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Spinout tech firm to focus on lung cancer

Professor Kev Dhaliwal


Lung cancer could be spotted and treated more quickly thanks to a €12 million investment in cutting-edge technology that promises to diagnose and treat disease in minutes rather than weeks.

The investment will launch a spinout company from the Universities of Edinburgh and Bath, named Prothea Technologies Ltd, which is developing technologies to ‘see and treat’ diseased tissue in a single procedure.

The team behind Prothea say that their technology could cut hospital pressures and waiting times and could pave the way for diagnosis and treatment to be carried out in a single hospital visit. Currently, patients with suspected early-stage lung cancer undergo screening tests with follow-up scans and biopsies of suspicious tissue. This approach can be slow and can often be inaccurate.

Prothea’s innovations include a fibre optic endoscope that allows biopsies to be taken through a tiny camera tube, and an ultrafast imaging and data capture tool that offers live insights into the molecular make-up of cells. This advance would make it easier to rapidly spot disease and treat in the same procedure.

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with more than 48,000 new cases diagnosed per year. Nine in 10 patients do not survive more than 10 years, with survival rates remaining stubbornly low for the last five decades.

The launch of Prothea comes after 10 years of cross-discipline research on lung disease at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Inflammation Research, within the Institute for Regeneration and Repair on Edinburgh BioQuarter, together with key colleagues across the University and partners including Durham, Heriot-Watt and Dundee Universities.

Prothea is one of a number of spinout companies launched from the University of Edinburgh in recent years, with support from Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service. A report from London Economics last year found that University of Edinburgh spinouts contributed £162 million to the UK economy in the year 2021/2022.

Financing for Prothea was co-led by Earlybird Venture Capital and Mérieux Equity Partners, with participation from NRW Bank and Old College Capital, the University’s venture investment fund.

Professor Kev Dhaliwal, Co-founder and Chief Science and Medical Officer, Prothea, and Chair of Molecular Imaging and Healthcare Technology, Institute for Regeneration and Repair said:  ” Lung disease is a global health challenge with patients urgently needing quicker diagnostics and faster and more effective treatments. We hope that our new technologies will improve the early diagnosis and cure of lung cancer and improve the outlook for patients and their families. Prothea is the result of many years of a collaborative team effort with deep tech approaches and we can’t wait to get started on developing these innovations further.”

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations added: ” Prothea Technologies has emerged from an ambitious collaboration between the Universities of Edinburgh, Bath, Dundee and Durham, alongside NHS Lothian and Heriot-Watt University. Its journey so far has shaped pioneering science into a tangible solution for crucial unmet clinical needs. Edinburgh Innovations is delighted to have supported that journey, and we look forward to seeing Prothea move into its next chapter: to transform the lives of patients and their families.”