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SFC Capital backs UCL spinout biotech startup Novai

London-based growth investor SFC Capital has led a GBP 500,000 seed round for biotechnology startup Novai, a product of University College London. 

Founded by Professor Francesca Cordeiro from UCL and Imperial College London and headquartered in London, Novai was created through Wellcome Trust funding.

The fresh capital will be used to develop Novai’s AI technology that helps standard medical imaging equipment identify eye disease at a cellular level up to 18 months earlier than current gold-standard processes.

Novai appointed Gordon Bethwaite as acting CEO and added three new senior board members in connection with the investment. Bethwaite has worked in eyecare for over 20 years, having held senior management roles in global organisations, as well as early commercialisation-stage startups. 
Novai’s technology has now been approved as an exploratory biomarker for use in studies of glaucoma – the leading cause of irreversible blindness globally – and AMD (age-related macular degeneration). The team is also researching its potential for application in neurodegenerative conditions, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

The startup recently closed its first commercial agreement, a research collaboration with Santen USA, and is actively responding to significant global commercial interest. Speaking on the investment, Rohallah Ghasemi, investment manager at SFC Capital, said: 

“Novai’s innovative combination of technology and biomedicine represents the future of preventative care, with the potential to make a massive difference for anyone who might suffer from degenerative diseases in the future. We’re excited to see what they achieve next.”

SFC Capital is one of the most active seed investors in the UK; its portfolio includes WorkClub, BigCouch, Mayku and Qardus, the first ethical sharia-compliant business crowdfunding platform in the UK.

Founded in 2012 by serial entrepreneur Stephen Page, SFC Capital combines an angel syndicate with its own funds to provide investors with diversified exposure to SEIS- and EIS-qualifying businesses. 

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