White City Start-ups Revolutionising Health Tech

Firms based in Innovation District developing ground-breaking products

Scientists at Imperial College London's I-HUB lab facilitiesScientists at Imperial College London's I-HUB lab facilities

Health tech pioneers are joining forces to develop technologies to solve global health challenges right in the heart of White City.

Local scientists and engineers are working hand-in-hand with corporate partners to turn their research into state-of-the-art medical technologies.

Last month, Upstream, the partnership between Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Imperial College, highlighted some of H&F’s startups at their latest Deep Tech Network event.

Their line-up included a number of local scientists-turned-entrepreneurs whose technologies have the power to improve asthma and osteoarthritis patients’ lives around the world.

In the age of Covid, we have all got used to getting rapid tests to check for the virus. Now, ProtonDx is revolutionising the world of diagnostic testing with a technology that can detect and distinguish between many different infectious diseases.

Spun out of Imperial College in 2020, the start-up is developing a diagnostic technology that will allow anyone to quickly and accurately test themselves for different bacterial, viral and fever diseases to determine whether their symptoms are that of a cold, flu or COVID-19.

As convenient as an antigen test, highly sensitive and specific like PCR, rapid molecular testing is for everyone – no lab needed. The advantage this technology has over antigen tests is that they need a much smaller sample to detect the presence of an infection. That way, diseases can be detected early on after being exposed to a virus.

Its first product, Dragonfly, allows for detection in under half an hour with minimal equipment and handling. The test can be paired with a tablet to synchronise results, which can help monitor disease progression and track outbreaks. Dragonfly is set to hit the market in early 2022.

ProtonDx is also working on a handheld platform, Lacewing, integrating microchip sensing technology for release later in 2022.

“White City’s Innovation District is the perfect gateway to the global health tech arena”, said Dr Nicolas Moser, co-founder and CTO of ProtonDx.

It brings together the best of the best in electronics, molecular biology, engineering and AI – it’s safe to say that we were at the right place at the right time.”

The I-HUB at Imperial College London, White CityThe I-HUB at Imperial College London, White City

Smart Respiratory is a healthcare company based in Imperial White City’s Innovation District. Its brand, Smart Asthma, provides digital health solutions for asthmatics, which have proven as particularly useful to patients during the pandemic.

Having taken its first steps at Imperial in 2014, the start-up officially took office at the I-HUB and released its flagship product Smart Peak Flow, nicknamed Asthma Control in your pocket, only four years later.

Smart Peak Flow is a smartphone-compatible meter that makes it easy for asthma patients to regularly test and track their lung capacity. While traditional devices require users to manually record their results, this handheld accessory turns every phone into a device that automatically records and explains their reading in the Smart Asthma app.

The app’s built-in reminder feature encourages patients to track their peak flow more frequently, allowing them to spot and share potential patterns with their doctor.

“H&F is Smart Respiratory’s past, present and future”, said Dr Thomas Antalffy, co-founder and managing director of Smart Respiratory.

“With White City being such an inspiring location where all companies and researchers seem to be working towards a common goal, continuing our business endeavour at the I-HUB was a no-brainer. It shows our ambition to grow from a startup into a global company right here in H&F.”

The company is currently concentrating their efforts on expanding their software’s functionalities through AI, with the goal to help users keep not just asthma but also a whole range of other respiratory diseases in check.

HUB White City campusI-HUB White City campus

Biotech startup, Biomex, are on a mission to provide the world with “the next generation of wearable technology”, with their electrical stimulation shorts due to launch in 2023.

Originally developed to help reduce pain and improve the prognosis of patients with knee osteoarthritis, the company has also set out to support elite athletes on the road to recovery following a serious sports injury.

“Biomex spun out from the Department of Bioengineering with the goal of helping this huge group of patients who often suffer with severe knee pain”, said Dr Lance Rane, CEO and co-founder of Biomex.

“We’re co-located with clinicians, engineers and academics at Imperial’s new state of the art White City campus – giving us ready access to all the expertise and resources we need to develop the technology for patients.”

Compared to existing treatments, the Biomex shorts represent a novel approach that aims to fix the source of patients’ problems by changing their movement. Research shows that this can help to prevent the progression of the condition, and potentially spare people from surgery.

Its technology uses sewn-in sensors to track the patient’s every move, which helps determine the ideal timing with which muscles should be electrically stimulated. Offline, motion data can be used to assess the severity of the disease and track the user’s rehabilitation process.

To help them take their technologies from lab to market, Imperial London runs a range of programmes to support its academic entrepreneurs, especially during the early development stages of their products.

The MSk Accelerator, to name one, offers selected companies such as Biomex industry-inspired product development support, including a quality management system.

Since 2018, the programme has raised £2.4 million translational funding for the safe and innovative development of medical devices originating from Imperial College research.

“Our goal is to drive the development of promising musculoskeletal innovations into technologies that benefit patients and health services”, said Anne Roques, Translational Project Manager at the Msk Accelerator.

“Apart from the life-changing difference these inventions can make to patients’ lives, the programme also helps researchers with their career progression and supports Imperial and the council’s joint ambition to make White City a leading hub for med tech translation and start-ups.”

H&F Cabinet Member for the Economy, Cllr Andrew Jones, added, “It is great to see such impressive businesses developing in our borough.”

“We’re continuing to work hard to transform White City into a tech powerhouse to foster growth and innovation, particularly in the molecular sciences, biomedical engineering and public health industries.

“Our ambition is to make H&F the best place in Europe to do business with close collaboration between academics, businesses, entrepreneurs and residents. It is a vital part of our unique Industrial Strategy, which has pioneered partnerships across the borough and created thousands of skilled jobs and brought in new investment.”

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January 3, 2022