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Northumbria University spin-out raises £1.4m for lung test to aid early diagnosis of asthma

8th February 2024

PulmoBioMed - a Northumbria University spin-out which has developed a new lung test that could lead to earlier diagnosis of asthma and other conditions - has raised £1.4m to help commercialise its technology.

The investment round was led by the North East Venture Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Mercia Ventures, and included Northumbria University, SFC Capital and private investors in the USA, EU and UK. The company has also secured a £700,000 grant from Innovate UK to help it demonstrate the benefits of its technology.

PulmoBioMed’s breath sampling technology offers a fast, non-invasive way to obtain fluid samples from the deep lung without contamination from fluids from the mouth. Most sampling devices cannot distinguish between the two, so may result in an unclear or misleading diagnosis, while other methods are highly invasive and cannot be performed frequently, or suffer contamination from the environment. Therefore, it can take time before patients receive a correct diagnosis and are given effective treatment.

PulmoBioMed’s hand-held device, PBM-Hale™, captures the breath as the patient exhales. It then separates large aerosol droplets which come from the mouth from fine droplets which come from the deep lung. Clinical studies have shown that it provided uncontaminated deep lung samples in just two minutes that helped detect and quantify lung infections and inflammation in 100% of symptomatic cases.

The PBM-Hale™ device is easy to use and over 40 times cheaper than endoscopy, an invasive technique where a tube is inserted into the lung with a one in seven risk of injury.

PulmoBioMed was founded in 2020 by Professor Sterghios A. Moschos, a molecular biologist with over 20 years’ experience who achieved international renown as leader of the team that developed a point-of-need test for Ebola virus disease in 2015 during the outbreak in West Africa. He is backed by a team of experts including Professor Sir Peter J. Barnes FRS, a world authority on airways disease, and Dr Huw Edwards, the founding CEO of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association.

Caption: L- R: Professor Andy Long, Professor Sterghios Moschos, Dr Huw Edwards and Professor Sir Peter J. Barnes (Photo credit: PulmoBioMed)

PumoBioMed has already completed one successful UK government contract and won a number of accolades including the 2021 BioNOW investability competition. The company initially plans to target the US market and focus on asthma diagnosis, though the device is suitable for diagnosing other conditions including pneumonias. It could also improve outcomes for lung cancer patients by providing a better way to detect returning tumours and identify the best treatments.

The company is in discussion with a number of potential customers. The funding will enable it to develop a cost-effective manufacturing process to scale up production and register its product in the US. It also plans to relocate to new premises in Newcastle city centre and create seven new jobs in the year ahead.

Dr Sterghios Moschos, founder and CEO, said: “PulmoBioMed was founded during the pandemic to address the need for reliable breath-based diagnostics. We have solved fundamental problems to enable quick and non-invasive deep lung sampling, with minimal training, and as frequently as necessary. Over 300 million asthma patients suffer slow diagnosis and millions of others are hospitalised every year with pneumonias that are impossible to diagnose with current tests. By helping clinicians understand their patient’s disease and select treatments that work, PBM-Hale, has the potential to transform respiratory care.”

Alex Simpson of Mercia Ventures added: “PulmoBioMed’s success demonstrates the rise of the healthtech industry in regions like the North East. World-class innovations are no longer confined to the ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London – regional companies like PulmoBioMed are emerging as important players, thanks in part to the strength of regional universities and support available from funds such as the NEVF alongside private investors.”

Taking innovative technology to market

Northumbria University has a growing pipeline of IP arising from its research. Commercialisation activity is supported by an award-winning team, backed also by Northern Accelerator, a collaboration between the North East’s Universities to commercialise research and boost the region’s economy.

PulmoBioMed has benefitted from a range of Northern Accelerator support. Their ‘Proof-of-Concept’ funding supported the development of a first functional prototype of PBM-Hale™. Saqib Ali, Industrial Designer at PulmoBioMed and Northumbria graduate carried out the rapid prototyping of PBM-HALE™ using 3D printers within the University’s engineering labs.

A second Northern Accelerator initiative, ‘Executives into Business’, supported the onboarding of the executive team, and a third programme of support, ‘Future Founders’, provided business training.

PulmoBioMed also benefitted from North by Northwest Partner’s ‘Innovation to the Commercialisation of University Research’ (ICURe) programme, which helped validate the market for the spinout’s technology. The company won additional funding from Innovate UK to support the first 18 months of business development activities.

Professor Andy Long, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at Northumbria University, said: “PulmoBioMed’s technology has the potential to deliver enormous impact in healthcare on a global scale and we are thrilled to see this recognised through strong investor confidence in this Northumbria spinout.  This investment success reflects the calibre of the University’s growing pipeline of IP arising from our world-class research and highly entrepreneurial teams. It further evidences our commitment to driving economic growth in the region, boosting the development of new businesses and supporting the creation of new high-quality jobs here in the North East.”

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