Deborah Zanforlin
Forming a Cancer Diagnostics Venture at the Bootcamp

For Deborah Zanforlin, the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp was the missing piece to her puzzle. Before Deborah won a scholarship to the Bootcamp, she had had spent six years in biosensor engineering research.  In fact, much of her professional experience till then was in research. “I spent all my life in the academic world and now I wanted to do more for people. I wanted to commercialize my research,” says Deborah. “I had no knowledge on entrepreneurship, so I went to the Bootcamp to learn how to start a business and the keys to creating a successful one.”

But the Bootcamp proved to be more than that.  Deborah was passionate about a technology for cancer diagnostics that she had developed.  But she didn’t have the knowledge for commercializing it.  What’s more, she didn’t have a team.  At the Bootcamp she found four other Bootcampers who were similarly passionate about solving cancer.  Together they formed ConquerX with Deborah as the CEO.

Minimally invasive, the ConquerX diagnostics platform can detect as many as 18 types of cancer from a single blood test, long before tumor cells appear on standard testing.  It is also a cost-effective diagnostic, one third of the cost of traditional options, making it an easy solution for customers from all walks of life.  “I arrived at the Bootcamp with the idea for my company, and I left with an amazing team and the knowledge I needed to start a company,” shares Deborah.

The ConquerX contined working together after the Bootcamp. In the beginning, there were five teammates devoted to the project. “We were all of different ages and different cultures. We had one person in Slovakia, one in Brazil, one in Spain, and two in the United States. We also had different goals,” explains Zanforlin. Despite the distance between them, they kept the project going for another year.  Eventually, however, differences in personal goals and the willingness to sacrifice for the company came full center. Now there are only two full-time members from Deborah’s original team left in the company.

“The process showed me the importance of having common goals, even when you are at different stages of your lives,” says Deborah.  But her persistence paid off. Deborah relaunched ConquerX with the remaining members and moved to Boston after getting into the startup accelerator MassChallenge.  ConquerX has built a prototype and is forging its path to future clinical trials.

“I arrived to the MIT Bootcamp as a scientist and left as an entrepreneur,” remembers Deborah.  “The Bootcamp taught me important lessons about what makes a business works.  I found my team in the Bootcamp and joined a huge, international network that makes innovation possible. ”
How can the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp shape your future? Find out more about the program and apply today.