AN Oxford start-up has secured $1m from Microsoft's venture fund to help find a cure for Alzheimer's and shine a light on COVID-19 infection.

Award-winning enterprise iLoF (Intelligent Lab on Fiber), based at the Oxford Foundry in Hythe Bridge Street, received the money from the technology giant's M12 scheme and venture capitalists Mayfield.

The money will help the company accelerate drug discovery for complex diseases and potentially help forecast the evolution of Covid-19.

Scouted from women-led companies from across the planet, iLof was the Global Deep Tech winner of M12, Mayfield and Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures’ Female Founders Competition.

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Tamara Steffens, managing director at 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.”

The cash will serve as an important boost in iLoF's mission to 'transform personalised medicine' and comes after the start-up received €2m late last year from German-based EIT Health.

The company comprises a team of scientists, entrepreneurs and inventors, who are seeking to provide screening and stratification tools in an affordable, non-invasive and label-free way.

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It has won admirers for using artificial intelligence (AI) to create a digital library of 'disease fingerprints'.

iLoF uses disruptive platform technology, which detects biomolecules in blood down to nanoscale size – which goes down to one billionth of a metre.

This then creates accurate optical ‘fingerprints’ of a patient’s characteristics and the stage of the disease.

Working with leading biotech and pharmaceutical groups, as well as hospitals, the company is capturing both individual nano-sized biomarkers and biological profiles of patients matched up with various heterogeneous diseases in their cloud-based library.

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While its office is in Oxford, iLoF's engineering centre is based in Porto, Portugal.

The company's CEO, Luis Valente, said: “We are on a mission to enable a new era of personalised 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.”

Last year, iLoF published the use of a platform to detect and identify different types of gastric cancer cells in patients, aiming to enable doctors to determine the best treatments.

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The start-up is also adapting the platform to the current climate by forecasting the clinical evolution of COVID-19 infected patients while in hospital care.

Although not its only interest, iLoF is concentrating on finding a disease-modifying therapy to treat Alzheimer’s.

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.

But the label-free nature of iLoF's platform allows greater flexibility in clinical trial design.

This helps identify suitable patients for clinical trials and fast-track the drug discovery process for currently incurable complex and heterogenous diseases.

It means iLoF's non-invasive platform can attempt 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, hailed the company's work.

He 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.”