Oxford deep tech company wins Microsoft’s global Female Founders competition

Fotograaf: Michiel Ton

Oxford-based start up company iLoF (Intelligent Lab on Fiber), which is hoping to help find a cure for Alzheimers, has won the second Microsoft Female Founders Competition.

ILof uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and photonics to build a cloud-based library of disease biomarkers, initially focusing on Alzheimer’s disease.

Launched along with Mayfield and Melinda Gates’s Pivotal Ventures, the  Female Founders Competition awards $6 million to four women-led companies building enterprise software and deeptech solutions.

Award-winning start-up iLoF (Intelligent Lab on Fiber) is transforming personalised medicine using a biophotonics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform, that may also help to forecast the evolution of COVID-19 infection.

Funded by the European Institute of Technology for Health and the European Commission, and supported by an international consortium of leading institutions including: University of Oxford, Faculty of Medicine of University of Porto, Portugal; INESC TEC, Portugal; iLoF has been recognised as one of the most disruptive startups in Europe for its use of Photonics and AI to solve some of the biggest healthcare challenges facing the world today.

The company was founded by a team of four: Luís Valente – now CEO, who is an award-winning business manager and engineer, who founded his first company at 18. As a serial entrepreneur, Luis was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for Science and Healthcare.

Joana Paiva, Chief Technical Officer is a biomedical scientist and Physics PhD. With three patents and multiple high-impact publications, Joana was named as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for Science and Healthcare.

Paula Sampaio is Chief Scientific Officer. Paula is National Coordinator for the Portuguese Platform of Bioimaging. Paula’s work has been featured in a various high-impact publications.

Mehak Mumtaz, is Chief Operating Officer. A personalized medicine expert and PhD turned strategy consultant to C-Levels, she was previously, an Oxford Innovation Fellow.

iLoF’s disruptive platform technology, which detects nanoscale biomolecules in blood, creating accurate optical ‘fingerprints’ of a patient’s phenotype and stage of disease, secured £1 million (£800,000) from Microsoft’s M12 and Mayfield.

Tamara Steffens, Managing Director at Microsoft’s M12, said: “We are so excited to name iLoF a winner of the Female Founders Competition and invest $1 million alongside Mayfield. iLoF’s technology promises to create effective treatments tailored for the individual, which will change healthcare trajectories for millions of people living with complex disorders. Their mission is humbling, and we are thrilled to support this company with our investment and as a board observer.”

So far, the search for a disease-modifying therapy to treat Alzheimer’s remains elusive. In the past two decades, more than 400 clinical trials have failed, many due to difficulties related with invasive screening methods, challenges identifying suitable patients, and a need for tailored treatments for each biological profile.

iLoF’s patented non-invasive platform aims to tackle these pains while offering pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies a significant cut on the cost and time of trials.

Derek Hill, former director of IXICO, CEO of Panoramic Health and advisor to iLoF, said: “With an ambitious, talented team, iLoF is already gaining significant traction from leading Pharmas and is quickly expanding its global reach. Their versatile platform technology provides clear opportunities to impact both industry and patients around their initial Alzheimer’s focus, as well as in many other disease areas”

Recently, the start-up also responded to the challenge of their clinical partners and is adapting the platform to forecast the clinical evolution of COVID-19 infected patients while in hospital-care. Luis Valente, CEO at iLoF said:

“We are on a mission to enable a new era of personalized medicine, by helping the industry develop, choose and democratize personalised treatments for patients all around the world. Our focus is to provide non-invasive tools that make the drug development experience more humane and convenient for the patients, while drastically making the whole process more efficient and flexible for the industry”

With aspirations far beyond Alzheimer’s, this investment is the second round of funding for iLoF in the last 12 months, after securing €2M later last year from Germany-based EIT Health.

With incredible traction over the past months, multiple clinical partners, numerous awards, and backing from investors like M12 and Mayfield Fund, iLoF is definitely one to watch.

ILoF is a disruptive technological start-up comprising a team of scientists, entrepreneurs and inventors, providing screening and stratification tools in an affordable, non-invasive, label-free way. Based at Oxford, UK, with their engineering centre in Porto, Portugal, the team is working with world-class hospitals, biotechs and pharmaceutical groups to bring their innovative technology to the market. ILoF is being accelerated by the Oxford Foundry, part of the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. The Oxford Foundry aims to build a new generation of ventures that better society, and to nurture more ethical leaders who put people and planet first.