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Astron Clinica is a Cambridge-based company which has developed a revolutionary skin-imaging technology that enables doctors and skincare specialists to look beneath the surface of the skin. The company’s patented SIAscopy™ technology is currently used in its DERMETRICS® product suite to assist in the early diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers (malignant melanoma), and has potential applications in a wide variety of skin conditions. In April 2005, Astron Clinica raised venture finance from Kuwait Finance House, Bahrain. The multimillion pound investment followed a funding round of £300,000 raised through Oxfordshire Investment Opportunity Network (OION), Europe’s leading technology business angel network. Astron will use the new capital to build market share worldwide, and continue to develop its DERMETRICS® product suite to include applications in psoriasis, eczema and acne, as well as in wound management and for the cosmetics industry. Astron’s unique skin-imaging technology, SIAscopy™ (Spectrophotometric Intracutaneous Analysis), uses visible and infra-red light to examine the main skin components (blood, melanin, dermal melanin and collagen) to a depth of 2mm below the skin’s surface, and displays the images on standard PCs. The technology is based on research started at Birmingham University by the company’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Symon Cotton, and has been developed by Astron in association with the University and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. It is now being used worldwide in Astron’s DERMETRICS® products suite by dermatologists, plastic surgeons and other medical professionals.
Annie Brooking, Chief Executive Officer of Astron Clinica, said:
“The skin is the largest organ in the body and it is far from simple to investigate what is going on inside. Current methods of assessing whether a skin lesion may be cancerous are based on visual examinations of the skin’s surface but the process is time-consuming, costly and has a high ‘false negative’ rate as about 20% of melanomas are not detected on first presentation. SIAscopy™ is a breakthrough in medical imaging which assists consultant dermatologists and GPs to identify suspicious moles at the earliest possible stage without cutting through the skin. This means that patients can receive prompt treatment, greatly increasing their chances of recovery. Scientific research has proven SIAscopy™ to be a reliable and cost-effective technology.”
Medical professionals use a handheld SIAscanner™ or a standard digital camera to create surface or sub-surface maps of the skin that can be stored and compared with subsequent images to monitor and treat patients over a series of examinations. The images can be incorporated into reports, or printed out for patients to assist in self-monitoring.
Astron Clinica is currently developing applications of its SIAscopy™ technology for the treatment of skin conditions such as acne and rosacea, as well as in the cosmetics industry where SIAscopy™ can be used to analyse skin-aging.
Ms Brooking continued:
“SIAscopy™ will now be applied to provide important new insights into the factors responsible for human skin appearance and should enable cosmetic scientists to gain a much clearer understanding of the actual effects of their products.”
Dr Jon Cox, Manager of OION, said:
“Astron Clinica’s technology is revolutionising skin imaging and has a wide range of near-market applications so the company was a very attractive proposition for OION investors. The OION Network has supported a number of healthcare companies with interim finance, so that they can subsequently secure the substantial capital needed to complete product development for launch in new markets. We wish Annie Brooking and the Astron management team every success with their plans for worldwide expansion.”
Ms Brooking commented on the fundraising process:
“Oxfordshire Investment Opportunity Network provided the bridging finance we needed at a crucial time to take us through to the stage where we could attract substantial venture capital investment. OION’s knowledgeable investors had a thorough understanding of the healthcare market. Angel networks have a critical and important role to play in helping technology companies such as ourselves reach the next stage.”