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Zilico’s innovative diagnostic technology

As part of our insight series GBI Magazine spoke to Sameer Kothari, CEO of Zilico, about his company and its relationship with the Deepbridge Life Sciences EIS fund.

Founded in 2010, Chester-based Deepbridge launched its first EIS fund in the 2013/14 tax year. In conversation Sameer explained the background to how Zilico was created and how they have utilised investment from Deepbridge’s Life Science EIS. In many respects, it is an exemplar of the Start-Ups that Deepbridge invests in, it provides real-time cancer diagnostics utilizing its innovative bioelectric technology. Their flagship product is ZedScan which is in routine use across 13 NHS hospitals.

The healthcare agenda in recent years around the world is more focused on preventative rather than late stage intervention, Sameer explained. There are still many diseases that rely on visual diagnosis by clinicians which is subjective. Clearly, it is better to diagnose disease early for the patient and the entire ecosystem, however, early stage disease present more subtle changes and therefore more challenging for clinicians to diagnose. The diagnostic technology designed by Zilico sits within the cervical cancer pathway and was the brainchild of two medical specialists. It was invented to look at the electrical properties of cells, tissues and organs and uses a form of electrical impedance spectroscopy which can analyse changes in cells and tissue that take place during the lifecycle of the disease and these are a surrogate marker for disease state, more accurately identifying precancerous lesions. The innovative product is called ZedScan and is being used within the UK as a test bed generating real-world clinical evidence and feedback on the device. This clinical data is now published in peer reviewed medical journals. Evidence through data is essential and results are showing that it is helping detect more high-grade disease in women with low grade changes, and the impact is significant with 50% more disease being diagnosed earlier*. Preventative healthcare is an area that governments all over the world are focusing on as its better for the Zilico sits within the cervical cancer pathway and was the brainchild of two medical specialists. It was invented to look at the electrical properties of cells, tissues and organs and uses a form of electrical impedance spectroscopy which can analyse changes in cells and tissue that take place during the lifecycle of the disease and these are a surrogate marker for disease state, more accurately identifying precancerous lesions. The innovative product is called ZedScan and is being used within the UK as a test bed generating real-world clinical evidence and feedback on the device. This clinical data is now published in peer reviewed medical journals. Evidence through data is essential and results are showing that it is helping detect more high-grade disease in women with low grade changes, and the impact is significant with 50% more disease being diagnosed earlier*

Preventative healthcare is an area that governments all over the world are focusing on as its better for the patient resulting in early treatment, remedies and when the cost of healthcare is spiraling. Advances in these types of preventative technologies help to match the worldwide economic health agenda as accuracy and cost effectiveness are essential and the technology is portable, and results fed back in real-time.

The ZedScan itself has a small footprint with a docking station and handheld device. It assesses the cervical tissue, with single use sensors taking real time readings. Results are available in minutes for clinicians which helps them advise on care for the patient at the same appointment. Although the medical world is slow at adopting new technology, some of the reasons are understandable given the levels of evidence needed before a medical product comes to market. So, these do take slightly longer to come to market than we would be used to in a consumer world.

Sameer has been involved with start-up businesses for over 15 years. He has led a successful exit from a previous life sciences company which also focused on commercialising research from academia, who successfully achieved next stage funding before being bought by a major US company. For Sameer he sees success in translational research as being wholly dependent on being funded properly to achieve market success which, in the life sciences, takes time. This is where EIS is vital as once the Government introduced EIS, over 25 years ago now, it provided an opportunity to give money and time to these companies to scale. He sees the opportunities for most of these to have global impact and the rewards are substantial, but they need to be funded appropriately.

EIS gave the UK the funding opportunity and Deepbridge, as Zilico’s investor, helped develop the product which is now rolling out. The ZedScan is now in 13 trusts around the UK and in three hospitals in Finland. They are already planning their secondgeneration device based on feedback from users and preparing to scale up. Sameer believes that investment from Deepbridge has allowed them to derisk parts of the opportunities for further investment, as the science, the technology, the manufacturing, and supply chains are already in place with 100s of these devices and 1000s of sensors confirming that the technology works. Sameer is confident that Zilico can now move to the next stage of fund raising for the scale-up to take over the global opportunity and for him EIS has been an essential steppingstone.

*Tidy et al Are colposcopy and electrical impedance spectroscopy complementary when used to detect high-grade cervical neoplasia? Eur. J. Gynaecol. Oncol. 2018;49; doi: 10.12892/ejgo3882.2018 N=836


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