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52 North Health makes history as first Macmillan investment





52 North Health has made history by becoming the first-ever investment for Macmillan’s new £3.5m Innovation Impact investment portfolio.

Dr Nikki Weckman, head of product development; Umaima Ahmad, co-founder and CEO; Dr Mireia Crispin-Ortuzar, chief digital officer; and co-founder Dr Saif Ahmad
Dr Nikki Weckman, head of product development; Umaima Ahmad, co-founder and CEO; Dr Mireia Crispin-Ortuzar, chief digital officer; and co-founder Dr Saif Ahmad

The news follows the announcement last month that former University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor and current chair of Cancer Research UK, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, has been appointed non-executive director at the Hauser Forum-based company.

The reason for the new investment – the previous boost was in May 2022 – is that 52 North Health, which was incorporated in 2018, has developed a pioneering at-home neutropenic sepsis test, Neutrocheck. It checks a cancer patient’s risk of the life-threatening condition neutropenic sepsis through an at-home blood fingerpick test. If the device is found to be effective, those at risk will know when to seek urgent medical attention, and those not at risk may be able to avoid unnecessary visits to A&E – two in five of these visits are false alarms for sepsis.

Neutropenic sepsis is a serious reaction to an infection that affects the whole body, with possible signs including flu-like symptoms, such as a fever or low temperature, which are easy to dismiss. However, even a mild illness can become fatal, with one study suggesting that, for every hour a person has neutropenic sepsis before starting treatment, chances of survival can reduce by more than 7 per cent. It can occur in people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy who may have suppressed immune systems and, due to the risks, the vast majority of those who feel unwell are currently sent directly to A&E.

52 North Health winning The Tech for Good Award, sponsored by Allia Future Business Centre, at the Cambridge Independent Science and technology Awards 2022. Picture: Keith Heppell
52 North Health winning The Tech for Good Award, sponsored by Allia Future Business Centre, at the Cambridge Independent Science and technology Awards 2022. Picture: Keith Heppell

Macmillan’s new portfolio will invest over the next two years in start-up businesses developing ground-breaking cancer care products and technology. The £100,000 investment means that Macmillan will be able to play a critical role in developing new ways to transform the lives of people with cancer, and inspire other organisations and investors to support innovation in cancer care. The device is expected to be available in 2024 via healthcare providers.

Umaima Ahmad, CEO of 52 North Health, said: “We are delighted to be Macmillan’s first ever venture investment in its 112-year history.

“Macmillan’s organisational values strongly resonate with us at 52 North, and we’ve been working together for over a year, ensuring that people living with cancer are directly involved in product development for Neutrocheck.

“Neutrocheck is a game-changer and has the potential to significantly improve both safety and quality of life for people living with cancer, and we are delighted to receive this recognition from one of the UK’s largest charities, in order to drive better cancer care together.”

Umaima Ahmad, 52 North Health co-founder and CEO, with the Neutrocheck. Picture: Keith Heppell
Umaima Ahmad, 52 North Health co-founder and CEO, with the Neutrocheck. Picture: Keith Heppell

Neutrocheck is currently going through rigorous clinical testing as well as being shaped with insight from Macmillan’s Innovation Community – a diverse group of people with lived experience of cancer – as well as doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, patients and carers. Following a clinical validation study to be conducted in NHS hospitals, the device is expected to be available in 2024 to people with cancer through their healthcare providers.

Dr Richard Simcock, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Infection during chemotherapy is one of the most feared complications of the treatment. It needs to be managed quickly. Rapid access to blood results should mean safer care for people with compromised immunity and less distress for people with normal results. If proven, the Neutrocheck technology would help give confidence to people living with cancer and should hopefully reduce workload for busy emergency departments.”

Prof Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said: “Neutropenic sepsis continues to remain a critical problem for patients with cancer. I believe that 52 North Health’s technology has real potential as a solution for management of this incredibly important issue. I am extremely proud to be associated with this venture.”



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