Good to see you both. So –
Can you tell me about Gold Standard Phantoms?
There’s a significant and increasing need for medical imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to perform in a standardised way. Specialised ‘phantoms’ are devices that enable tests to be performed on imaging equipment, simulating the MRI signal expected from human tissues and organs to ensure imaging quality in living subjects. However, comparing images from different scanners remains a critical challenge for radiologists. We have the expertise to resolve this with standardised phantoms.
We’re not the first organisation to try and solve this problem.
In the last 15 years, there have been international concerted efforts to find a solution to the challenge, first finalised through the establishment of the Quantitative Imaging Biomarker Alliance (QIBA) by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). In the UK, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has started working on this aspect in the last 5 years.
Both of us have been an active part of this technology revolution for over 10 years having met at UCL due to our shared research interest in phantoms.
So, this is very much an international challenge?
Yes definitely. As mentioned above, it was a recognised challenge worldwide. And indeed, currently, we are selling our products internationally!
A few years ago, we participated in COST Action, a European-funded interdisciplinary research network that brought researchers and innovators together to investigate a topic of their choice for 4 years. European funding was invaluable for bringing the community together – to develop a clear set of recommendations on standardisation and bring technology from the lab into healthcare delivery.
For medtech challenges such as this, large-scale collaborative networks are needed to drive change – and with 60 papers and 1 recommendation paper written over the 4 years, we knew this could be done, and that we had the knowledge and expertise in Gold Standard Phantoms.
What have been your big successes so far?
We’ve grown our business, selling a portfolio of products in 5 continents (including customers at Johns Hopkins University, Mayo Clinic and IRCCS Hospitals across Italy), and established our reputation at the forefront of standardising MRI phantoms for quantitative image comparison.
In March 2022, we expanded into new premises in Sheffield – and have significantly increased our research and development operations and the size of our team over the last six months.
We’ve been successful in being awarded grants to the value of £1.8M, including SBRI, Eurostars (ASPIRE), and NPL’s medical imaging accelerator for industry programme, funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, and investment from angel investors.
What connections / partnerships are you seeking to make for the next stage of your business growth?
We’re looking for investors with an appetite for investment in medtech. We will be looking to raise through a Series A within the next couple of years to launch our clinical device for reproducible calibration of MRI scanners.
We’re also seeking NHS partners, as our primary market in the UK, for multi-centred trials in the UK and the support of the AHSN network for national adoption and spread.
At present we are mainly selling into the academic community, however we are looking at the significant commercial market opportunities and our growth strategy is responding to that.
And finally, can you tell us about your experience of participating in the P4SY Accelerator Programme?
It’s been good! We’ve found the support to be more practical than theoretical – to help us solve immediate problems and scale at pace, for example identifying business premises, recruiting for strategic roles, making connections into our customer base and regional ecosystem, and introductions to funding bodies.
We see the value of medtech accelerators. Entrepreneurs new to starting a business don’t always know the best way to grow from day one – they may take the approach of ‘build it and they will come’. You can’t do that in medtech – you need to be equipped on that innovation journey to understand regulation, market access etc.
Business growth requires connections – you can have the best product in the world but without an audience you are just shouting into the void. Growing a business during the pandemic was a very insular experience. The P4SY programme started with a networking dinner and launch event to quickly establish ecosystem connections and announce our investment in Sheffield. The power of networking is huge!