OXFO venture iLoF receive $1m from Microsoft & Mayfield Fund

Oxford Foundry startup ILoF (Intelligent Lab on Fiber) has today [15 July] received $1 million from Microsoft’s venture fund M12, Mayfield, and Melinda Gates’s Pivotal Ventures.

ILoF are one of four teams chosen from female-led companies from around the world to receive a share of $6m investment, resources and mentoring through the Female Founders Program.

In its second year, the program aims to accelerate investment for women entrepreneurs developing business-to-business software-as-a-service and deeptech solutions. Currently women receive less than 3% of all Venture Capital funding.

ILoF’s bio-photonics and artificial intelligence platform helps identify suitable patients for clinical trials. It saves time and money spent on trials, and fast-tracks the drug discovery process for currently incurable and complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The platform also allows greater flexibility in clinical trial design, opening the doors to new possibilities in personalised medicine.

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 because of difficulties related to invasive screening methods, challenges identifying suitable patients, and a need for tailored treatments for each biological profile. ILoF’s technology works by detecting nanoscale biomolecules in blood to create optical ‘fingerprints’ of a patient’s phenotype and stage of disease. These biomarkers and biological profiles of patients are correlated with various heterogeneous diseases in ILoF's innovative cloud-based library.

ILoF are on the Oxford Foundry’s L.E.V8 accelerator programme where they have been supported with introductions to partners, advisors and investors, and business, leadership, finance, legal and tech support, mentorship and coaching and more.

ILoF is led by three incredible women, COO Mehak Mumtaz (Oxford St. Hilda's and St. Edmund Hall alumna), CTO Joana Paiva, and CSO Paula Sampaio. Mehak did an undergraduate Masters in Biochemistry at Oxford University, followed by a DPhil in Pathology and modules in Strategy and Innovation with Saïd Business School. She said,

We are delighted and honoured to be selected as a winner from such truly outstanding and inspiring women-led deeptech companies from all over the globe. We are excited to welcome M12 and Mayfield to the next phase of our journey to enable a new era of personalised treatments for patients.  This investment will be used to accelerate our collaboration with industry partners for developing precise treatments for Alzheimer's disease as well as expanding the platform to additional disease areas including Oncology.

Director of the Oxford Foundry Ana Bakshi said, “It’s so important to have investment initiatives that specifically support women founders and showcase the work of brilliant women entrepreneurs. ILoF are doing incredible work to deliver a high magnitude of change and impact for Alzheimer’s disease and other complex diseases, and the team are hugely talented and inspirational role models.”

With aspirations beyond Alzheimer’s, last year, ILoF published the use of their platform to detect and identify different types of gastric cancer cells in patients, aiming to enable a ‘stratification’ process which helps doctors to determine the most appropriate treatments. Recently they also adapted the platform in order to forecast the clinical evolution of COVID-19 infected patients while in hospital-care, supported by the Oxford Foundry’s COVID-19 Action Plan.

This investment is the second round of funding for ILoF in the last 12 months. The company secured € 2 million last year from Germany-based EIT Health and has won numerous awards. They are now working with leading clinical partners, bio-tech, pharma and hospitals.

More information about the Female Founders Program can be found at Microsoft news.