Coronary heart disease is a major cause of death worldwide, and more than seven million people in the UK alone have a diagnosis. Narrowing arteries caused by the disease are commonly treated by the insertion of tiny tubes called stents – but this process is both risky and expensive.
Current methods for determining whether to place a stent are inadequate. Dye-based imaging techniques deliver inconclusive results on the need for a stent, resulting in a large ‘grey zone’ for patients, many of whom undergo unnecessary invasive surgery as a result.
London–based Echopoint Medical Ltd, a spinout company from University College London, has raised €3.5 million to develop optical sensing technology to help doctors and heart disease patients navigate this ‘grey zone’ where the need for treatment is unclear.
Echopoint has developed inexpensive microcatheters which use fibre-optic sensors to accurately measure blood pressure and flow, enabling clinicians to precisely assess patients and dramatically reduce stent implants.
“Coronary heart disease is endemic worldwide but far too often the decision to implant a stent is based on sub-optimal information,” said Dr Adrien Desjardins, CTO at Echopoint. “Our technology addresses the ‘grey zone’ of patients where the requirement for a stent is currently difficult to determine. By using advanced optical sensing technology, we hope to significantly improve the accuracy of current treatments, saving healthcare costs and preventing unnecessary operations for patients that could be treated with medicines.”
The investment from the UCL Technology Fund, Parkwalk and two grants from Innovate UK. Echopoint will use the funding to further develop the optical fibre sensors on its microcatheters, as well as its platform, which translates their ultrasound signals into meaningful metrics. The company will also complete a 20-30 patient clinical trial.
Echopoint was founded in November 2018 and is led by executive chairman Antony Odell, an experienced medtech entrepreneur and previous CEO of Tissue Regenix; Dr Adrien Desjardins, Chief Technical Officer and a senior lecturer in the Department of Medical Physics at UCL; and Dr Malcolm Finlay, Chief Medical Officer and a consultant cardiologist at Barts Heart Centre.
“Stents are an invaluable, cornerstone treatment but are risky to insert and not always the best course of action for a patient,” said David Grimm, investment director at AlbionVC. “Echopoint’s remarkable technology has the potential to transform heart disease diagnosis and treatment. We are very excited by the potential of their technology platform, which utilises the latest fibre optic sensing and imaging techniques borne out of UCL’s world leading academic research.”