£10m funding for Bath Uni spin-out on a mission to step up the fight against deadliest form of cancer

April 12, 2024

A new spin-out company from the University of Bath has raised €12m (£10.3m) to develop medical devices that could vastly speed up and improve lung cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Prothea Technologies has been launched with a mission to enable lung cancer patients to have a biopsy and treatment in a single hospital visit by quickly diagnosing lung cancer lesions – reducing the time from weeks to just minutes. 

The funding means one of its devices, which uses a combined endoscope and image-processing system capable of examining the molecular structure of lung lesions, can now be setn for clinical trials.

Prothea combines extensive optical-fibre research expertise and intellectual property established at Bath with medical and clinical expertise from the University of Edinburgh.

The business is led by chief executive officer and executive chair Crispin Simon, pictured, – formerly president of the endoscopy division of the medical technology giant Smith+Nephew – and Dr Kev Dhaliwal, professor of molecular imaging and healthcare technology and consultant in respiratory medicine at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

Lung cancer is among the most common types of the disease and also the deadliest form, responsible for more than 2m deaths a year. 

Screening programmes aim to facilitate the early detection of suspicious lesions, but delivering value from these initiatives requires a significant increase in biopsy performance, presenting a challenge for hospitals already grappling with low biopsy yields and false negatives.

With its two planned devices, Prothea Technologies aims to tackle two challenges in the management of the disease – inaccurate biopsies and limited treatment options for small lesions in the lungs.

The series A financing, co-led by European investors Earlybird Venture Capital and Merieux Equity Partners, with participation from NRW.BANK and Old College Capital, will finance the company’s first-in-human clinical trials for the real-time imaging and biopsy device, and move towards beginning trials for the laser ablation catheter.

Dr Jim Stone Department of Physics at Bath will be Prothea’s chief technical officer. He said: "Establishing Prothea Technologies is essential to bring our unique fibre optic technology into clinic so it can benefit patients.

"Prothea pulls together world-leading fibre-optic development from the University of Bath and clinical excellence from the University of Edinburgh, adding in commercial, insight, expertise and know-how to form a fantastic team.

"I’d like to thank everyone who has played their part to get us this far – our investors Earlybird Venture Capital and Merieux Equity Partners, with participation from NRW.BANK and Old College Capital.

“I'd also like to particularly thank the EPSRC (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), which funded significant academic research programmes and industrially focused grants."

Crispin Simon added: “We’re delighted to have been able to combine a great team, multiple technology innovations and a strong investment syndicate, and look forward to putting our products at the service of doctors and their patients.”

Prothea chief medical officer and chief scientific officer Prof Kev Dhaliwal said: “Molecular-level data capture, combined with immediate therapy, holds huge potential in basic science and patient therapy. I’m grateful to the funders who have backed us over the years.”

The firm’s technologies have been developed with support from leading organisations including UK Research and Innovation, the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research U and CARB-X, the global non-profit partnership focused on supporting the development of new antibacterial products.


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