Detecting profits

A Scottish diagnostics firm is marketing new technology to identify cervical cancer – with the help of venture capitalists

There are more than 273,000 deaths globally from cervical cancer each year, accounting for 9 percent of female cancer deaths. It's a stark statistic, which Edinburgh-based For th Photonics is seeking to address. The firm has just received £6.0 million (€6.9 million; $8.8 million) to fund a new diagnostic device for cervical cancer, called the Dynamic Spectral Imaging System (DySIS), which has been proved in trials to be 63 percent more effective at early diagnosis than the most commonly used procedure.

The series B funding round was led by London-based Albion Ventures, which was formerly known as Close Ventures and spun out of UK merchant bank Close Brothers in January 2009. The firm's debut investment as an independent outfit saw it commit £2.5million of the total capital. Fellow London-based venture capital firm NBGI Ventures provided seed capital for Forth Photonics in 2002 and was also involved in the latest funding round, committing £2 million.

DySIS has been developed to replace the coloposcope, an element of the normal diagnostic procedure for cervical cancer which is similar to a microscope and is used to examine abnormal cells after they have been detected by routine tests.

“The coloposcope is a very crude diagnostic device with low cancer detection accuracy. This means it refers more women than necessary to have full biopsies, and a biopsy is an invasive procedure,” says co-founder of NBGI, Aris Constantinides.

The DySIS technology works in a similar way to a coloposcope but has the added ability to create digital images of cells, which can then be analysed using special software – resulting in increased accuracy when it comes to identifying abnormalities.

The device is already being sold within the European Union, and is currently being considered for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration so it can be marketed in the US. The diagnostic market for cervical cancer is estimated to be worth some £500 million a year.

PESSIMISM'S GRIP TIGHTENSIndustry figures were asked what impact will the credit crisis have on the ability of UK venture capital firms to raise additional funds from investors?

A significantly adverse impact 81%
Adverse: 97 %
A modestly adverse impact 16%
No impact 0%
Positive: 3%
A modestly positive impact 3%
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