New funding for scientists tackling lung disease
Swansea University’s award-winning respiratory diagnostics spin-out company PulmonIR Ltd has won a prestigious Innovate UK Investment Accelerator grant worth £105,000.
The company which focuses on detecting and monitoring lung disease will use the funding to carry out further product development work before running extended clinical trials and securing regulatory approvals for its medical technology in the UK, EU, USA and China. PulmonIR’s development plans are supported by access to a portfolio of patent applications relating to the use of infrared spectroscopy to diagnose and monitor respiratory conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.
According to the British Lung Foundation, somebody in the UK dies from lung disease every five minutes. The organisation says that these types of illnesses are responsible for more than 700,000 hospital admissions and over six million inpatient bed-days in the UK each year. In economic terms, lung disease in the UK costs a staggering £11 billion a year, with COPD among the costliest condition to manage (£1.9 billion each year).
PulmonIR’s CEO and co-founder, Dr Mark Bowman said, ‘The statistics are stark, but we are making great strides towards improving the picture for people who suffer from a whole range of lung conditions. We’re aiming for quicker diagnoses and for more focused self-management of illnesses so that patients get better long-term outcomes. This approach will also help to ease financial and operational pressures on the NHS.”
In the case of COPD, the company’s objective is to allow patients to self-manage their condition from the comfort of their own home and to enable them to stay as well as possible throughout the year, avoiding lengthy hospital stays that can accompany a sudden worsening of the condition.
The work being undertaken by PulmonIR Ltd is based on more than 10 years of leading-edge research by Professor Paul Lewis, head of the Respiratory Diagnostics Group at Swansea University. Members of Professor Lewis’ team have developed new analytical techniques using infrared spectroscopy to detect changes in the shape of complex sugars present in the sputum produced every day by patients suffering with lung disease. This innovation is set to revolutionise the ability of healthcare practitioners to rapidly diagnose and closely monitor a number of lung conditions, whilst also allowing their patients to have more control over their illness.
In 2016 PulmonIR won the MediWales Start-up Award and also received grant funding from the Welsh Government’s Healthcare Technology and Telehealth Fund that was used to conduct clinical proof of concept studies in collaboration with Professor John Geen and his clinical team at Cwm Taf University Health Board. With future expansion in mind, PulmonIR has assembled an international multidisciplinary team of biologists, engineers, design consultants, software and electronics experts, and specialists in infrared spectroscopy instrumentation that are developing products aimed at the global respiratory diagnostics markets. The company has also taken up residence at the Institute of Life Science in Swansea.
This latest funding from Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency – comes as a boost to the business’ solid financial foundations. PulmonIR has a well-established investor group comprising IP Group plc, the Development Bank of Wales and the Swansea University Innovation Fund. The Innovate UK grant has triggered a further round of co-investment, and further venture capital investment in the business is expected towards the end of 2018 which will support the plans for extended clinical trials.
Dr Bowman said, “We are delighted that PulmonIR has secured this Innovate UK grant and that our investors have chosen to back the business through further investment in our product development plans. It’s great to see this high level of confidence in what we’re doing, and the recognition of the significance of our work to Wales and to the wider world.’
Professor Lewis, CSO and co-founder of PulmonIR, added, “The award of Innovate UK funding and the further investment made in the company will allow us to continue the development of our respiratory diagnostics. I am certain that our efforts will yield products that will greatly improve the lives of patients suffering from potentially fatal respiratory conditions such as COPD.”
Dr Stuart Plant, Investor Director for IP Group plc, said: “IP Group is extremely pleased by the progress being made by PulmonIR and we are delighted to further support the company through continued investment alongside the award of the Innovate UK Investment Accelerator grant.”