By Kristy Dorsey

Scottish digital health company Altair Medical has secured £2.25 million in a first round of funding to bring its real-time platform for monitoring breathing problems to the market as early as next year.

The money has been raised from a syndicate of investors including the Scottish Investment Bank, Intuitive Investment Group and angel investor syndicates Equity Gap, Alba Equity, and London & Scottish Investment Partners. It will allow Altair, based at Eurocentral off the M8 motorway, to double its workforce to 12 in the coming months.

The monitoring platform, which has yet to be given a commercial name, includes a small re-usable biosensor that transmits data to a cloud platform using a data hub or smartphone. Capable of accurately monitoring large numbers of people in any location, it automatically alerts patients, their household members or medical professionals when life-threatening changes occur.

Breathing problems from a range of conditions such as asthma, respiratory infections including Covid-19, COPD and opioid misuse are collectively the leading cause of disability and death around the world. Altair chief executive Bruce Henderson said continuous real-time monitoring is currently limited to intensive care settings using expensive wired systems.

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“From my work as a forensic medical examiner I witnessed a large number of preventable deaths from patients with respiratory conditions,” Mr Henderson said. “This inspired me to build up a team of specialists to develop the technology, which is now undergoing clinical trials in a range of respiratory conditions.”

The platform is currently in clinical feasibility trials at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow, with others in Glasgow, Dundee and London expected to begin later this year.

The aim is to achieve regulatory approval in the UK and US by the first quarter of next year, with the platform becoming available later in 2022. The technology has been granted “Breakthrough Medical Device” designation in the US, an accelerated approval process run by the Food and Drug Administration for products deemed to have a significant impact in areas of unmet need.

The funding round was led by Aberdeen-based Alba Equity, which focuses on investments into businesses with high growth potential. John Duncan, a founding director of Alba Equity, said the group was “delighted” to lend its support.

The Herald: Bruce HendersonBruce Henderson

“Altair are developing technology which is already demonstrating its potential to help save lives in ongoing clinical trials and this investment will allow the company to bring this to the market, offering significant benefits to a large number of patients,” he said.

As part of the deal, Stewart White of AIM-listed Intuitive Investment Group (IIG) will join the board of Altair. IIG provided £350,000 in exchange for a 6.5 per cent stake in the company’s newly-enlarged share capital.

“IIG is a fund focussing on high-potential life sciences businesses, so Altair Medical fits perfectly with our investment criteria,” Mr White said. “The Altair technology, which is undergoing patent approval in the US and UK, has various unique properties that make it attractive for use in respiratory health applications and we’re excited to fund its development.”

The platform’s global market, which Mr Henderson described as “untapped”, has been estimated at $8 billion (£5.8bn).

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“We see huge potential for our device across a wide range of patients,” he added. “We are delighted to have secured the backing of a syndicate of investors, which allows us to further prove the device and launch it in the UK, US and other countries in the near future.”

The company announced in February that it had teamed up with Storm ID and NHS Glasgow to develop a digital solution to help predict respiratory failure in Covid-19 patients. Known as CARP, the Covid-19 Advanced Respiratory Physiological platform uses Altair's wearable sensor and respiratory algorithms to analyse data in a bid to develop risk predicting models for patients once they've left direct care.

Altair has been funded to date by its founders, Mr Henderson and chairman Colin Guthrie, an accountant and entrepreneur. The company made a loss of £110,800 during the year to April 2020, and had net liabilities of nearly £172,000.

Altair was advised on the over-subscribed fundraising by Ascendant Corporate Finance. The investor syndicate was advised by Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie.