Digital health startup iLoF secures €4.89 million to accelerate personalised drug discovery

Based between Oxford and Lisbon, iLoF is a biotech startup on a mission to make a difference in the world. The company is developing a platform that creates improved access to personalised medicine for the millions of people around the world living with complex diseases.

The development of medicines and treatments has generally been done thinking of the general population, with the expectation that they will work for everyone. However, any medical scientist will be able to confirm that this is not the case. Each person is different and so each person reacts to treatments differently. A general approach to developing medicines, therefore, means that many people are left behind. For example, with severe diseases such as Alzheimer’s multiple factors can contribute to the effectiveness o a treatment on a given patient. 

It means that millions of people currently live without access to an effective disease-modifying treatment. This reality sparked the creation of iLoF. 

The Funding

Based in both Porto and Lisbon, the biotech startup is revolutionising approaches to future healthcare. This new capital injection is comprised of about €4 million dollars in equity investment led by Faber, alongside US-based M12, Microsoft’s venture fund and Quiet Capital, and EU-based Lunar Ventures, Alter Venture Partners, re.Mind Capital and Fluxunit, the corporate VC arm of ams OSRAM. Angel investor Charlie Songhurst, former GM at Microsoft, and Berggruen Holdings, the family office of Nicolas Berggruen, a serial investor and philanthropist, also participated. 

This is alongside a grant of about €880k from ERDF. 

Sofia Santos, Partner at Faber, commented: “iLoF has the potential to positively impact millions of patients around the globe and become an integral part of the $500B global personalized medicine market. Its unique combination of photonics and artificial intelligence can both directly impact the fast-growing AI in Drug Discovery Market and transform the diagnosis, staging, and triage of a myriad of diseases, progressively moving healthcare from a central hospital based-approach into a low-cost, distributed, patient-driven approach.”

iLoF: Creating a digital library of biomarkers

Founded in 2019, iLoF has developed a digital library of disease biomarkers and biological profiles, and it is enabling biotechs and pharmaceutical companies to make clinical trials faster, cheaper and more patient-centric. The platform pulls together massive amounts of data to build a library of biological profiles, bringing together world-class physicists, biologists, and data scientists to get life-saving personalized treatments to patients faster. 

Luis Valente, Co-Founder and CEO, explained: “We collect vast amounts of data to create digital twins of biological profiles and disease subtypes, which we store in our digital library. Different patient profiles can be selected and screened using our platform to speed up the development of effective and personalized treatments while enabling humane, patient-centric clinical trials.”

The platform amasses a wide range of optical signals, creating rich signatures of the ensemble of particles on biological samples, which are then converted into bio-digital twins. These bio-digital twins overcome the traditional limits of biochemical analysis, in which they can be re-analyzed a potentially infinite number of times. This supercharges the search for emergent features and patterns that could be the key to developing various novel therapeutics.

During the pandemic, iLoF worked with St. John’s Hospital and the Faculty of Medicine in Porto to understand how the platform could help manage the influx of COVID-19 patients and optimize resources. iLoF was shown to be able to accurately distinguish COVID-19 patients based on their likelihood of ICU admission, which could allow hospitals to manage critical resources more effectively. The pandemic perfectly highlighted the need for a more personalised approach to drug discovery – and iLoF is bringing a revolutionary approach. 

This is something that Priyanka Mitra, investor at M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, has highlighted: “In the midst of the accelerated pace of change brought on by the global pandemic, the need for personalized medicine solutions that serve each patient’s individual needs has never been more pressing. iLoF’s cloud-based library of optical fingerprints is world-class technology built by an outstanding team that will help us usher in this new era of personalized patient care and healthcare delivery.”

Led by CEO Luis Valente, COO Mehak Mumtaz and CSO Paula Sampaio, iLoF was initially formed while participating in EIT Health’s Wild Card programme and accelerated at the Oxford Foundry. The team currently consists of 20 international scientists, entrepreneurs, and inventors. 

The plans

Mehak Mumtaz, Co-Founder and COO of iLoF: “Our ultimate vision is to go from a next-generation bioinformatics platform to a breakthrough disease screening one. Moving from supporting researchers and scientists to directly helping patients around the world will vastly deepen our understanding of diseases and help physicians detect the world’s more severe and impactful diseases, such as Ovarian Cancer or Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Having effectively demonstrated the value and importance of the iLoF platform, the startup is now wanting to scale up its operations. The Seed funding will be used to accelerate ongoing engagements with leading global corporations in the Pharmaceutical, Biotech, and Clinical space, with the aim of fast-tracking current and future pilots, enabling the further development of the iLoF Platform.

Speaking on the investment in iLoF, Elad Verbin, Partner at Lunar Ventures, added: “iLoF embodies the power of artificial intelligence to revolutionise healthcare as we know it. We are incredibly excited to back iLoF’s team of biologists, laser physicists and data scientists as they teach a computer how human blood looks at the nano-scale when affected by cancer or Alzheimer’s. Humanity urgently needs access to cheap, painless point-of-care diagnostics, and optical technology and machine learning are finally advanced and strong enough to provide this. iLoF is a frontrunner in leveraging these new optics and machine learning capabilities, providing an accurate early screening platform that improves the lives of tens of millions.”

Before 2023, iLoF will also be hiring 20 people internationally across physics, data science, biology, and product management profiles. Most recently, the company hired Alex Turpin as Head of BioSignal and Analytics, an experienced physicist who spent the last decade leading projects at the interface of  AI, Data Science, and Photonics in world-class institutions around Europe.