Micrima in Bristol has raised £2.6m in venture capital to bring its ground-breaking breast scanner to market. The new funding will support accelerated development of its patented microwave-based MARIA technology for commercialisation later this year.

“Breast cancer is the most common cause of death in women between the ages of 35 and 55 in Europe and the leading cause of death for women in many countries,” said Roy Johnson, Micrima’s Executive Chairman. “The problem is that many tumours are not discovered early enough, largely due to the difficulty in discriminating between cancers and dense tissue using current imaging technology.

“Using harmless radiowaves, the MARIA imaging system is capable of detecting tumours… without any of the safety concerns associated with x-ray mammography”

 

“Using harmless radiowaves, the MARIA imaging system is capable of detecting tumours in dense tissue and allows routine and repeated scanning without any of the safety or comfort concerns associated with x-ray mammography. The process takes less than five minutes and avoids painful breast compression.”

Almost half of the funding comes from existing individual investors with the majority of the balance from individual ‘angel’ investors through the Venture Founders platform. Re-investing shareholders include Technology Venture Partners, based at the Innovation Centre at Bristol & Bath Science Park, Swarraton Partners, a UK venture capital firm investing in European early stage technology companies and the British Business Bank supported Angel CoFund. The University of Bristol Enterprise Fund is a new investor.

8 years in the making

The technology was initially pioneered at the University of Bristol and received European regulatory approval in 2015 after eight years of development. The MARIA scanning head consists of 60 elements that sequentially transmit a microwave pulse while all the remaining elements collect the reflected data which is processed using a focusing algorithm to create an image of the energy distribution within the breast.

The scanner is now being used in clinical trials based at several breast cancer imaging centres throughout the UK. The first clinical data from MARIA was presented at the European Congress of Radiology in Vienna earlier this year, with more results from current multi-site clinical trials presented in Liverpool in July to demonstrate its effectiveness.

The next version of the MARIA system, due to be released early next year, will add the ability to automatically distinguish between different types of lesions, providing a significant advantage over current methods for its future screening applications.

“We originally invested in Micrima because we knew we’d found an extremely capable team working with some very interesting technology in a sector with considerable opportunity for innovation,” said Tim Mills, Investment Director at the Angel CoFund. “The team has really delivered on our expectation in the last couple of years and we’re very happy to be supporting them again through this next phase of development.”

There is more information about the MARIA technology on the Micrima website.