Blood testing startup Osler to appeal to investors as it prepares to launch device

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Osler Diagnostics plans to raise more funds as the Oxford University spin-out prepares to launch its first blood-testing device, in an industry tarnished by its most famous forerunner: Theranos.

The diagnostics startup, co-founded by 27-year-old Connor Campbell, who attended but did not complete medical school, has already raised $100 million in the five years since its launch.

Although the band is named after the famous 19th century diagnostician, Sir William Osler, its tabletop device has a sleek iPad-like interface.

Campbell hopes wearable diagnostics will transform healthcare by offering a range of quick and inexpensive tests outside of the lab, sometimes from just a few drops of blood.

But he is keen to point out that any comparison with Theranos, the Silicon Valley start-up whose co-founder Elizabeth Holmes was recently convicted of fraud, ends there.

“Theranos started from an idea of ​​Elizabeth Holmes. We started on the basis of decades of research from the University of Oxford in the most successful departments in the history of diagnostics,” he said. .

Osler is seeking approval for two critical cardiac tests, but aims to surpass existing point-of-care diagnostics with its range of tests © Tom Pilston/FT

“They built an organization run by board members who were diplomats, lawyers or generals. We have an organization filled with experts in their field led by some of the world’s top leaders in diagnostics, global pharmaceuticals and global life sciences.

Campbell co-founded Osler with Oxford chemistry professor Jason Davis, where the wearable electrochemical blood glucose sensor was created.

This month, the company named Chris Smith, chief executive of Nasdaq-listed Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, to chair the board, and David Berry, general partner at venture capital firm Flagship Pioneering, in as non-executive director.

Campbell left his medical course at Oxford after three years to go into business. He ended up working with McKinsey in Sierra Leone at the end of the Ebola crisis, where he saw firsthand the importance of diagnosis.

“To take an extreme example, if you don’t know who is dying of what, where do you send the medical resources? What resources are you sending? ” he said.

He says the pandemic has “hammered home” the point that diagnostics are key to changing healthcare.

Osler is starting by seeking approval for two critical cardiac tests, but hopes the scale will help it surpass existing point-of-care diagnostics. Campbell said the device can already perform a much wider range of tests, including diagnosing infectious diseases. It processes most tests in about 10 minutes.

Wearing a white lab coat over his black Osler brand t-shirt, Campbell demonstrates the machine in a lab.

Blood samples – taken from a finger with a pin prick or from a vein with a conventional needle – are added into cartridges with all the reagents needed to perform a specific test or panel of tests. Inside the machine, blood is manipulated to prepare the sample, then presented to a biosensor, which translates a biochemical reaction into measurable data.

Osler will have to prove to regulators through clinical studies that it is substantially equivalent to much larger laboratory machines.

The company has yet to publish articles about its work in scientific journals, although it has patented innovations at every stage of the process.

Roland Diggelmann, managing director of device maker Smith & Nephew, who previously led diagnostics for Roche, doesn’t see the lack of publications as a weakness, saying it’s normal for a diagnostics maker to wait to ask for the regulatory approval to publish.

Diggelmann, which has no financial relationship with Osler, said its technology was “promising” and pointed to the company’s “strong academic background” and ambition to create a wide range of tests.

“Osler’s approach is that they basically want to do everything in one device. This is what no one has been able to crack. It’s a big challenge. They believe they can do it and there is a chance they can. There is still a lot of work to do,” he said.

Despite Theranos’ long shadow, investors are pouring money into companies that promise to revolutionize blood testing.

Osler raised $50 million in Series B funding early last year, led by Oxford Science Enterprises and Bravos Capital. It will soon begin a Series C fundraising. Its investors include business leaders Charles Dunstone, co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, Irish financier Dermot Desmond and British billionaire Michael Spencer.

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