15th July 2020
A million each for iLoF, a Wild Card winner, and Restorative Neurotechnologies, a Headstart funding recipient
Two EIT Health-supported start-ups, one that uses light science to screen candidates for Alzeheimer’s trials and another that bends light to assist in neurological rehabilitation, have both announced that they have received their next million in funding.
EIT Health Wild Card winner iLoF said it secured $1 million in investment from a partnership of Microsoft’s Venture Fund, M12, and the Mayfield Fund. Meanwhile, Restorative Neurotechnologies, which was accelerated through EIT Health Headstart support, announced that they would be receiving €1 million from a group of four investors that includes CDP Venture Capital Sgr.
iLoF: Non-invasive screening for clinical trials
Following the team’s entry into the EIT Health open innovation Wild Card programme in 2019, iLoF (Intelligent Lab on a Fibre) was formed and €2 million in investment in addition to a mentoring package was provided to develop the company and solution. Honing in on the repeated clinical trial failures in neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the solution aims to improve the process of clinical trial screening and speed up drug discovery in diseases with little, or no, treatment options.
In addition to the recent boost from M12 and Mayfield, iLof has attracted the attention of the biotech world, with its cofounders being named in the 2020 Forbes 30 under 30 Europe list in the science and healthcare category. Additionally, the team are finalists in the M12 Female Founders Competition.
“It is fantastic to see iLoF go from strength to strength following their formation as part of the EIT Health Wild Card programme”, said Jorge Juan Fernández García, Director of Innovation, EIT Health. “Wild Card was created to discover and develop highly talented individuals who can come together to form new companies that break ground in areas where solutions to challenges remain undiscovered. Effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases are desperately needed yet continue to evade us – innovation in the research process to find new strategies in tackling such diseases will have significant impact, not to mention scientific value. We look forward to continuing working with iLoF and supporting them as they advance in their journey,” he added.
Challenges surrounding current clinical trial processes are significantly hindering the discovery of potential treatments in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, including difficulties in recruiting and retaining participants.3 iLoF’s solution uses biophotonics (the use of light-based technologies for the purpose of studying biological tissue, cells and cellular processes) and AI to develop non-invasive methods of screening patients for clinical trials, and aims to accelerate the drug discovery process and make it more economically viable.
“This investment will be crucial to our mission of accelerating personalised treatments for patients all around the world”, said Luis Valente, CEO of iLoF. “Our platform technology is growing rapidly and is already being deployed with leading hospitals and biotechs around the globe, expediting the discovery and development of new therapeutics for neurogenerative diseases. By 2021, we aim to enrol a large-scale clinical trial as a precise, non-invasive pre-screening tool for Alzheimer’s, bringing us one step closer to our goal of making the patient’s journey much more humane and convenient, while drastically transforming the whole process into a more efficient and flexible experience for the industry.
Restorative Neurotechnologies: Rehab with prismatic glasses
Restorative Neurotechnologies, a start-up based in Italy, develops ground-breaking treatments for stroke survivors and other patients with neurological disorders. According to the World Health Organization, around 1 billion patients suffer from neurological disorders worldwide. This problem has an impact on the quality of life, health systems and income capacity of patients and their caregivers. Restorative Neurotechnologies addresses this challenge with a wearable device and accompanying software that allows cognitive stimulation through digital rehabilitation exercises.
At the core of the solution is Mindlenses, a pair of special glasses equipped with prismatic lenses that deviate the visual field to the right or left. The research team found that the deviation induced by the prismatic lenses is detected by the brain, which puts in place a compensatory mechanism capable of stimulating the rehabilitation process.
The Restorative Neurotechnologies team was granted €40,000 and networking support through EIT Health’s 2019 Headstart programme. Prof. Massimo Oliveri, head of the team, noted the importance of that support: “Access to a competition such as the acceleration programmes of EIT Health, specifically designed for biomedical businesses, allowed us to complete the development of our product.”
The team also closed a €110,000 SocialFare seed funding round in 2019. Now, one of the new investors, CDP Venture Capital Sgr – National Innovation Fund, will provide further support for all phases of product development and scale-out. The fund, 70% owned by CDP Equity (Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Group) and 30% by Invitalia, aims to support and promote Italian innovative start-ups in the Southern part of the country through the Southern Business Fund.
“We are amazed by the pace of the development of the team coming from Palermo,” said Chiara Maiorino, EIT Health InnoStars Regional Manager for Italy. “This is yet another great example of a start-up from more progressing regions that is highly skilled, motivated and successful.”
Consorzio ARCA, the coordinators of the EIT Health Regional Innovation Scheme Hub in Italy, have been collaborating with Prof. Oliveri and his team for several years. “We supported the group as a tutor for the preparation of their business plan, and supported them in participating in the EIT Health InnoStars Awards in 2017 and then in the selection process of the SocialFare Accelerator which, in 2018, led them to start a second spin-off, namely Restorative Technologies,” said Fiammetta Panto of Consorzio ARCA.