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Microvisk Secures £2.5 Million to Develop World’s First Medical Diagnostic SmartStrip®

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Microvisk Technologies, the developer of a handheld system to monitor the blood clotting status of patients taking the drug Warfarin, has raised £2.5 million through a rights issue to existing investors. The round was significantly oversubscribed and completed within four weeks.

The round included investment from Oxford Technology Management, Porton Capital, New Hill (Boston, USA), Midven, the Rainbow Seed Fund, Finance Wales and private investors. In January, Microvisk secured £2m from new and existing investors.

A spin-out company from the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Microvisk is developing the world’s first medical diagnostic strip based on a Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) that was originally created as a movement system for nano-robots. MEMS technology is used in devices such as the iPhone and Nintendo Wii as well as in car engines.

Microvisk’s ‘SmartStrip®’ uses sensors to work out the clotting speed of blood from a finger prick sample and the results are displayed on a handheld reader. Trials of the prototype device are progressing and Microvisk will use the new capital to finalize product development and start the testing necessary to secure regulatory approval in Europe and the US. The company is on track to launch the SmartStrip® system onto the market in 2011.

Seven million people in the western world use Warfarin and patients must have regular blood tests at their doctor’s surgery or hospital clinic to ensure they receive the correct dose. Warfarin is affected by food and exercise and if the dose is too low there is a risk of blood clots forming which can result in a stroke or heart attack, while too high a dose can lead to a life threatening bleed.

The Microvisk SmartStrip® enables patients to test their blood clotting ability at home, in the same way as diabetics test for glucose. As such, it reflects the increasing trend for healthcare monitoring to be carried out in the home. In 2008 the US and the German healthcare systems announced that they would pay for all at-risk users of Warfarin to test their blood once a week at home, rather than having to go to the doctor or hospital clinic. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that over one million new patients per year start taking Warfarin.

To date, only three companies have developed a test system for blood coagulation that can be used in a doctor’s surgery and although certified for home use, market research shows that doctors feel that they are insufficiently robust and too complex for home use.

The company says that, the Microvisk SmartStrip® is unique in the medical diagnostic world as it is a solid state system that is robust and simple to use at home. It also requires far less blood than other systems, which means less pain for the user. The coagulation status (clotting speed) of the patient is measured by tiny multi-layered paddles on the surface of the strip and a memory chip ensures the device is calibrated to provide the highest levels of accuracy.

John Curtis, chief executive officer of Microvisk, said: “We are delighted to have secured the funding we need to take our first SmartStrip® product through the testing phase towards manufacture and launch next year. We believe that we are well-placed to capture a significant share of the doctor’s office and home tests market for Warfarin patients, which we expect to grow with an increasingly older age population. We also intend to develop other medical diagnostic tests that will run on similar test strips.”