An Oxfordshire company founded five years ago by two young PhD students is just 18 months away from launching a novel point-of-care cancer screening system after support from Enterprise Europe Network.
DynamX Medical combines artificial intelligence and unique data analysis algorithms with commercially available infrared spectroscopy hardware to distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous patient biopsies.
It employs technology similar to that used in satellite image analysis, extracting more data than anyone has previously achieved.
Results are fast, accurate and affordable, halving cost and workload in cancer diagnosis. That is an attractive proposition for hospitals struggling to cope with a shortage of pathologists and especially for patients currently waiting up to eight weeks for laboratory results.
Innovate UK supported the business, then called BeamLine Diagnostics Ltd, with a Small Business Research Initiative grant of £804,000 four years ago.
Patents and trademarks
The connection with EEN, part of the Innovate UK family of services, began with chief executive and co-founder Liberty Foreman seeking help to patent her algorithms. Support focused on strategy and culture as well as intellectual property, both on patents and trademarks.
Liberty said: “I signed up for the coaching programme because we needed funding to get the patent. In fact it turned out to be incredibly useful and influential in creating the kind of culture we are trying to build. We actually got more value out of the additional help than from the patent support.”
At the heart of the process was a series of mentoring sessions from February to November 2019 with EEN adviser Craig Gordon and consultant Linda Cheung.
Liberty added: “They helped me make better, faster decisions about the people in the business, also to achieve the culture and working environment I wanted.
“We have changed entirely the way we hire. I now concentrate solely on ‘fit first, skills second’. It’s easier to teach skills rather than make people fit the culture.”
At the end of the process the company had rebranded from BeamLine Diagnostics to DynamX Medical and grown from four employees to nine.
£1 million raised from private investors
The company has now brought in experienced directors, including financial and R&D, leaving Liberty more time to focus more on her leadership role once she has closed the current funding round.
Liberty said: “We have already raised £2 million from SBRI and other grants and around another £1 million through private investment. Once our next funding round has closed, we will be 18 months away from seeing our first product to market.”
The first product to be launched will be DynamX-Bx, a point-of-care system to triage biopsies from patients with suspected oesophageal cancer. A 400-patient study just been completed at four hospitals – Manchester, Leicester, Portsmouth and University College London.
The small, portable DynamX-Bx device can be used near the patient and requires minimal training to operate. Up to 30 tissue samples are tested from each patient and results for each specimen are returned within seconds, with an accuracy rate of 96 per cent.
Another clinical trial testing cheek swabs from 450-patients is under way at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, screening for lung cancers.
EEN has given me the skills to build a business that is sustainable and enjoyable to run."
Liberty Foreman, chief executive officer and co-founder, DynamX Medical.