Based in Oxford, Optellum is making an impact breakthrough in medicine through its AI platform. The medtech startup is aiming to bring about earlier diagnosis of lung cancer, enabling early-stage treatments to be made and patient outcomes improved.
Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer and is the leading cause of cancer deaths across the world. It’s reported that 1 in 3 of us will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in our lives and lung cancer is clearly one of the most prevalent types. Tackling cancer requires early diagnosis. With early detection, doctors can make important early interventions and patient outcomes can be improved – it gives a fighting chance to patients.
Using AI to develop lung cancer prediction software, Oxford-based Optellum is making a breakthrough in this space. Founded in 2015, the startup has now received €14 million to accelerate the development of its technology and to get ready for its international expansion.
The €14 million Series A round was led by Mercia with additional investors Intuitive Ventures and Black Opal Ventures. Existing investors include St John’s College in the University of Oxford, IQ Capital, and the family office of Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood also all participated in this round.
Along with the funding, each of the investors brings special expertise in the medtech space to the table. Mercia brings expertise in software tech that makes an impact on global health issues while Intuitive Ventures was founded to accelerate the future of minimally invasive health care treatments. Black Opal Ventures also sits at the intersection of healthcare and technology and is led by physicians.
Black Opal Ventures founder Tara Bishop, MD stated: “We value solutions that make medicine more accurate and accessible. The strong validation data that underpins the Optellum solution has demonstrated its ability to make a difference to patients. We share Optellum’s vision of making this available to every doctor in every hospital – and transform the diagnosis and treatment path for lung cancer.”
Investment Director at Mercia, Stephen Johnson, said: “Optellum is the latest in a series of companies to channel research from the UK’s world-leading universities into commercially viable products which can make a difference to the provision of medical care. Having observed Optellum achieve great milestones over the years – we are now excited to become part of their success and apply our experience with scaling up software and deep tech companies to help accelerate Optellum’s impact on patient lives across the world.”
Founded with the mission to ensure that every lung disease patient is diagnosed and treated at the earliest possible stage, Optellum has developed an AI-based decision-support software that assists physicians in early diagnosis and optimal treatment for their patients.
Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Looking at the stats, it’s reported that approximately 1.8 million people worldwide die from lung cancer each year. The current worldwide five-year survival rate is 20%, primarily because the majority of patients are diagnosed after symptoms have appeared and the disease has progressed to an advanced stage (Stage III or IV). In contrast, the survival rate for small tumors treated at Stage 1A is up to 90%. This disparity highlights a critical need for diagnosis and treatment at the earliest stage possible.
And that is what Optellum wants to achieve.
The Oxford-based startup’s platform can help physicians identify and track at-risk patients, and optimally diagnose the signs of lung cancer early so treatment can be started sooner for patients with tumors, and invasive procedures such as biopsies on benign lesions are minimized.
Oliver Keown, MD, Managing Director of Intuitive Ventures: “Lung cancer is an urgent public health crisis and Optellum’s ground-breaking approach utilizing AI to accelerate early detection and intervention may fundamentally alter the healthcare community’s approach to combating this disease. Optellum is uniquely positioned to align and provide considerable value to patients, providers, and payors alike. Intuitive Ventures is thrilled to provide our full arsenal of financial and strategic support to Optellum as we work towards a world of better outcomes for cancer patients.”
The tech was developed and clinically validated in partnership with leading universities and healthcare systems across the world. Optellum also has strategic collaborations with GE Healthcare and the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson to accelerate clinical deployments and continue the advancement of the platform.
In 2021, the medtech company achieved FDA 510(k) clearance and is being used in the UK to predict at-risk lung nodules in a multi-center study with NHS Trusts as part of a major investment in AI for healthcare.
This new funding will enable the company to scale its base, operations and commercial launches in the UK and USA, accelerate its research and development, and expand its platform into personalized therapy decisions, integrating imaging with molecular data, robotics, and liquid biopsies.
Jason Pesterfield, CEO at Optellum, said: “With this strong support and commitment of highly specialized investors, we are positioned to accelerate commercial deployment in both the UK and the United States to expand our installed base. Following years of research and clinical trials that have shown the impact of our software on the diagnosis of at-risk lung nodules, we’re focused on expanding patient access to this crucial technology and identifying deadly lung cancer faster in more at-risk people. The funding will also boost our research and development with world-leading institutions and partners to progress further innovation.”