Each month we profile an innovative, growing company from across the Greater South East of England. This month we spoke to Kam Pooni, CEO at Glyconics, a company at the forefront of diagnostic innovation, using infrared spectroscopy to analyse samples for markers of disease across a wide range of conditions.

Tell me about your background and how you came to be involved in diagnostics?

Following a PhD in economics, I worked in pharma for over 20 years; including at Eli Lilly, Ipsos MORI and Reuters. I later went on to join Astellas Europe in a variety of senior commercial roles and also ‘carried the bag’ as a Regional Manager. I led the region to number one in two years.

I have always been interested in healthcare and how health systems work. Of course, I’m interested in figures, but patients have to be at the centre of the journey: that’s where I get my satisfaction. This is how I came to be involved in Glyconics. Integrated Care is critical, but diagnostics play a key role in supporting the patient journey– that is particularly interesting to me

What is it about Glyconics that makes it unique?

Glyconics is at the forefront of diagnostic innovation, using infrared spectroscopy to analyse samples for markers of disease across a wide range of conditions. At the moment, spectroscopy machinery is too big and bulky and can only be undertaken in labs by trained staff. We want to change that and bring it out of the lab with a hand-held device designed to give early warning of acute events such as exacerbations alerts for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients and other conditions.

Why did you choose to work with COPD patients?

COPD is a widespread condition in need of diagnostic innovation and our first application of our platform. Over 200 million people across the EU, UK, USA, China and India have COPD, so the market is huge. COPD patients currently have no way of monitoring their condition at home, and we want to eventually provide everyone with an accurate, simple to use and low cost handheld backed with strong digital platform. Ultimately, it will help them to manage their own condition, and avoid unnecessary hospital A&E visits.

How did you get involved with German company Spectrolytic and how will this progress the product?

Spectrolytic is the world leader in the use of spectroscopy for industrial and food applications and through our agreement it will produce the world’s first hand-held IR devices for COPD and other conditions. Our partnership is enabling our speed to market to shorten substantially. We plan to go into clinical trials next year and aim to take the product to market in 2020. Our health combined with their development expertise mean that people with COPD will be able to take control of their condition and be ready if and when these acute events may occur.

How have you gone about funding / investment? Any top tips for SMEs?

We initially started with SBRI funding and then Innovate UK grant. We also obtained two EU seals of excellence awards, before getting support and funding though Deepbridge Capital, who specialise in tech and life sciences.

In terms of tips when you are on your funding journey, what’s important is:
– A realistic valuation
– Clear development pathway with a value proposition that addresses a real unmet need
– Specific KPIs and metrics
– Right people in place

Redefining healthcare in terms of technology is important. Often the tech tends to drive the company as opposed to the unmet need. I’ve seen many great tech innovations not succeed due to no clear unmet need or funding available for the product.

One of the biggest challenge for SMEs is support and systems around you. As an SME you have to create the system from scratch. This can be complex, time-consuming but often the one thing that will support scaling up quickly.

Why did you choose to set up in Cambridge?

Cambridge is a great tech hub with a strong ecosystem of support, particularly for SMES. Cambridge has a good knowledge network and you start to meet people experiencing similar issues – technical and scientific. We were recently recognised in the Cambridge top 50 ones to watch and myself personally as a gamechanger by Business Weekly.

What is next for the company?

Our ambition is to be the first point of care hand-held diagnostic for spectroscopy in the world. No longer will patients be reliant on hospitals; they will be working together with their GP to monitor disease progression. The potential is huge if we also analyse the data and stratify the diagnosis of diseases. We plan to get this device into the market for COPD and then to focus on diabetes as well as other conditions (e.g. Lung Cancer).

You can find out more about Glyconics here: http://www.glyconics.com/