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UCL Business PLC, UCL's knowledge transfer and technology commercialisation company, announces that it has led an initial investment round of £350,000 into Endomagnetics Limited, a spinout company which is commercialising magnetic sensing technology arising from research within the London Centre for Nanotechnology at UCL and the Texas Centre for Superconductivity at the University of Houston. Co-investors in the investment round were the Combined London Colleges University Challenge Seed Fund ("CLCUC"), Bloomsbury Bioseed Fund ("BBSF"), together with the founders and their friends and families.
The company's first product is an intra-operative medical device for use in the treatment of breast cancer. Globally, 1.25 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year, whilst lifestyle changes and the availability of healthcare mean that this figure is increasing by around 20,000 cases year on year, in both the developed and the developing world. In practically all of these cases, surgery is required to remove the tumour. During the surgical procedure it is desirable to excise the sentinel lymph nodes and inspect them microscopically (i.e. perform histology) to determine whether the cancer has spread from the tumour to other sites in the body.
However, current methods of sentinel node detection present inherent and significant barriers to widespread adoption of the procedure. A key reason is that the current method is based on radiation. Locating the sentinel nodes involves injecting a radioactive dye into the lymph around the tumour. This then passes through the lymphatic system and collects in the sentinel nodes; the surgeon then uses a hand-held gamma probe to locate the node. However the use of radioisotopes presents the hospital administration with significant, and expensive, logistical burden and there is also reluctance on the part of patients to receive a radioactive injection.
Endomagnetics Ltd's approach to lymph node location radically alters the sentinel lymph node biopsy protocol. It uses a detection system based on magnetics rather than radiation, with the radioactive dye being replaced by an MRI contrast agent and a novel hand-held magnetic sensor replacing the gamma probe. This considerably simplifies the pre- and post-operative hospital procedures for sentinel lymph node biopsy, as hospitals and surgeons are freed from the constraints imposed by the use of radioactive materials during the staging procedure.
Based on 2007 cancer statistics and market research on the gamma probe market, of the 610,000 breast cancer and melanoma cases treated that year in the North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australasia, only 153,000 were addressed using the gamma-probe, indicating that there is a significant unmet need and a potential market worth at least £300 million, depending on the pricing and chosen sales model. Furthermore, the Endomagnetics solution provides a sensing platform which has applicability to other medical markets including the staging of lung, prostate and colon cancer, of which there were approximately 2,630,000 cases per annum in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australasia in 2007.
Professor Quentin Pankhurst, Founder of Endomagnetics commented, "Endomagnetics vision is to transform the way that the staging of breast cancer is undertaken and ensure that patients across the world have access to a vital component of the breast cancer staging process. This investment will enable us to accelerate our development activity and engage with clinical adopters across the US and Europe."
Dr Steven Schooling, Director of Engineering and Physical Sciences at UCL Business said "Endomagnetics is capitalising on a innovative technology developed within the research labs of two world class research centres at UCL and Houston, which has the potential for use across a wide range of clinical conditions. UCL Business has worked closely with Professor Pankhurst and his colleagues from the initial proof of concept activities through to the raising of investment finance and we wish the team every success with their future plans."
About University College London
UCL (University College London) is London’s leading multidisciplinary university, with 8,000 staff and 22,000 students. Over 140 nationalities are represented among UCL students with overseas students making up nearly a third of the student body.
Based in the heart of London, UCL was the first university in England to welcome students of any class, race or religion, and the first to welcome women on equal terms with men. This same radical spirit thrives today.
We are now ranked seventh in the world by the Times Higher – QS World University Rankings.
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