X-ray specialist IBEX INNOVATIONS leads way to better osteoporosis diagnoses
Hospital clinical trials in north east England are now underway for the UK start-up’s pioneering modification technology for X-ray machines.
This upgrades medical imaging systems without disruption, making them capable of measuring bone mineral density and delivering faster and earlier disease analysis.
IBEX’s patented innovation, composed of a component that behaves like a colour filter and is linked to special software, transforms the standard, somewhat hazy monochrome images into ones with vivid, pin-sharp definition.
For the medical teams it means being able to make more accurate diagnoses as they gain access to in-depth details concerning a material’s composition.
In today’s world osteoporosis exacts a huge toll on people’s lives and health budgets.
Our technology adds important information very easily to an X-ray image
In the UK that amounts to £2.5 billion annually, with more than three million affected and 500,000 needing treatment and after care.
But at the moment X-ray machines can only diagnose fractures, not measure bone density.
To get that requires referral for a DEXA scan at a specialist clinic, so not an automatic move and not always even for the most likely candidates – women over 60.
But as IBEX chief executive Dr Neil Loxley explains: “Our technology adds important information very easily to an X-ray image so one major consequence could be effective prevention through something that does not yet exist – a routine, nationwide bone health screening programme.”
Other less invasive, quicker screening methods are also possible when quality images are in the mix.
IBEX chief executive Dr Neil Loxley
Radiation doses can be reduced, helping patients undergoing mammograms or for those with heart problems, where iodine is used to highlight blood vessels, effective but not so great for the kidneys.
As cameras became digital, X-ray imaging switched too, the game-changing technology opening the way for IBEX founder Gary Gibson to develop his long-held view that the time would and should come when X-rays delivered more.
In 2012 he teamed up with Loxley, a physicist and expert in commercialising innovations, to take IBEX’s win-win formula to market.
Based in the NETPark, Business Durham’s science, tech and innovation hub in Sedgefield, the company says it has taken full advantage of the practical support provided by eco-system created by the inward investment and property organisation.
“Having our lab and offices together increases efficiency and we’re surrounded by like-minded companies all keen to share knowledge,” says Loxley.
Hospital clinical trials in north east England are now underway
“If one of us wants to know the best adviser for structuring a funding deal, say, it’s easy to find out. It’s an environment that fosters innovation and just what a tech start-up with its sights on a global market needs.”
A move to new premises within the park next year will enable IBEX to carry out its plan to expand its 18 scientists to 30 by 2020 as it transitions out of the start-up phase and into scale-up.
Investors have been to grasp what impact the business could have in a global market where tens of thousands of machines are sold every year.
Alongside £3 million pounds of venture capital into the business there has been £2.5 million in grants, including backing from the Government’s smart ideas agency Innovate UK and 1.6 million euros (£1.42 million) from the EU’s highly competitive Horizon 2020 fund.
Now IBEX is poised for two very big years as its research and development investment bears fruit.
IBEX’s own high tech instruments are made by UK sub-contractors
Loxley expect revenues of £5 million come 2022, 90 per cent from the medical sector, but also from the food and security industries where an effective means of detecting contaminants such as glass, bone and plastic, or suspect items has already proved to have its place.
The company is now about to release its first products here with medical imaging in 2019 using licensing as its model for key customers, original equipment manufacturers and imaging firms.
Major opportunities are also arising overseas as new government health policies come into force. That is why IBEX is eyeing Japan closely following a national initiative to improve bone health.
IBEX’s own high tech instruments are made by UK sub-contractors. “So our growth is not restricted by the need to increase manufacturing capacity,” says Loxley.
Once the technology is adopted by key accounts “it can generate rapid increases in high margin revenue with limited growth in overheads,” he adds.
“We have done the reinventing, so existing equipment does not have to. It can reap the benefits and carry on as normal.”
In today’s world osteoporosis exacts a huge toll on people’s lives and health budgets
Business Durham, the economic development organisation for County Durham, works on behalf of Durham County Council to deliver an environment that fosters economic growth.
It manages a portfolio of business property and is expert in finding the right space for businesses to grow – commercial office space, modern laboratories and industrial property units.
By attracting capital and inward investment to the county, its aim is to develop an innovative economy that enables companies to grow and flourish.
For more information about opportunities go to: www.businessdurham.co.uk