Investors back screening device for breast cancer
A COMPANY set up by academics from Bristol University to research and create a revolutionary new system for screening for breast cancer has won the backing of private investors.
Micrima, which was launched by a team of physicists and scientists from the University, has developed a system which is a safe, low-cost way of checking for breast cancer.
The company, which was founded in 2006, believes it is at a stage where it is ready to extend its trials and needed extra funding.
And private investors have agreed to pump £1.5 million into the company in a remarkable show of faith.
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The team has been working on what it describes as a safe, low-cost system which will dramatically improve the detection of breast cancer.
Micrima is confident that the new system will be a major step forward in the treatment of breast cancer.
The company went to investors and the Government for funding and is now preparing to roll out the system across the country.
The decision was taken after a third successful clinical trial delivered the results the firm was looking for.
The system can be used to test women of all ages for breast cancer in GP surgeries and even in shops and chemists on the high street.
The latest backing from investors means one final trial can be carried out before the product is taken to the market.
The new technology has the ability to capture in just eight seconds, high-resolution, 3D images through the use of harmless radio waves.
The latest round of investment will fund further work on improving the performance of the scanner.
It will also fund a mass screening programme at Southmead Hospital and help pay for staff to work on the development of the machinery.
Micrima executive chairman Roy Johnson is leading the team of specialists.
He said: "We are delighted to have raised our maximum target for this funding round and will now move up the gears on multiple fronts en route to developing our first product.
"The challenge is now all about building an increasingly valid and impressive clinical data base that will convince the radiology community for each application we choose to target."
He added: "It is small, inexpensive, safe and easy to operate and read.
"The results are also naturally in 3D, unlike x-rays, where they build up a 3D view from lots of different slides.
"We don't want to put women off having mammograms but this is much more comfortable, it is simply placed against the breast and is done in seconds."
YFM Equity Partners is one of the investors in the project.
Nick Simmonds, from the firm, said: "We are very impressed with the level of clinical performance already demonstrated by the system and look forward to working with Roy Johnson and our new co-investors to take the company forward."
Meanwhile, Stephen Brooke of Swarraton Partners, another investor, added: "We are delighted to continue to support Micrima on the back of the excellent clinical results achieved to date."
The MARIA imaging system is not only safer and cheaper than current breast screening methods, it is expected to deliver more reliable results in younger women who are overlooked for screening at present.
The system is also more comfortable for women who are being checked for cancer.
The MARIA technology uses an innovative radar system developed from land mine detection by a team at Bristol University led by Professor Ian Craddock, an expert in electrical and electronic engineering.
Professor Alan Preece who specialises in medical physics was also involved in the firm.
The latest clinical trial, completed in 2011, has a success rate of around 80 per cent and already represents a strong competitor to the current X-ray system. The team are aiming for a success rate of over 90 per cent when the system is launched.
Breast cancer is the most common cause of death in women between the ages of 35 and 55 in Europe, and the leading cause of death in many countries.
Early diagnosis dramatically improves survival rates, yet most tumours are not discovered early enough – particularly in younger women.