Oxford spinout Optellum secures $14m funding to advance pioneering AI-powered lung cancer diagnosis technology

Monday 3rd Oct 2022, 11.51am

The investment will enable Optellum to scale its base, operations, and commercial launches in the UK and USA; accelerate research and development; and expand its platform into personalised therapy decisions by integrating imaging data with molecular data, robotics, and liquid biopsies.

Optellum was co-founded by the University of Oxford’s Professor Sir Mike Brady with the mission of seeing every lung disease patient diagnosed and treated at the earliest possible stage, and cured. Founded in 2016, the company provides artificial intelligence decision-support software that assists physicians in early diagnosis and optimal treatment for their patients.

Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in the world. Approximately 1.8 million people worldwide die from lung cancer each year. The current five-year survival rate is only 20%, primarily due to most patients being diagnosed after the disease has progressed to an advanced stage (Stage III or IV). However, the survival rate for small tumours treated at Stage IA is as high as 90%. This disparity highlights a critical need for diagnosis and treatment at the earliest stage possible.

Optellum is the leader in AI-enabled lung cancer diagnosis, and the first and only medtech company to attain FDA clearance in the US, CE-MDR in the EU, and UKCA in the UK for its software platform Virtual Nodule Clinic. This first-of-a-kind platform can help physicians identify and track at-risk patients, and optimally diagnose the signs of lung cancer early, so treatment can be started sooner for patients with tumours, and invasive procedures such as biopsies on benign lesions can be minimized.

Professor Chas Bountra, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Innovation, said: ‘I am enormously pleased that Optellum has secured this investment. At Oxford University, we are immensely proud of our spinouts and their pioneering innovations which have literally saved thousands of lives around the world. Optellum is making impressive progress with its game-changing technology to detect early stage lung cancer, and it’s great to see our researchers continue to collaborate with the company here in Oxford.’

Jason Pesterfield, CEO at Optellum, said: ‘With this strong support and commitment of highly specialised investors, we are positioned to accelerate commercial deployment in both the UK and the United States to expand our installed base. Following years of research and clinical trials that have shown the impact of our software on the diagnosis of at-risk lung nodules, we’re focused on expanding patient access to this crucial technology and identifying deadly lung cancer faster in more at-risk people. The funding will also boost our research and development with world-leading institutions and partners to progress further innovation.’

Optellum’s platform was developed and clinically validated in partnership with leading universities and healthcare systems around the world. In the UK, Optellum’s solution is being used to predict at-risk lung nodules in a multi-centre study with NHS Trusts as part of a major investment in AI for healthcare.

This funding round was led by Mercia, with additional investors Intuitive Ventures (Sunnyvale, CA, USA) and Black Opal Ventures (New York, NY, USA). Existing investors, including St John’s College in the University of Oxford, IQ Capital, and the family office of Sir Martin & Lady Audrey Wood, also participated in this round.

Optellum is headquartered at the Oxford Centre for Innovation in Oxford, UK and at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, USA.

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