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Lab-quality home flu test on way as CIC and Jonathan Milner support Sense Biodetection

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The flu virus is caused by influenza, with human symptoms of the fever infecting the nose and throat
The flu virus is caused by influenza, with human symptoms of the fever infecting the nose and throat

Instrument-free lab-quality home tests for flu and other infectious diseases moved nearer this week following the close of a £12.3million funding round by Sense Biodetection.

Simple, ultra-rapid, handheld molecular - via a swab or other DNA - tests for flu and other infectious diseases would eliminate 6 per cent of GP appointments, according to Sense.

Sense was founded in 2014 by two brothers Harry Lamble and Ralph Lamble, who have combined their respective expertise in molecular sciences and medical device design.

The field of molecular diagnostics is currently dominated by machine-based tests: the systems and procedures necessary to operate and maintain machines present barriers to their adoption at the point of care In contrast, Sense Biotection’s instrument-free products could bring the performance of laboratory machine tests into virtually any setting. The Sense test can be done at home without the need to visit the GP and spread infection.

The company, based in St Ives and Oxford, plans to invest the new funds in the development and manufacture of a range of tests utilising its novel and proprietary rapid molecular amplification technology, with infectious disease applications such as influenza just the first target.

“We are delighted to secure the funding necessary to conduct the formal development of our first products,” said CEO Harry Lamble. “With the support of an exceptional new investment syndicate, Sense is positioned to become first-in-class and best-in-class in the exciting field of instrument-free molecular diagnostics and to realise our vision to transform healthcare through decentralisation.”

Rainer Christine from the health team at European technology investors Earlybird said: “We believe that Sense has created a disruptive solution for true point-of-care molecular diagnostics that will bring machine-free lab-quality results within minutes, and thus health benefits to an unprecedented number of patients.

“At Earlybird, we continue to be impressed by the founding team’s commitment to its overall vision and are very excited to be working together to ultimately improve patient outcomes.”

Sense Biodetection CEO Harry Lamble
Sense Biodetection CEO Harry Lamble

The round, which was led by Cambridge Innovation Capital with participation from Jonathan Milner, means that the Cambridgeshire and Oxford-based developer’s technology could result in a diagnosis in virtually any setting.

“I am super-excited about Sense Biodetection because there is a huge unmet need in healthcare to be able to diagnose flu immediately and therefore save the NHS millions in unnecessary bed admissions and antibiotic prescriptions,” Cambridge biotech entrepreneur and investor Dr Milner told the Cambridge Independent. “We have an experienced and entrepreneurial management team, a massive market opportunity and an impressive list of backers that will maximise the chances of a successful product launch that will revolutionise point-of-care and self-diagnostics.”

The funding round involved a £10.5million Series A investment co-led by Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) and Earlybird, with participation from Jonathan Milner and seed round investor Mercia Asset Management. Concurrent with the investment, Sense has also secured a grant of £1.8million from Innovate UK.

Michael Anstey, a partner at Cambridge Innovation Capital, says the potential of decentralising healthcare is exciting.

“We’re delighted to co-lead Sense’s Series A financing, enabling this ambitious company to develop its pipeline of transformational products,” he said. “CIC’s investment strategy is to build high-growth companies with differentiated, innovative technology within the Cambridge ecosystem, and Sense is a great example of this.”

Entrepreneur Dr Jonathan Milner is also one of Cambridge's best-known life science investors
Entrepreneur Dr Jonathan Milner is also one of Cambridge's best-known life science investors

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