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Hamamatsu backs Raman drug monitoring startup Axithra

05 Sep 2023

Spin-out combining expertise from imec and Ghent University raises €10M in seed funding round.

Axithra, a startup company based in Belgium developing chip-based Raman spectroscopy technology to monitor drug concentrations in patients’ blood, has raised €10 million in seed funding.

The spin-out from imec and Ghent University says that its platform could pave the way towards faster and more personalized care, for example ensuring that patients receive the correct doses of antibiotics to treat infections, and spend less time in intensive care as a result.

The seed funding, which includes support from Japan’s Hamamatsu Photonics, is expected to secure two years of research and development work into therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) applications.

imec’s own venture unit co-led the funding with healthcare-focused Kurma Partners, alongside support from Qbic, Noshaq, White Fund, Wallonie Entreprendre, and Spain-headquartered testing giant Werfen Diagnostics.

Raman ‘game-changer’
Axithra’s approach is said to combine imec’s world-leading semiconductor process knowledge with some unique on-chip Raman expertise provided by photonics research from its partners in Ghent.

Its CEO, Leander Van Neste - previously a visiting professor at Ghent, with a background in cancer genetics - said: “I am convinced that together we can build out our TDM platform to be a true game-changer.

“Due to the simplicity and speed of our platform, we can customize medication for each individual patient, even with rapidly changing conditions, and in all sorts of environments, including outside the traditional hospital lab.”

Roel Baets, a professor in silicon photonics at Ghent, added: “Our Raman-on-chip technology is the basis of Axithra’s solution. Integration on a photonics chip makes this technique much more sensitive.”

Axithra explains that, for many drugs, the correct dosage is crucial to ensure the maximum benefit to patients.

“It is a constant focus in hospital units with seriously ill or debilitated patients, who often exhibit physiological changes over time, such as those in the intensive care or oncology unit,” says the startup.

“When administering insufficient doses, a drug loses effectiveness, while excessive doses may cause toxic, potentially fatal, side effects.”

Axithra’s Raman platform will aim to provide fast, accurate measurement of drug concentrations in blood, enabling timely adjustments of dosages as required.

Antibiotics optimized
The first application for the company will be to measure the concentration of beta-lactam antibiotics in a patient’s blood, so that doses can be personalized.

“This class of antibiotics is by far the most commonly used to treat or prevent bacterial infections and is administered to millions of intensive care patients each year,” it explained.

“Axithra’s platform will ensure that treatments can be optimally tailored to the individual patient. Over time, other drug classes will be incorporated in the pipeline.”

Jan De Waele, a professor at Ghent University Hospital - and also President-elect of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine - said in imec’s announcement of the funding round:

“Given the large variation between patients in intensive care, this development will enable us to better treat our patients with severe infections, and protect them from possible harm.

“Because current solutions have long turnaround times, Axithra’s platform will help us to intervene more quickly, improving outcomes of severe infections and reducing the length of stay of patients in the intensive care unit, [thereby] decreasing costs.”

imec says that Axithra is a “perfect example” of how processes developed for the semiconductor industry are now being exploited for applications in life sciences.

Frank Bulens, a partner at the institute’s “imec.xpand” venture unit, observed: “Great to see such a broad investor support for this new spin-off from imec and UGent.

“This substantial seed round will allow the startup to achieve its prototype proof-of-concept milestone, a good basis for raising further financing to advance its product to the market.”

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