Upfront Diagnostics, a healthcare company focused on discovering novel biomarkers that can be applied to medical diagnosis, has announced a seed funding round of £1.6 million.
The investment was led by APEX Ventures’ Medical Fund, following grant funding from SBRI Healthcare in partnership with Stroke Association, for Upfront Diagnostic’s patented blood-based diagnostic LVOne.
Upfront Diagnostics is one of the seven companies selected by SBRI Healthcare, an Accelerated Access Collaborative initiative to receive further funding for stroke research in partnership with Stroke Association. The company has been awarded a grant of £799,000 to support the development of prototypes and evaluation before real-world implementation.
Upfront Diagnostics’ LVOne is a point-of-care rapid test for identifying patients suffering an acute ischaemic stroke caused by large vessel occlusion (LVO).
Globally, there are more than 20 million strokes annually.
LVOs account for 30 percent of strokes but are responsible for 95 percent of disabilities and deaths. Strokes caused 375,000 deaths in European Union countries, and by 2035 the number is expected to rise by one-third.
Traditional stroke diagnosis methods often involve time-consuming and costly imaging techniques, causing delays in treatment initiation. By identifying Upfront Diagnostics biomarkers with a handheld blood test, paramedics are able to recognise LVO stroke cases within 15 minutes and take patients directly to a comprehensive stroke centre for treatment. It saves more than 1 hour and 30 minutes over the current clinical pathway, billions in medical treatment costs, helps avoid disabilities, and saves lives.
Gonzalo Ladreda, Co-Founder of Upfront Diagnostics, said, “With this significant funding, we are poised to transform stroke diagnosis worldwide and make a tangible impact on patient care.
Our rapid blood test has the potential to revolutionise stroke management by providing paramedics and physicians with actionable insights in a matter of minutes, enabling them to make informed treatment decisions swiftly.”
This time-saving difference in early diagnosis could mean a 20 percent reduction in disabilities from LVO strokes. For every 15 minutes of earlier treatment, there is a cost-saving of over $60,000 per patient. Ultimately faster diagnosis leads to better outcomes for all.”
LVOne was validated on 270 patients at the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital in Newcastle, UK, and it is designed to identify LVO strokes in the ambulance so that patients can be fast-tracked to a thrombectomy-specialized hospital for treatment. Within 15 minutes, the test allows paramedics to identify an LVO anywhere with very high accuracy.
This test has been developed with the support of Innovate UK, Newcastle University, Academic Health Science Network, National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), SBRI Healthcare, Stroke Association and NHS Foundation Trust.
Stroke treatment involves manually removing large blood clots from the brain. The procedure can be performed up to 24 hours after a stroke, but its effectiveness is greatest during the first six hours.
The current stroke patient’s journey to treatment requires inter-hospital transfer for the various stages of stroke diagnosis. In the UK, only 24 hospitals can properly identify and treat an LVO, and many of these operate only within working hours. As a result, most patients are identified at a non-specialised hospital and need a secondary ambulance transfer to access thrombectomy treatment. This causes the majority of LVO patients to miss the treatment window.
The seed funding will be used to scale up the technology and its accuracy for identifying large artery strokes on real-world patients. Upfront Diagnostics will also expand its team and prepare for clinical approval.
Dr Pooja Sikka, General Practitioner in the UK and Venture Partner at APEX Ventures Medical Fund, comments, “I am delighted to back the Upfront Diagnostics team who started their journey in Cambridge, UK. LVOne could revolutionise the stroke care pathway globally, getting patients rapidly into stroke centres and access to interventional radiology services quickly, generating positive clinical outcomes rapidly. It can be a rare find in health tech to find an investment where you change outcomes so definitively, but this is one of them.
The impact on the healthcare workforce, the social care system and the broader economic benefits of this solution will also be felt. Stroke is a preventable disease, but growing. We need better diagnostics and optimised care pathways. Effective point-of-care testing is fundamental to achieving that.”
Dr Gordon Euller, Partner at APEX Ventures Medical Fund, comments, “We believe that our partnership with Upfront Diagnostics will make a significant impact on stroke care. We hope that with our support, they will be able to continue to innovate within the NHS and meet more patient needs. More innovations and ideas from these partnerships are needed in the future to increase the chance of saving lives.”
Upfront Diagnostics (previously known as Pockit) was founded in 2017 by a group of the University of Cambridge students – Gonzalo Ladreda, Dr Edoardo Gaude, Marcos Ladreda and Dr Joshua Bernstock -and has been backed by Cambridge Enterprise since 2019. With a focus on discovering biomarkers that can be applied to improve medical diagnosis, the team consists of biologists and clinicians with long research expertise who have been working with long experienced clinicians since their early days.
Gonzalo Ladreda studied at Cambridge Judge Business School’s entrepreneurship program. Dr. Edoardo Gaude has a PhD in Oncology from the University of Cambridge (UK) and has been working for 10 years on the discovery of biomarkers for different human diseases. Marcos Ladreda Biomedical Scientist with a focus on immunoassay development, specifically advanced lateral flow testing. Dr Joshua Bernstock specialised in pediatric neurosurgical oncology at Harvard Medical School and also has a PhD from the University of Cambridge (UK).