28 September 2009

UCL Business PLC announces that it has led an initial investment round of £350,000 into Endomagnetics Limited, a spinout company which is commercialising magnetic sensing technology arising from research within the London Centre for Nanotechnology at UCL and the Texas Centre for Superconductivity at the University of Houston.

Co-investors in the investment round were the Combined London Colleges University Challenge Seed Fund (“CLCUC”), Bloomsbury Bioseed Fund (“BBSF”), together with the founders and their friends and families.

The company’s first product is an intra-operative medical device for use in the treatment of breast cancer. Globally, 1.25 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year, whilst lifestyle changes and the availability of healthcare mean that this figure is increasing by around 20,000 cases year on year, in both the developed and the developing world. In practically all of these cases, surgery is required to remove the tumour. During the surgical procedure it is desirable to excise the sentinel lymph nodes and inspect them microscopically (i.e. perform histology) to determine whether the cancer has spread from the tumour to other sites in the body.

However, current methods of sentinel node detection present inherent and significant barriers to widespread adoption of the procedure. A key reason is that the current method is based on radiation. Locating the sentinel nodes involves injecting a radioactive dye into the lymph around the tumour. This then passes through the lymphatic system and collects in the sentinel nodes; the surgeon then uses a hand-held gamma probe to locate the node. However the use of radioisotopes presents the hospital administration with significant, and expensive, logistical burden and there is also reluctance on the part of patients to receive a radioactive injection.

Endomagnetics Ltd’s approach to lymph node location radically alters the sentinel lymph node biopsy protocol. It uses a detection system based on magnetics rather than radiation, with the radioactive dye being replaced by an MRI contrast agent and a novel hand-held magnetic sensor replacing the gamma probe. This considerably simplifies the pre- and post-operative hospital procedures for sentinel lymph node biopsy, as hospitals and surgeons are freed from the constraints imposed by the use of radioactive materials during the staging procedure.

Professor Quentin Pankhurst, Founder of Endomagnetics commented, “Endomagnetics vision is to transform the way that the staging of breast cancer is undertaken and ensure that patients across the world have access to a vital component of the breast cancer staging process. This investment will enable us to accelerate our development activity and engage with clinical adopters across the US and Europe.”

Dr Steven Schooling, Director of Engineering and Physical Sciences at UCL Business said “Endomagnetics is capitalising on a innovative technology developed within the research labs of two world class research centres at UCL and Houston, which has the potential for use across a wide range of clinical conditions. UCL Business has worked closely with Professor Pankhurst and his colleagues from the initial proof of concept activities through to the raising of investment finance and we wish the team every success with their future plans.”

For further information contact:
Dr Steven Schooling, Director Engineering and Physical Sciences, UCL Business PLC on 020 7679 9000, (s.schooling@uclb.com)
Prof. Quentin Pankhurst, Endomagnetics Ltd, 07962 232 340.