Scottish imaging agent startup raises a $6.56 million Series A round

Scottish startup Edinburgh Molecular Imaging (EMI) raised $6.56 million in Series A financing to advance its development of fluorescent imaging agents that can help diagnose and track major diseases.

Epidarex Capital led the round, which also included the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment wing of Scottish Enterprise, an arm of the Scottish government that helps promote economic development.

EMI, a spinout based on research generated at the University of Edinburgh, launched in 2011. Both the university and Epidarex Capital announced the funding news.

Initially, the company said it will focus on respiratory conditions ranging from lung cancer to lung infections and fibrosis. It has said little about its optical molecular imaging technology, other than noting that it will be developing fluorescent imaging reagents to detect disease inside the body with a molecular resolution, at the bedside and in real time. EMI pitches its technology as something that will help reduce healthcare costs but also offer "diagnostic certainty" with relative speed.

EMI co-founder Kev Dhaliwal, a University of Edinburgh professor, said in a statement that the investment will help take the company's core "concepts and research from the bench to the bedside and ultimately improve patient care."

Liz Roper, a partner at Epidarex Capital, added in a statement that her firm sees EMI's tech as having the potential to help reduce mortality and cost in the in vivo diagnostic medical imaging market.

As diagnostic imaging has gained traction, the push to develop precision diagnostic imaging agents has also gained momentum, giving doctors and clinicians an added tool to help assess patients. But it is a tool that doesn't always have a secure market.

GE Healthcare ($GE), for example, is among the larger companies that have pursued imaging agent development, but its progress in the field presents a mixed bag. On the one hand, the company won expanded FDA approval of the imaging agent AdreView to use it to measure cardiac nerve activity to assess the risk of death in patients with heart failure. AdreView previously had the FDA's blessing for use to help detect brain cancer and a form of adrenal cancer, in conjunction with other diagnostic tests. And its expanded approval could help it reach a wider audience. On the other hand, GE Healthcare also won approval for Vizamyl, an imaging agent designed to detect beta amyloid protein to help rule out Alzheimer's. But it can't be used for outright diagnosis, an approval that limits its use, and Medicare won't reimburse the agent.

In other words, EMI may come up with a great product, but it remains to be seen whether the global healthcare market will be able to fully accommodate it, if and when it reaches approval.

- here's the investment announcement

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