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Rockley posts hefty losses amid push to accelerate commercialization

09 Mar 2022

Silicon photonics firm re-deploys datacom engineers to biosensing projects as it targets healthcare applications.

Rockley Photonics, the developer of photonic integrated circuits (PICs) for applications in optical biosensing and communications, says it is taking steps to preserve capital after posting huge losses in its latest financial year.

The California-headquartered company, which has its roots in the UK but listed on the New York Stock Exchange via a special-purpose acquisitions company (SPAC) merger last August, reported an operating loss of $116 million in 2021.

Full-year sales slumped from $22.3 million in 2020 to $8.2 million last year, as the company pivoted away from its traditional area of datacom applications to focus on biosensing in wearable technologies - what Rockley refers to as its “clinic-on-a-wrist” technology.

Having boosted its balance sheet with $168 million via its SPAC listing, the company went on to post an operating loss of $23.2 million on sales of $2.4 million in the final quarter of the year.

Customer engagement
Commenting on those results, CEO and founder Andrew Rickman focused on the firm’s efforts to penetrate both the medical and consumable wearables markets, saying:

“The recently released results from our core body temperature and blood pressure studies suggest that our approach will allow continuous insight into a person’s individual health and wellness.

“We believe that the use of our platform could have a profound impact on the lives of individuals, patients, seniors, first responders, and more. [It] has the potential to help the current system evolve from ‘sick-care’ to preventative healthcare, by empowering individuals and by providing better tools for professional healthcare.”

Rockley pointed to agreements with six global consumer electronics firms, plus engagements with 12 more - said to include six of the top ten largest makers of smart watches and wristbands - as evidence of the progress it is making.

Those prospective clients are being offered Rockley’s “VitalSpex” chipsets and modules, while potential customers in the medical industry started to receive engineering samples of the photonics firm’s “Bioptx” sensing platform in January - claimed to be two years ahead of schedule.

Commercial versions of the Bioptx sensors for medical technology customers are expected by the end of 2022, with Rockley planning to generate revenues from sales of cloud software and subscriptions while it seeks certifications for healthcare uses from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory bodies.

Industry convergence
During an investor conference call discussing the latest results, Rickman outlined the rationale behind Rockley’s pivot to healthcare and “wellness” applications, saying that the convergence of the medical technology and consumer electronics sectors was creating an opportunity for disruption.

“Governments are acutely aware of the need to empower people, to detect diseases early, and even to prevent them,” he said. “[We] need to look for ways to not only treat but to prevent disease.”

Rockley is developing two versions of the technology, known as “Baseline” and “Pro”. The Baseline version is set to add blood pressure, core body temperature and hydration monitoring, with the Pro additionally offering blood lactate, alcohol, and glucose sensing.

This year Rockley plans to carry out further studies of the sensing technology’s ability to probe biomarkers for cardiovascular health, with shipments for the medical technology industry expected to precede those for consumer electronics customers.

But in the meantime - and following the US Department of Commerce ruling that means Rockley is now looking for an alternative buyer for its datacoms joint venture - the company is taking steps to control its spending, with some engineers shifting their focus.

CFO Mahesh Karanth said: “We implemented programs to help us to preserve capital and improve our cash efficiency, correlating expenditures to initiatives tied to accelerating the commercialization of our consumer wearables and medtech products.

“We are in the process of redeploying datacom engineers to biosensing projects.”

© 2024 SPIE Europe
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