OXFO venture Novoic raise £2m Seed Investment

Novoic, a digital biotech company developing AI-based Speech Analysis to detect neurological diseases, has today announced a raise of £2m from global investors. The round is led by Anthemis Exponential Ventures with participation from APEX Digital Health, as well as Entrepreneur First and Plug and Play Ventures. Angel investors include Stanford Angels.

Novoic, who are being supported through the Oxford Foundry L.E.V8 accelerator are working with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s (ADDF) Diagnostic Accelerator–supported by Gates’ Ventures– and institutions including Cambridge University, UCL and King’s College London, to develop a new class of medical AI algorithms for analysing speech for early stage diagnosis, and monitoring, of neurological diseases.

The funding will be used to scale up Novoic's AI research team, engineering team, and to advance their clinical programmes with academic and commercial partners, including early-stage Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Novoic is founded by Emil Fristed, Oxford Merton College alumnus and CEO of Novoic. Emil is an Oxford-trained computational neuroscientist, who did research in one of the world’s leading auditory neuroscience groups, focused on building biologically-motivated neural network models of the human sensory system, and Jack Weston. Jack is CTO of Novoic and an Oxford St John’s alumnus. Jack graduated with a first from Oxford with a prize-winning thesis on string theory in the Department of Physics. He then went on to undertake a PhD at the University of Cambridge, building deep learning algorithms for identifying patterns in large datasets for a multibillion-dollar particle physics experiment. He has been developing software for the last 12 years.

Both founders have personal connections to Alzheimer’s disease and have experienced first-hand the impact on the affected, the spouse of the affected, and the rest of the family. This was one of their shared motivations for founding the company–to make sure others wouldn’t have to go through the same experience in the future.

Emil Fristed said, “Decades of academic research has linked speech changes and many neurological conditions. However, we are yet to see clinically viable products that have been developed as a result of this work. There’s been a number of barriers to clinical development that existing techniques fundamentally have not been built to solve and cannot solve. In the last 2-3 years the research field of applying AI to analyse audio and natural language has transformed beyond recognition. We believe that the time is now to leverage new AI-technology to create long-lasting solutions for patients all over the world.

We’re developing and validating a completely new modality that’s never been used in the healthcare system; that requires innovation and rigour across development and validation, to ensure the algorithms work robustly, to improve patient outcomes. It was key to find investors that understood both our rapidly transforming commercial landscape and building strong AI-first medical products–including the scientific rigour and validation required.”

Anthemis’ Vica Manos said: “The current pandemic vividly shows the need for digital, non-invasive technologies for clinical diagnosis and monitoring. Clinical trials are on hold, with regulators advising on the use of novel remote endpoints to salvage the trials. At the same time, the shift towards telemedicine models is further accelerating the adoption of digital technologies in the health care sectors. Novoic–with its next generation algorithms and strong focus on clinical validation–is best positioned to drive this acceleration.”

Dr. Gordon Euller, Lead-Partner Digital Health at APEX Ventures said "Neurological diseases are on the rise and we know that the earlier a diagnosis of a neurodegenerative disease is confirmed the better patient outcome and treatment options will be. Hence, I am excited and humbled to support the very skilled Novoic team on their journey in building the leading speech-based diagnostic algorithms."

Publications on Novoic’s open source audio analysis library, Surfboard can be found here https://arxiv.org/pdf/2005.08848.pdf, and open source linguistic analysis library, BlaBla here https://arxiv.org/pdf/2005.10219v1.pdf

An article about Novoic and the Oxford Foundry recently featured in the Express. 

About the Oxford Foundry

The Oxford Foundry, entrepreneurship centre, University of Oxford, was opened by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple in 2017. The Foundry supports all 24,000 students at Oxford, as well as all alumni, to better society through entrepreneurship. The Foundry does this through knowledge exchange, multi-disciplinary collaboration and experiential skills training.

The Foundry is building a new generation of ventures that, whilst commercial, are focused on people first. To date, the 32 ventures on the Foundry’s L.E.V8 accelerator have raised £15.5m capital, created nearly 100 jobs, and are creating positive impact around the world across all sectors and industries. The Foundry has 3,400+ members from all four divisions and 38 colleges of the University, representing 103 nationalities. The Foundry has delivered over 7,500 hours of learning. www.oxfordfoundry.ox.ac.uk