Season 5, Post 29: Diagnostics for all
Almost every reader of this piece will recall the regular rigmarole of taking lateral flow tests for COVID-19 during the past few years. There was the worry, the wait and then the relief when only one line appeared. Fortunately, this process now seems like a relic from a different era. However, what if you could perform a diagnostics test for potentially any disease with the speed of a lateral flow procedure but the precision closer to that of a clinical PCR test?
If the founders of Zyme Dx, a start-up developed within London’s Imperial College, are right, then this might be possible. Such a test, according to the team, would be priced competitively, making it potentially widely accessible to multiple users. Established in 1907, Imperial College is no stranger to being a centre of innovation. Zyme Dx can count the eminent Professor Molly Stevens as one of its co-founders. While your author did not have the opportunity to meet Professor Stevens, he was lucky enough to recently visit Imperial College and spend some time with Zyme’s other co-founder as well as its Chief Executive and Chief Business Officer.
The untapped opportunity is significant. Around half of the world’s population lacks access to any form of diagnostics. A diagnostics solution that is fast, instrument-free, and low-cost could revolutionise healthcare. We have written since 2012 that in order to reduce the cost burden imposed by healthcare, medicine needs to move from being reactive to pre-emptive. The Zyme Dx team shared with us data relating to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the UK, the segment where it intends to focus its efforts initially. Have no doubt, there is currently a clearly highly inefficient early diagnosis of CVD. Although over 4m visits to National Health Service Doctors are for chest pain annually, fewer than 7% of CVD cases are diagnosed at the surgery. More than 80% end up being diagnosed in hospitals. This imposes both a huge monetary and economic cost (including many unplanned trips to A&E departments), equivalent to over 2% of the country’s National Health Service budget.
Identifying both a problem and a solution is of course necessary, but by no means sufficient for success. Zyme Dx is still at the stage where it will use grant funding from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Research to gather data in support of the economic viability of its proposition under development. It will also be crucial to build consensus among key opinion leaders, however logical the opportunity may seem on paper. Nonetheless, the company’s ambitions are significant, potentially expanding into other geographies and also other verticals, such as treatments for cancer and communicable diseases such as malaria. There may also be an opportunity within the field of CRISPR, another topic on which we have written previously. Watch this space. Rapid diagnostics at the point of care could be the way forward.
3 August 2023
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
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Alex Gunz, Fund Manager
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