Oxford alumni startups receive €4M for brain health

Two University of Oxford alumni-led startups, iLoF and Pipra, were recently funded by the European Institute of Technology for Health (EIT Health).

Oxford University
Oxford University
Published in
6 min readJan 21, 2020

EIT Health is one of the biggest health consortiums in the world, and the startups are receiving investment exceeding €4M. Both startups have grown out of the university’s mission to benefit society on a global scale through investing and supporting its people, enabling world-class research to grow.

We are furthermore glad to announce that iLoF, one of the funded startups, has established its headquarters at Oxford and is receiving ongoing support from the University, after having been accepted into the Oxford Foundry’s L.E.V8 Program.

About Pipra

Disorientation, memory loss, difficulties in speech. If you are over 60 and about to undergo surgery, you could be at risk of developing these symptoms as part of postoperative delirium. One in four patients over the age of sixty are affected by such cognitive disorders. Delirium is linked to severe adverse outcomes such as a 25% mortality rate within one month, dementia, and increased admission to nursing homes, and it costs billions to health insurances world-wide. There is no treatment for delirium once symptoms have started; however, there are several effective risk-reducing options available. Unfortunately, these options are too expensive to offer all patients undergoing surgery, creating an urgent need for a pre-operative risk assessment tool which can quickly, accurately and cost-effectively find patients at risk.

PIPRA (short for Pre-Interventional Preventive Risk Assessment), is addressing this urgent orphan need by developing an AI-powered software that assesses your risk of developing postoperative delirium. Clinicians fill out a few questions about the patient to get the result. Patients found to be at risk can benefit from proven risk reduction options such as the Hospital Elder Life Program, or might even decide to cancel their operation altogether.

“If you have to choose between daily pain medication or not recognising your grandchildren, you would probably cancel your knee surgery,”

says MD Nayeli Schmutz, an anaesthetist and PIPRA’s chief medical officer (CMO).

While PIPRA’s primary focus is to create a screening tool, they also plan to help raise awareness of this vital topic, and they are not alone in their mission. The Fifth International Perioperative Neurotoxicity Working Group recommend that all the patients above 65 years of age should be informed of the risk of perioperative neurocognitive disorders. PIPRA’s Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Oxford University alumnus Benjamin Dodsworth (DPhil, Lincoln College) notes “This is a spectacular opportunity for PIPRA and value-based, patient-centric medicine. We found that today, patients are often not informed of their risk of cognitive decline. Economic incentives can lead to irresponsible operations. We hope to provide an antidote to this trend, to improve patient outcomes and ensure that the patient is adequately informed about how benefits and risks of their operation compare.”

PIPRA team, (from left to right) Dr. Benjamin Dodsworth, MD Nayeli Schmutz, John Klepper.

As a newly-formed start-up based in Zurich, Switzerland, founders Dr. Benjamin Dodsworth (CTO), John Klepper (CEO) and MD. Nayeli Schmutz (CMO) are looking forward to bringing their product to market, improving outcomes and quality of life for patients ungoing surgery.

To learn more about PIPRA, please visit: www.pipra.ch

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/pipra-ag

About iLoF

iLoF has created a portable system that serves as a digital library for fingerprints of various neurodegenerative diseases and allows rapid and non-invasive patient stratification for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Their objective is to change the paradigm using methods such as artificial intelligence and photonics to tackle the current issues with clinical trials and accelerate the development of new and personalised treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Though their research and development arm is based at the Medical Research Centre at the University of Porto in Portugal, the start-up has secured a place at the Oxford Foundry as part of the OXFO L.E.V8 accelerator. The L.E.V8 accelerator is an accelerator providing high-potential Oxford University student and alumni-founded ventures with mentorship, masterclasses, access to a global network of industry experts, mentors, advisors and investors, free legal, business, finance, creativity, tech support and much more.

iLoF is hoping to enable a new era of personalized, precision medicine, by providing screening and stratification tools in an affordable, fast, portable way. They are currently focusing their patented platform technology on Alzheimer’s disease, having already established partnerships with Biobanks, Pharmaceutical Companies and research teams around the globe. However, the team hopes to grow beyond Alzheimer’s, expanding their digital library of optical fingerprints to other Brain diseases, aiming to improve the development of new treatment for diseases like Parkinson’s and brain tumours.

iLoF Team, (form left to right) Dr. Joana Paiva, Luis Valente, Dr, Paula Sampaio, Dr. Mehak Mumtaz.

Talking of the disease, iLoF Operational Lead and Oxford University alumnus (DPhil, St. Edmund Hall), Dr Mehak Mumtaz, said: “The high cost of drug development programs, primarily driven by expensive screening and recruitment is a massive barrier for pharma companies looking to enter or continue in this space. Through a non-invasive, inexpensive blood test, iLoF intends to make this recruitment process cheaper, more efficient and convenient for patients.“

By aiding the drug discovery process, we aim to open new avenues for AD treatment, providing a lifeline to millions around the globe.

The Start-up founded by Dr. Mehak Mumtaz (COO and Oxford-Alumni, St. Hilda’s and St. Edmund Hall), Luis Valente (CEO), Dr. Joana Paiva (CTO) and Dr. Paula Sampaio (CSO) are making use of the Oxford University ecosystem to speed up the development of their non-invasive, inexpensive, blood test, hoping to make the recruitment process of Alzheimer’s clinical trials cheaper, more efficient and convenient for patients.

For more about iLoF, please visit: www.ilof.tech

Twitter: @iLoF_tech

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/iloftech


People or teams can register their interest for the 2020 edition of the Wild Card programme via the website. The next call will address how we can improve the prediction, diagnosis and treatment to make giant leaps in women’s health and how we can harness the power of digital solutions to help EU citizens live longer, healthier lives.

About Oxford Foundry

The Oxford Foundry is the University of Oxford’s entrepreneurship centre. 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 19 ventures on the Foundry’s L.E.V8 accelerator have raised over £8m, created 70 jobs globally, and are creating positive impact around the world across all sectors and industries.

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