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How Isospec Plans To Change Human Health With Rapid Diagnostics

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Any given human blood sample contains as many as 15,000 small biological molecules that can offer invaluable clues to the person’s health – yet fewer than 5% of these molecules can currently be identified. That’s where the Swiss-based start-up Isospec Analytics hopes to make a difference – and save lives in the process.

Isospec, which is today announcing it has raised $1.9 million of pre-seed funding, operates in the field of biomolecular analysis technology. “Understanding disease mechanisms at the earliest possible stage is the most important work scientists can do to develop new treatments,” explains co-founder Ahmed Ben Faleh. “The small molecules in your blood are crucial if we want to do exactly that.”

Ben Faleh met his co-founders, Stephan Warnke and Thomas Rizzo, seven years ago at EPFL, the Swiss technology institute in Lausanne, and the trio have spent much of the intervening period developing the techniques that Isospec now uses. The business itself launched in 2022 as a spin-out from EFPL as the trio began to recognise the commercial applications of their work. “We already have an operational lab and are providing molecular identification services to paying customers across Europe, the US and Japan,” Ben Faleh says of early commercialisation efforts.

Critically, Isospec’s technology enables it to take a blood sample and to identify a much larger number of the molecules it contains – and to do so in hours, rather than in weeks or months, which conventional techniques often require. The technology depends on insights from multiple disciplines, including analytical chemistry, photonics and cryogenic materials initially designed for space applications.

Importantly, however, this is only the first stage in Isospec’s work. To be useful in a clinical or research setting, it also needs to understand what the presence of the newly-identified molecules in a blood sample actually mean for the patient. The company is already working with hospitals and research institutes to examine existing samples and map other data so that it can develop diagnostic tests.

Once Isospec knows what molecules someone suffering from, say, lung cancer will have in their blood, it can test specifically for those molecules. At this point, the technology will be able to provide rapid diagnoses of health problems and diseases at a very early moment in their progression. “We need to find the biomarkers that indicate people are at sick,” Ben Faleh explains.

Getting to a position where its tests operate on a standalone basis will take a number of years – particularly given the need for regulatory approvals – but Isospec expects to be able to offer its technology as a complementary diagnostic tool within the next year or so. It is also exploring alternative commercial models – either working independently as a diagnostic service in its own right, or licensing its intellectual property to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies building tests of their own.

The goal is not simply to speed up diagnosis, adds Ben Faleh. “When you can see how a disease progresses and the mechanisms for it doing so at this very early moment, that will be the key to developing new drugs and treatments,” he says.

Accelerating Isospec’s own evolution is therefore a priority, with the business now investing in automation technologies and software engineering in order to expand its testing capacity and the speed at which it can work. Hence the need for investment – and today’s pre-seed round.

The money is coming from Founderful, with additional participation from specialist investors Tiny.vc, another.vc and Venture Kick. “Isospec’s value proposition, which offers early access to its cutting-edge research in biomolecular analysis as a service, convinced us of the potential of the technology and the team,” explains Alex St?ckl, a partner at Founderful, who has taken a seat on the company’s board.

As for the founders themselves, they see an opportunity to do much more than create a successful healthcare business. “This is something that goes beyond product development or commercial objectives,” says Ben Faleh. “If this works and we can identify those critical biomarkers for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s or diabetes, say, we really can change the lives of millions of people.”

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