The Swansea University spin-out company, which focuses on detecting and monitoring lung disease, has secured a grant from the UK Investment Accelerator programme.
The company will use the funding to carry out further product development before running extended clinical trials and securing regulatory approval for its medical technology in the UK, EU, USA and China.
PulmonIR’s development plans are supported by access to a portfolio of patent applications relating to the use of infrared spectroscopy to diagnose and monitor respiratory conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.
According to the British Lung Foundation, somebody in the UK dies from lung disease every five minutes.
In economic terms, lung disease in the UK costs a staggering £11 billion a year, with COPD among the costliest condition to manage (£1.9 billion each year).
PulmonIR’s CEO and co-founder, Dr Mark Bowman said, ‘The statistics are stark, but we are making great strides towards improving the picture for people who suffer from a whole range of lung conditions.
“We’re aiming for quicker diagnoses and for more focused self-management of illnesses so that patients get better long-term outcomes. This approach will also help to ease financial and operational pressures on the NHS.”
In the case of COPD, the company’s objective is to allow patients to self-manage their condition from the comfort of their own home and to enable them to stay as well as possible throughout the year, avoiding lengthy hospital stays that can accompany a sudden worsening of the condition.
The work being undertaken by PulmonIR Ltd is based on more than 10 years of leading-edge research by Professor Paul Lewis, head of the Respiratory Diagnostics Group at Swansea University.
Professor Lewis explained, “The epithelial surfaces of mammalian respiratory tracts are coated with mucus, thereby providing a protective barrier against pathogens and toxins.
“This mucus contains vital information about a person’s respiratory health. We have developed new analytical techniques using infrared spectroscopy to detect changes in the two major secreted mucins – MUC5B and MUC5AC, found in the sputum of patients - caused by the presence of respiratory disease.
“Our clinical studies have clearly shown that regularly monitoring these changes over time can provide an early warning system for patients suffering from COPD.
“This approach will enable them to work with healthcare professionals to take action before any worsening of their condition that could lead to hospitalisation.”
Professor Lewis and his team believe that this innovation will revolutionise the ability of healthcare practitioners to rapidly diagnose and closely monitor a number of other lung conditions, whilst also allowing their patients to have more control over their illness.
In 2016 PulmonIR won the MediWales Start-up Award and also received grant funding from the Welsh Government’s Healthcare Technology and Telehealth Fund that was used to conduct clinical proof of concept studies in collaboration with Professor John Geen and his clinical team at Cwm Taf University Health Board.
With future expansion in mind, PulmonIR has assembled an international multidisciplinary team of biologists, engineers, design consultants, software and electronics experts, and specialists in infrared spectroscopy instrumentation that are developing products aimed at the global respiratory diagnostics markets.
The company has also taken up residence at the Institute of Life Science in Swansea.
This latest funding from Innovate UK - the UK’s innovation agency - comes as a boost to the business’ solid financial foundations.
PulmonIR has a well-established investor group comprising IP Group plc, the Development Bank of Wales and the Swansea University Innovation Fund.
The Innovate UK grant has triggered a further round of co-investment, and further venture capital investment in the business is expected towards the end of 2018 which will support the plans for extended clinical trials.
Dr Bowman added: “We are delighted that PulmonIR has secured this Innovate UK grant and that our investors have chosen to back the business through further investment in our product development plans.
“It’s great to see this high level of confidence in what we’re doing, and the recognition of the significance of our work to patients and practitioners in respiratory health, and to communities and health services all over the world.”