer 2021. Following this, we will be in a position to approach the investor to put in place funding that will support the company for the next 36 months.

We expect to be generating recurring revenues within six months and to fully cover our costs within 24 months.


What sources of information or support (organisations, websites, books, podcasts, videos) would you recommend to other companies considering investment?

We would recommend Iqvia’s ‘Global Oncology Trends 2021.’


Key takeaways

  • RareCan introduces researchers to patients and provides a bioresource, speeding up and reducing the costs of clinical trials so more can be done.
  • Finding investors that share your aims is important – particularly when social impact is a key driver in your business.
  • Find out more about RareCan:


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Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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