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1 November, 2019 - 00:44 By Tony Quested

Investors back Oxbridge firm targeting multibillion dollar market

Oxbridge company Sense Biodetection is targeting a multibillion dollar global market with an instrument-free diagnostic test designed initially to detect flu and other infectious diseases.

The company has raised £12.3 million to develop its portfolio of handheld products which will save many patients from having to visit their GP with the attendant risk of spreading infections.

The company has raised £10.5m Series A investment co-led by Cambridge Innovation Capital in the UK and Earlybird in Berlin, with participation from serial biotech entrepreneur Jonathan Milner and seed round investor Mercia Asset Management. 

Sense has concurrently secured a grant of £1.8m from Innovate UK. 

The company, dual-based in Cambridge and Oxford, plans to invest the new funds in the development and manufacture of a range of hand-held tests utilising its novel and proprietary rapid molecular amplification technology.

Sense’s vision is to enable truly decentralised healthcare. It says its products will allow rapid tests for viral and bacterial pathogens, such as those causing respiratory infections or sexually transmitted diseases, to be performed within minutes at home, in doctors’ offices if necessary, pharmacies or community facilities, ensuring more timely treatment and management of infections. 

The field of molecular diagnostics is currently dominated by machine-based tests, the systems and procedures necessary to operate and maintain machines present barriers to their adoption at the point of care. 

In contrast, Sense’s instrument-free products could bring the performance of laboratory machine tests into virtually any setting. 

Sense was founded in 2014 by brothers Harry and Ralph Lamble, who have combined their respective expertise in molecular sciences and medical device design.

Michael Anstey or Cambridge Innovation Capital

Michael Anstey, a partner at Cambridge Innovation Capital, says the potential is exciting. “The medical diagnostics market is a multibillion dollar market, and Sense will be accessing this,” he says.

“The market is broader than just  influenza as the business is addressing the molecular diagnostic market. The total market is valued at approx. $18 billion; of this, infectious disease, which is the current focus of Sense is approx. $3 billion and growing rapidly. A large part of this market would benefit from an instrument free test.”

“We’re delighted to co-lead Sense’s Series A financing, enabling this ambitious company to develop its pipeline of transformational products. CIC’s investment strategy is to build high-growth companies with differentiated, innovative technology within the Cambridge ecosystem, and Sense is a great example of this.

“Molecular diagnostic tests have far superior performance (ie sensitivity and specificity) compared to other types of tests (eg immunoassays) but to date, molecular tests have been constrained due to the need for an instrument.

“Sense is seeking to overcome this obstacle by developing a self-contained test that could be used anywhere (home, GP, pharmacy, in remote settings, etc) and by a wider range of users

“Sense’s platform has broad applicability, including: respiratory pathogens, such as Flu, RSV; sexually transmitted infections, e.g. HPV for cervical cancer; antimicrobial resistant bacteria, e.g. MRSA, TB.”

Sense CEO Harry Lamble added: “With the support of an exceptional new investment syndicate, Sense is positioned to become first-in-class and best-in-class in the exciting field of instrument-free molecular diagnostics and to realise our vision to transform healthcare through decentralisation.”

Instrument-free molecular diagnostics represent the ultimate flexible test format as the tests could be deployed in any setting and by a wide range of potential users. 

This could be transformational for the diagnostic industry, delivering for the first time, true point-of-care testing in a market-successful, single-use product format, allowing diagnostic tests to be readily adopted by new users and scaled to meet demand.    

Sense operates from bespoke laboratory, development and manufacturing facilities in Cambridge and Oxford and is growing rapidly as it seeks to take its first product to market.

The company is currently hiring for a number of specialist positions in both territories as it seeks to scale rapidly.

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