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Image Source: Ahmed Sinan

AI eye disease detection startup secures funding amidst expansion

A London biotechnology startup has secured £500k in funding and appointed a new CEO.

Novai, which uses AI to identify eye diseases 18 months earlier than current standards, will use the capital to further develop its AI-powered technology.

The technology, which when applied to images taken using Detection of Apoptosing Retinal Cell (DARC) technique, can accurately predict progressive glaucomatous damage 18 months before current gold standard OCT retinal imaging technology.

Additionally, Novai has appointed Gordon Bethwaite as acting CEO, and added Dr. Karl Keegan, Rob Thornhill, and Dr. Berwyn Clarke to its board. Bethwaite has worked in eyecare for over 20 years, while Dr. Clarke, now chairman, has over 30 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical and diagnostics industries.

Founded by Professor Francesca Cordeiro from UCL and Imperial College London, Novai’s technology has been approved as an exploratory biomarker for use in studies of glaucoma - the leading cause of irreversible blindness globally - and age-related macular degeneration.

It is currently researching the technology’s potential for application in neurodegenerative conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, and recently closed its first commercial agreement – a research collaboration with Santen USA.

Gordon Bethwaite said: “Throughout my career, I’ve worked with gold-standard eyecare companies and products and have seen first-hand the positive impact that ground-breaking technology can have on patients’ lives.

“DARC has the potential to become one of those technologies, and I’m excited to be part of this amazing team bringing it to market. Playing a role in the development of new treatments and standards of care for patients suffering with degenerative sight loss is what motivates us to success with DARC”.

Rohallah Ghasemi, investment manager at SFC Capital which led on the funding round, added: “Novai’s combination of technology and biomedicine represents the future of preventative care, with the potential to make a massive difference for anyone who might suffer from degenerative diseases.

“The founders have assembled an extraordinary team of experts and advisors, and we are pleased to be supporting them as they continue to prove the capabilities of the technology and grow the company. We’re excited to see what they achieve next.”

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