Optellum, an Oxford-based MedTech company that provides a breakthrough AI platform to diagnose and treat early-stage lung cancer, has raised around £13 million in a Series A funding round. 

The investment 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 personalised therapy decisions, integrating imaging with molecular data, robotics and liquid biopsies.

The funding round was led by Mercia, with additional investors Intuitive Ventures (Sunnyvale, CA, USA) and Black Opal Ventures (New York, NY, USA). Existing investors including St John’s College in the University of Oxford,  IQ Capital, and the family office of Sir Martin & Lady Audrey Wood also participated in this round.

Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in the world.  Approximately 150,000 people in the United States and 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.

In contrast, the survival rate for small tumours treated at Stage 1A is up to 90%.  This disparity highlights a critical need for diagnosis and treatment at the earliest stage possible.

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Optellum is the leader in AI-enabled lung cancer diagnosis, and the first and only MedTech company to have attained FDA clearance, CE-MDR in the EU, and UKCA in the UK for its software platform Virtual Nodule Clinic. 

The 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 tumours, and invasive procedures such as biopsies on benign lesions are minimised.

“With this strong support and commitment of highly specialised investors, we are positioned to accelerate commercial deployment in both the UK and the United States to expand our installed base,” said Jason Pesterfield, CEO. 

“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.”

Stephen Johnson, investment director at Mercia, 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.” raises £2.2m to make diagnostic imaging accessible to all

Intuitive Ventures, the independent venture capital arm of Intuitive, a world leader in medical robotics – including lung cancer care – was founded in 2020 to accelerate the future of minimally invasive care. 

“Lung cancer is an urgent public health crisis and Optellum’s ground-breaking approach utilising AI to accelerate early detection and intervention may fundamentally alter the healthcare community’s approach to combating this disease,” said Oliver Keown, MD of Intuitive Ventures. 

“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.”

Physician-led, female-founded fund Black Opal Ventures has a mission to build better businesses and a better future at the intersection of healthcare and technology. Its expertise in reimbursement and health economics will assist Optellum, which recently announced a New Technology Ambulatory Payment Classification for Medicare patients in the USA.

Founder Tara Bishop, MD, commented: “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.”