Upfront Diagnostics, a healthcare company looking to revolutionise stroke diagnosis, has announced a seed funding round of £1.6 million. 

The startup – previously known as Pockit – was founded in 2017 by University of Cambridge students Gonzalo Ladreda, Dr Edoardo Gaude, Marcos Ladreda and Dr Joshua Bernstock, and has been backed by Cambridge Enterprise since 2019. 

It has developed LVOne, a point-of-care rapid test for identifying patients suffering an acute ischaemic stroke caused by large vessel occlusion.

Globally, there are more than 20 million strokes annually. LVOs account for 30% of strokes but are responsible for 95% of disabilities and deaths. Traditional stroke diagnosis methods often involve time-consuming and costly imaging techniques, causing delays in treatment initiation. 

By identifying Upfront Diagnostics biomarkers with a handheld blood test, paramedics are said to be able to recognise LVO stroke cases within 15 minutes and take patients directly to a comprehensive stroke centre for treatment. 

The startup says this saves more than 1 hour and 30 minutes over the current clinical pathway, billions in medical treatment costs, helps avoid disabilities and saves lives.

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The investment was led by APEX Ventures’ Medical Fund, following grant funding from SBRI Healthcare in partnership with the Stroke Association.

“With this significant funding, we are poised to transform stroke diagnosis worldwide and make a tangible impact on patient care,” said co-founder Gonzalo Ladreda.

“Our rapid blood test has the potential to revolutionise stroke management by providing paramedics and physicians with actionable insights in a matter of minutes, enabling them to make informed treatment decisions swiftly.

“This time-saving difference in early diagnosis could mean a 20% reduction in disabilities from LVO strokes. For every 15 minutes of earlier treatment, there is a cost-saving of over $60,000 per patient. Ultimately faster diagnosis leads to better outcomes for all.”

LVOne was validated on 270 patients at the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital in Newcastle, and it is designed to identify LVO strokes in the ambulance so that patients can be fast-tracked to a thrombectomy-specialised hospital for treatment. Within 15 minutes, the test allows paramedics to identify an LVO anywhere with very high accuracy.

The test has been developed with the support of Innovate UK, Newcastle University, Academic Health Science Network, National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), SBRI Healthcare, Stroke Association and NHS Foundation Trust.

The seed funding will be used to scale up the technology and its accuracy for identifying large artery strokes on real-world patients. Upfront Diagnostics will also expand its team and prepare for clinical approval. 

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Dr Pooja Sikka, general practitioner in the UK and venture partner at APEX Ventures Medical Fund, commented: “I am delighted to back the Upfront Diagnostics team who started their journey in Cambridge. 

“LVOne could revolutionise the stroke care pathway globally, getting patients rapidly into stroke centres and access to interventional radiology services quickly, generating positive clinical outcomes rapidly. It can be a rare find in health tech to find an investment where you change outcomes so definitively, but this is one of them. 

“The impact on the healthcare workforce, the social care system and the broader economic benefits of this solution will also be felt. Stroke is a preventable disease, but growing. We need better diagnostics and optimised care pathways. Effective point-of-care testing is fundamental to achieving that.”

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