New imaging technology that for the first time enables surgeons to detect cancer in real time during operations has moved a step closer to market thanks to a £2m ($3.1m) funding round by UK medical device company Lightpoint Medical

The molecular imaging technology, currently in clinical trials at Guy’s Hospital, London, aims to tackle the high rate of repeat operations undergone by people with some cancers, most notably breast and prostate cancer.

Currently around one in four women in the UK undergoing surgery for early-stage breast cancer requires at least one re-operation because there is no accurate way to detect microscopic cancerous deposits during the operation, with surgeons relying on look and feel to make a judgement. In many cases, this means that cancerous tissues are not completely removed, leading to at least one repeat operation.

The company’s new investment, raised through a combination of angel investment and crowdfunding, will enable it to take its two lead products to Europe and the USA next year – the LightPath specimen analyser, which enables rapid molecular imaging during surgery, and EnLight, a hand-held molecular imaging fibre optic camera. Lightpoint Medical expects to receive market approval for the technology in 2015.

Dr David Tuch, CEO of Lightpoint Medical, says:

“The level of investment we have raised reflects the real clinical demand for this technology, and therefore its enormous market potential. The current rate of reoperations comes with a high cost to patient well-being and healthcare budgets, and we are very pleased that the funding will help bring our products to people who need them.”

The Series A financing round was led by Oxford Technology with leading business angel networks Cambridge Capital Group, London Business Angels, Envestors, Ruffena Capital, and crowdfunding platform SyndicateRoom.

Lucius Cary, Managing Director of Oxford Technology, says:

“Being an investor in Lightpoint has been a pleasure. From the initial investment, everything has gone better than expected. This happens only rarely. In Lightpoint’s case, the technology has worked. More grants have been received than initially hoped. It has been easy to attract new investors. Most importantly, surgeons have been enthusiastic about using the technology, since it has the potential to dramatically improve outcomes for patients.”

Goncalo de Vasconcelos, CEO of SyndicateRoom, adds:

“Lightpoint Medical attracted an enormous amount of interest from SyndicateRoom investors due to both the investment opportunities and the quality of the management team. It came without a surprise that the funding round was completely oversubscribed.”

Dr Eliot Forster, Executive Chair of MedCity, established in April 2014 to support the commercialisation of life sciences innovations in the London-Oxford-Cambridge golden triangle, says:

“This is a deservedly successful investment round that highlights the value of being flexible about your funding mix and pulling all the levers to access the investment you need. There is a growing sense of confidence and ambition in the UK’s life sciences sector right now, and access to investment is absolutely key to that momentum. Lightpoint demonstrates that there are great opportunities for investors in the sector, and that an exciting product with clear market demand won’t struggle to get funding.”

MedCity recently launched Angels in MedCity, an initiative to significantly increase the level of angel investment available to emerging life sciences companies through a programme of free workshops and pitching events. Launching the scheme in October 2014, Dr Forster said:

“It’s fantastic to be able to develop a tailor-made programme for life sciences investment, since better access to finance is one of the key boosts we need to take London and the greater south east to the next level. We have world-leading research and infrastructure, but we don’t have the kind of liquidity you find in Boston or San Francisco, which is what you need to create and grow a critical mass of exciting young companies. Angels in MedCity is a key part of our drive to position London as a leading centre for life sciences investment, which will not only support home-grown innovation but attract entrepreneurs from around the world to set up business here.”

Lightpoint Medical was founded in 2012 to develop and commercialise surgical imaging technology based on Cerenkov Luminescence Imaging (CLI). CLI enables optical detection of Positron Emission Tomography radiopharmaceuticals, combining the advantages of optical imaging – including low cost, high resolution and portability – with the high diagnostic performance of PET imaging.