The Cambridge firms at the forefront of MedTech
Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Award entrants push the boundaries of MedTech innovation. Sagentia Innovation’s hometown of Cambridge is widely known as a hotbed of invention, with a strong emphasis on medical development. This year, we’ve been closely involved with the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards. Some of the MedTech entrants were truly progressive and indicate that the sector is on the cusp of an exciting era.
Based in the heart of the UK’s Silicon Fen, Sagentia Innovation has a wealth of MedTech talent and commercial enterprise on its doorstep. Our recent involvement with the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards shone a light on breakthrough developments in the region. Chief Technology Officer Nick Collier judged the ‘Covid-19 Response’ category; in this paper he considers seven entrants that stood out across the award programme as a whole. Their technologies are impressive, and some could play an integral role shaping the future of healthcare.
Advancements in digital health have the capacity to improve patient outcomes for many conditions. Three firms in Cambridge – Avacta, BIOS Health and bit.bio – are at the forefront of this rapidly evolving space.
Avacta’s Affimer® is a classic example of what can be achieved with digital therapeutics technology. This engineered alternative to antibodies has much potential in the life sciences industry. The technology is designed to address many of the negative performance issues associated with antibodies: the time taken to generate new antibodies; reliance on an animal’s immune response; poor specificity and batch-to-batch variability.
In the past year, Avacta has made advancements in both diagnostics and therapeutics applications. Following the Covid-19 outbreak, it generated a large number of Affirmer binders to the SARS-COV-2 spike protein and developed a range of SARS-COV-2 tests including:
- A rapid point-of-care test for screening large populations to diagnose the Covid-19 coronavirus infection.
- A high throughput laboratory test to run on the installed base of mass spectrometers in hospitals and laboratories.
- An ELISA laboratory test to support global research efforts into the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 (1).
Avacta was highly commended in the Covid-19 Response Award. More information is available at avacta.com
A pioneer of digital neural therapies, BIOS Health is unlocking entirely new ways to treat chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease. It develops AI-powered neural interfaces that can automatically read and write neural signals. Understanding and correcting signals in real-time enables illnesses to be treated and managed via the nervous system in an effective and automated way. This technology offers a tantalising glimpse of what personalised healthcare might look like in years to come.
The BIOS Health vision is that patients “will have their chronic conditions managed via the nervous system directly by AI, giving personalised, real-time treatment recommendations and even replacing current drugs with computer generated neural signals”(2).
BIOS Health won the coveted AI Company of the Year Award with its ground-breaking technology. More information is available at bios.health.
Human synthetic biology enterprise bit.bio focuses on coding cells for health. It aims to develop a scalable technology platform capable of producing consistent batches of every human cell. In doing so, it could unlock a new era of medicine where scientists developing new drugs could work with cells that are affected by disease rather than relying on modelling. The company employs experts in stem cells, cellular reprogramming, mathematical modelling and cell therapy.
Biotech is a hugely fascinating area, and one that we are following closely at Sagentia Innovation. It’s no surprise that bit.bio won Biotech Company of the Year. Find out more at bit.bio.
Check out our whitepaper "Improving patient outcomes with advanced digital biomarkers".
Artificial intelligence (AI) unlocks more efficient and effective ways to harness vast and complex healthcare data. From predictive diagnosis to more informed decision making throughout patient and drug development journeys, firms in Cambridge are driving significant progress in this field.
Specialising in clinical AI-backed systems, C2-Ai’s goal is to help hospitals and healthcare systems around the world reduce avoidable harm, mortality and cost. Its solutions have been shown to have a positive impact on the avoidance of conditions such as hospital-acquired pneumonia and hospital-acquired acute kidney injury which together account for 140,000 annual deaths in the UK alone.
The future of digital health will be closely aligned with AI, and companies like C2-Ai will lead this burgeoning space.
According to Hassan Chaudhury, Digital Health Lead at Healthcare UK:
“C2-Ai [saves] lives all over the planet by predicting avoidable harm and mortality with world-leading AI based on a dataset of 140 million patients from 46 countries…If their innovation was scaled across the NHS I estimate it would save 70,000 lives and £1bn.”
C2-Ai won MedTech Company of the Year. More information is available at c2-ai.net.
Founded in 2015, OKRA Technologies harnesses AI to help the healthcare industry make strides towards more personalised approaches.
The company combines deep expertise in AI with medical and product knowledge from life science leaders, then applies this to all stages of the drug lifecycle. Its services enable pharma company employees to make more informed choices and empower healthcare professionals to make evidence-based decisions.
Demand for OKRA’s services increased during the Covid-19 pandemic as the pharma sector sought ways to enable more effective and personalised interactions. According to CEO and Founder Dr Loubna Bouarfa: “We can't rely on any data we had six months ago. And that’s why we need AI, to navigate the past and predict the future.” (3)
OKRA Technologies was highly commended in the Technology Company of the Year category. More information is available at okra.ai.
Point-of-care diagnostics specialist Glyconics uses infrared spectroscopy to enable the monitoring of disease progression. Its technology produces distinctive molecular fingerprints which allow healthy and non-healthy samples to be distinguished using a predictive AI algorithm within a handheld device.
This rapid identification and analysis of disease biomarkers heralds a new generation of diagnostics which will enable the early detection and effective management of disease.
Glyconics is initially targeting two conditions with its innovative point-of-care diagnostics solution: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes.
The company was highly commended by judges of the One to Watch category. Find out more about its offering at glyconics.com.
Check out our whitepaper "Harnessing AI to boost the fight against hospital-acquired sepsis".
Great ideas that push the boundaries of MedTech innovation often rely on practical, technical solutions which may originate in other sectors. Cambridge semiconductor firm PragmatIC is a case in point.
Flexible integrated circuits from PragmatIC offer much potential for connected healthcare. Thinner than a human hair, they can be embedded in objects to facilitate novel digital solutions.
In a recent issue of the OPE (Organic & Printed Electronics) Journal (4), PragmatIC highlighted applications that could benefit from its technology. These include smart wound care and adult incontinence monitoring solutions which could offer advanced warning of urinary tract infections.
Technologies like these will play a critical role in the development of effective, user-friendly connected healthcare solutions. Their adoption could unlock new possibilities for categories such as personalised and home-based healthcare.
PragmatIC received the Award for Innovation. More information is available at pragmaticsemi.com.
Check out our whitepaper "Improving dialysis in the home".
A MedTech moment in time
The Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards provide a snapshot of the rich and varied MedTech activity happening in the region. Technologies such as AI and digital therapeutics offer game-changing potential. It’s truly inspiring to see Cambridge companies leveraging these as they seek to improve patient experiences and outcomes all over the world.
1. Avacta’s Covid-19 response https://avacta.com/diagnostics/covid-19/
2. BIOS Health news release about BIOS Autonomic Therapy Initiative
3. OKRA raises ambitious target to 6 million predictions in Life Sciences by end of 2020
4. What is the future for flexible electronics in healthcare?, Magazine for Organic and Printed Electronics, May 2021
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