Diagnostic Blood Testing Device

Company Information



Medical Devices & Equipment


Laredo, TX

Delee has created the CytoCatch, a blood-testing device for the early diagnosis of cancer and treatment monitoring.

This device isolates what are called circulating tumor cells, or “CTCs,” from the blood. According to Market Research Future, by 2023, the global market for analyzing CTCs is projected to reach $28 billion.

Unlike other devices, CytoCatch possesses the required sensitivity and specificity needed to analyze the CTC’s genetic features and biomarkers. This facilitates the early detection of cancer and enables physicians to create personalized treatments.

Delee has received more than $1.3 million in funding from investors including Y Combinator, a prominent startup accelerator. The company has already clinically validated a prototype of its CytoCatch device. It now aims to receive FDA clearance, and launch its device commercially, in 2023.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2040, an estimated 30 million people will be diagnosed with cancer around the world. More than 16 million of this group will die of the disease.

A main reason cancer has such a high mortality rate is the lack of clinical tests with sufficient ability to enable a timely diagnosis of the illness. Furthermore, a scarcity of technological resources that provide effective monitoring of treatments significantly reduces patients’ chances at survival.

However, the isolation of CTCs from the blood is a way to address these issues.

For most types of cancer, when a person develops a tumor, even if it hasn’t spread yet, it releases malignant cells into the bloodstream. These are the CTCs that play a key role in establishing metastasis in other organs.

Recently, it’s been demonstrated that CTCs can be isolated from the blood, allowing for their analysis. However, isolating these cells is a technical challenge due to their rareness.

For example, there are more than 37 billion cells in just 7 ml of blood, but often, just one of them might be a tumor cell. Finding this single cell is the equivalent of identifying one person within the population of five Earths.

Current cell-sorting methods (including flow cytometry and density gradient centrifugation) don’t have sufficient sensitivity and specificity to isolate CTCs. These methods would need to be 100x more sensitive to be effective.

Even the CellSearch system, considered the “gold standard” when it comes to CTC technologies, relies on the existence of specific proteins on the cell membrane to capture CTCs. However, cancer cells often undergo a process where these proteins are downregulated, limiting the capture of them.

Delee’s technology, in contrast, isolates CTCs regardless of the level of proteins expressed on their membranes. This enables its device to capture cells other technologies can’t.

Here’s how Delee’s CytoCatch system works:

Once a blood sample has been extracted using conventional methods, CytoCatch isolates the CTCs by implementing micromanipulation techniques.

Next, the captured CTC cells are stained with fluorescent antibodies in order to distinguish them from other components of the blood sample.

From there, the system’s integrated imaging system, which possesses Artificial Intelligence-based algorithms, analyzes the malignant cells based on their morphology.

Finally, a report is drafted with the results and given to the patient’s physician.

The bottom line is that Delee’s CytoCatch system:

• Allows for the personalization and optimization of cancer treatments.

• Reduces costs and side effects associated with inefficient treatments.

• And increases the patient’s chances of defeating the disease.

Delee will initially target four primary types of cancer: prostate, breast, lung, and colorectal. These are responsible for 40% of new cancer cases worldwide.

Clinical evidence has already shown CTCs to be a powerful biomarker for these types of cancer, as well as cervical, melanoma, and ovarian cancers, too.

In Q3 2018, Delee created a fully automated prototype of its CytoCatch device. In Q4 2018, the company implemented its AI algorithms into the system.

More recently, Delee achieved preliminary clinical validation of its prototype with blood samples from prostate cancer patients, and met with a consulting firm to establish a clear pathway to securing FDA clearance.

Additionally, the company has received $1.4 million in pre-sales for its device, and garnered attention from notable research institutions including Harvard and Stanford Universities.

Delee has partnered with Sheppard Mullin, a top intellectual property firm, to develop a strong IP strategy. The company has already submitted patent applications which will encompass its hardware, software, biological products, applications, and data analysis methods.

Moving forward, Delee will finish the commercial version of its CytoCatch in Q3 2020, and launch the device as a research tool for pharma companies and research centers in Q4 2020.

In 2021, the company will complete a Series A funding round, and aim to launch CytoCatch as a medical device for hospitals and laboratories in 2023.

Team Background

Juan Felipe Yee - Co-Founder & COO

Juan has spent more than 10 years developing medical devices and biosensors, and is the co-creator of the CytoCatch device.

Before Delee, he co-founded SEMKA Biomedical Technologies, a biotech research company, during which time he also collaborated with the Biomedical Engineering Group at Monterrey Institute of Technology.

He spent two years before that as a research assistant at Monterrey Institute in the school’s Sensors and Devices Research Group, and began his career as a clinical engineer with the State of Mexico’s Health Services Division.

Juan earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Electronic Engineering from the Monterrey Institute of Technology.

Alejandro Abarca - Co-Founder & CTO

Alejandro has extensive experience developing medical devices.

During his career, he has created a microfluidic device for the isolation of rare cell subpopulations, methods for embedding metal electrodes into thermoplastics, and an automated imaging system to study cellular properties.

Along with Juan, he co-created the CytoCatch system, and worked for Zen Fluidics, a medical company developing microfluidic automation systems for applications in the life sciences, biotech, and chemistry markets.

Liza Velarde - Co-Founder & CEO

Prior to starting Delee, Liza was co-founder & CEO of Zen Fluidics.

Before that, she was a counselor of microbusiness at the Business Incubator program at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, located in Monterrey, Mexico.

In October 2019, Liza was acknowledged as one of the “50 Most Relevant People” transforming Mexico, and was invited to speak on various international panels regarding cancer research and entrepreneurship.

She studied International Business at the University of California, Berkeley and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business from the Monterrey Institute of Technology.

Joost Leeflang - Director

Joost was Senior Vice President of the Central and Eastern European Divisions of Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG), and before that was CEO and General Manager of Philips Electronics’ Healthcare & Consumer Lifestyle Division.

Throughout his career, he has represented the medical imaging and healthcare industries at the European Trade Association, and earned a Master’s degree in Business Economics at the University of Groningen. He also completed an Executive Program in Strategy and Organization at Stanford Business School.


Y Combinator

Seed-stage accelerator whose alumni include Scribd, Reddit, Airbnb, Dropbox and Stripe