Bristol-based Micrima, which is developing radio wave technology to improve detection of breast cancer, has secured Gbp2 million of investment from a syndicate of co-investors led by YFM Group and Swarraton Partners. Existing investor NESTA also participated in the funding round. The YFM Group investment was made from the South West Ventures Fund and Finance South West Growth Fund.
Micrima, a spin-out from the University of Bristol, is developing a breast imaging system that captures high-resolution, 3D images through the use of harmless radio waves. The system is called MARIA – Multistatic Array processing for Radiowave Image Acquisition.
Breast cancer is the most common cause of death for women aged between 35 and 59 in the EU1. For various reasons the under-50s are not routinely screened. Micrima's technology has the potential to offer several advantages over existing primary screening technology, which encounters difficulties in imaging the dense tissue associated with this younger age group. MARIA promises to provide better images in such tissue, and is also relatively inexpensive, intrinsically safe, and comfortable for the patient.
The implications of this safe new technology are far-reaching, particularly as the compact size and low cost of the MARIA system will make it ideal for use in numerous alternative locations such as GP surgeries, diagnostic centres and mobile screening units.
Initial blind trials with volunteers have shown MARIA to compare very well with current X-ray technology, correctly identifying all participants with anomalies and 'clearing' all healthy volunteers.
The initial investment will fund on-going technical development and further clinical trials at the Frenchay Hospital's Breast Clinic in Bristol. Clinical work will then be extended to include women from other leading centres around the UK.
Roy Johnson, Executive Chairman of Micrima, said: “The new 3D breast screening platform under development aims to be safer, more convenient, and more economically viable in a greater number of countries, in addition to providing a practical solution to screening women below the age of 50. We are very pleased that, following our successful pilot clinical study, we have been able to attract this new funding from such a valued and committed group of investors.
“We are looking forward to generating data from the larger clinical trial that is now required to further prove the technology and its inherent benefits.”
Nick Simmonds, Investment Manager at YFM Group, manager of the South West Ventures Fund, said: “This exciting new technology has the potential to fundamentally change the way in which breast screening is provided, as well as opening up the service for the first time to younger women.”
Stephen Brooke of Swarraton said: “We are excited to be backing the Micrima team and a technology that has shown great promise to date and has the potential to reduce suffering from breast cancer across the world.”
YFM Group – South West Ventures Fund ]
The YFM Group managed South West Ventures Fund is a