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Highfield Diagnostics Ltd spins out and secures initial funding from Verge HealthTech

New spin-out venture from the University of Southampton is set to unleash the next generation of lateral flow diagnostics

13 April 2021 Southampton

Highfield Diagnostics Ltd (HDx) has developed a disruptive, patented technology, within the University of Southampton and is set to unleash the next generation of lateral flow, point-of-care diagnostics.

The pioneering technology is the result of more than seven years of academic research, conducted mainly via funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) – one of the world’s leading institutes for photonics research at the University of Southampton.

HDx celebrates the spin out milestone and looks forward to a swift transition from research proof-of-principle to full commercial readiness, supported by the Ambershore Group and initial funding by Verge HealthTech Fund.

Sir David Payne, Director of the ORC, says, “Laser technology is used across a vast range of scientific and technical disciplines – from the global internet, to advanced manufacturing, imaging and metrology. The HDx team has applied decades of accumulated experience in using lasers, to modify conventional materials – such as metals, glass and crystals – to power a new wave of precision laser-defined, paper-based diagnostics.”

The HDx founding team includes Professor Robert Eason, Dr. Collin Sones, Dr. Peijun He and Dr. Ioannis Katis. HDx technology has enormous potential for broad, large-scale application within the £5.8 billion lateral flow device market.

Dr Collin Sones says, “The spin out of HDx is taking place at a critical moment. The COVID-19 pandemic shines a light on the need for reliable, low-cost and rapid, point-of-care testing, but current lateral flow devices fall short in addressing this need”.

“HDx techniques have the ability to transform lateral flow testing – providing multiplexed and semi-quantitative measurement of disease-related biomarkers – with higher sensitivity and a lower limit of detection, using multiple isolated flow paths within a single lateral flow device,” adds Dr. Sones.

Dr. Peijun He says, “Research trials using the patented HDx high-sensitivity improvement method, provide early evidence of broad-based commercial application. We have already been able to achieve a signal enhancement of up to 240 percent and an 800 percent improvement in the lower limit-of-detection. In the months ahead we will continue to refine this data to support future commercial collaborations.”

HDx will partner with global diagnostics companies to explore and innovate new applications of its technology and with the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine to develop a portfolio of proprietary, point-of-care diagnostic solutions that utilize its core technology. These solutions will address many of the most difficult global health challenges we face, including COVID-19, leishmaniasis, dementia, sepsis, UTIs, AMR, tuberculosis, allergy and asthma.

The HDx founding team is joined by a world-class bench of advisors with clinical and diagnostics industry expertise and has entered into a collaboration with Ambershore Group to accelerate commercialization of its core technology and development of early applications.

Amber Curry Gracia, Partner at Ambershore Group says, “HDx technology strategically targets the shortcomings inherent in the current state of lateral flow devices. This superior approach has the potential to unlock a wave of innovation and open new markets, charting a path for lateral flow to capture a greater share of the £61 billion in-vitro diagnostics market.”

An initial pre-seed investment by Verge HealthTech Fund will support the transition from research to commercial readiness and finalization of the go-to-market plan in advance of a seed-stage funding round later this year.

Dr. Joseph Mocanu, Managing Partner of Verge HealthTech Fund says, “Readerless, multiplexed, semi-quantitative, and radically affordable point-of-care diagnostic tests will be critical to preventing illness and managing the health of billions around the world, especially those without proper access to healthcare infrastructure. We see HDx as a key enabler of this vision and we are excited to work with them on their long journey ahead.”

The spin-out process was managed by Diana Galpin and David Woolley of Research and Innovation Services (RIS) at the University of Southampton and Zee Zhu of Ambershore Group.

Diana Galpin, Director of Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange at Research and Innovation Services says, “It is great to see HDx successfully spinout following the recent commercialisation support from Ambershore Group. HDx and the founders have been on a journey with support from RIS, the ICURe Programme and investment from EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA). HDx is a promising company, and its platform technology is poised to make a real difference in diagnostic testing and create jobs in the region. We look forward to HDx’s continued success.”

About Ambershore Group

Ambershore Group is a US-based venture development firm that accelerates growth and improves readiness for investment by tackling key governance, operational and commercial challenges. Our portfolio includes companies operating from five continents in education, health, environment and transformative technologies.

For more information: www.ambershoregroup.com

About Verge HealthTech

Verge HealthTech Fund is the world’s first seed-only healthcare technology VC fund that is investing globally in solutions relevant to expanding access, quality, and efficiency in emerging Asia. To date, Verge has invested in 12 early-stage startups, spanning early Alzheimer’s detection, lung disease, hearing loss, continuous care, rural health delivery, mental health and wellness and point-of-care diagnostics.

For more information: www.vergehc.com

About the University of Southampton

The University of Southampton drives original thinking, turns knowledge into action and impact, and creates solutions to the world’s challenges. We are among the top 100 institutions globally (QS World University Rankings 2021). Our academics are leaders in their fields, forging links with high-profile international businesses and organisations, and inspiring a 22,000-strong community of exceptional students, from over 135 countries worldwide. Through our high-quality education, the University helps students on a journey of discovery to realise their potential and join our global network of over 200,000 alumni.

For more information: press@soton.ac.uk

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