iFAST Diagnostics raise £2M to track and treat antibiotic-resistant bugs

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is growing as a critical worldwide challenge, often stated as the next potential pandemic. It is one of humanity’s most imminent threats and has many causes, including the overuse of antibiotics and climate change. Antimicrobial resistance caused over 1 million deaths in 2019, more than malaria and AIDs combined. This is only getting worse. More than ever, the rapid identification and treatment of bacteria with antimicrobial resistance is becoming an increasingly urgent problem requiring rapid solutions.

Antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) is a technique used to identify an effective antibiotic regime for the particular organism infecting the patient. It avoids unnecessary use of inappropriate antibiotics, speeds treatment, and saves lives, particularly in cases of Sepsis and drug-resistant invasive infections such as MRSA. Current gold standards for AST typically take 48-72 hours, a prolonged delay that means clinicians rely on empirical treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics until analysis can be completed.

A decade of research at the University of Southampton has led to a revolutionary diagnostic test. The novel iFAST platform enables the rapid identification of antibiotic susceptibility and resistance within a few hours of taking a patient sample. iFAST measures the electrical properties of 5,000 individual bacteria in 30 seconds using multi-frequency impedance in a microfluidic chip. The approach provides accurate and actionable data whilst reducing the time to result by a factor of 10, giving clinicians an opportunity to rapidly identify effective treatments for patients within a single shift.

Dr Daniel Spencer and Professor Hywel Morgan at the University of Southampton developed the technique, which is now undergoing laboratory evaluation studies in collaboration with the UKHSA at Porton Down in Wiltshire and the University of Southampton Hospital Trust, supported by a £1M NiHR grant led by UKHSA.

iFAST CEO, Dr Toby King, commented: ‘We are delighted to welcome our new shareholders and to be able to begin the commercialisation of this game-changing technology, fighting one of the WHO’s top 10 global challenges. We look forward to working together on what will be a fast-paced and exciting journey, with research systems expected to be available for evaluation next year,’

This raise, which was heavily over-subscribed, will allow iFAST Diagnostics to productise the platform and achieve first sales of the device to aid biotech to produce more effective antibiotics.

Richard Haycock, CEO at QantX: ‘Antimicrobial resistance is a significant global challenge as existing antibiotics become less effective and new therapeutics face heavy commercial barriers to release. The team at iFAST Diagnostics has made a groundbreaking step to help clinicians identify effective antibiotic regimes in time for meaningful intervention, whilst also aiding the collection of unique data on localised resistance. QantX is delighted to be supporting Dr King, Professor Morgan, and Dr Spencer as they build out the offering.

Hassan Mahmudul, UKI2S: ‘UKI2S invests in early-stage science that is going to make a difference to people’s lives. We are delighted to help fund the first steps and look forward to working with the team as it takes the product to market’

John Gebeily, Partner at Kadmos Capital: ‘Few companies capture the value created at the crossroads of Sciences as much as iFast. We believe that Dr King, Prof Morgan and Dr Spencer will leave their mark in the global fight against Antimicrobial resistance

Daniel Dickens, Co-Managing Partner, KHP Ventures: “As an early-stage fund anchored by one the UK’s largest healthcare systems, which includes a large microbiology laboratory footprint, we felt it was a natural fit to back Dr King, Prof Morgan, Dr Spencer to bring iFAST’s rapid AST technology to market. We believe it has the potential to make a transformative improvement to patient outcomes, and look forward to working closely with the company to help accelerate their growth and impact.”

David Woolley, University of Southampton: ‘iFAST Diagnostics is the latest example of University research, supported by the vibrant enterprise eco-system in place at Southampton, advancing strongly through the translational pathway to deliver real world impact. We’re delighted to have achieved this for the first time in strategic partnership with the UK Health Security Agency and also having received significant NIHR funding support. Playing a key role in helping bring in a strong business leader in Toby King to work alongside world-leading scientists and engineers has been exciting in the last year and I look forward to seeing iFAST continue to flourish and make a key difference in healthcare in the future.’

Professor Mark Sutton, Research and Evaluation, UKHSA: “The need for more rapid ASTs is clear. The collaboration with the University of Southampton is a fantastic example of working between scientific disciplines to develop new solutions to some of the challenges of AMR. We’re excited to see how this powerful, rapid microbiology technique develops into real-life solutions in the next few years.


About QantX

QantX is a South West focussed venture capital firm investing in globally impactful innovations in Modern Healthcare, Zero Carbon, and Digital Technology. Founded with the goal of providing governance, guidance, and global connections alongside capital to drive growth for startups and University spinouts in the region.

About KHP Ventures

KHP Ventures is the first NHS-anchored venture fund in the UK. It was launched in July 2021 as a collaboration between Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. Together the partners represent one of the largest teaching hospital systems in the UK and Europe, serving a diverse local population.

KHP Ventures invests in early-stage ventures across digital health, MedTech and enterprise healthcare technologies which have the potential to radically improve health and healthcare. Its dedicated team works closely with portfolio companies to help accelerate growth through targeted value-adding activities across clinical evidence generation, pathway redesign, commercial deployment, as well as access to anonymised data and specialist talent and expertise.

About UKI2S

UKI2S is a national seed investment fund that nurtures innovative businesses to leverage private investment and grow jobs, recycling profits from the realisation of our investments into the next generation of impactful UK companies.

We invest in innovations emerging from the UK’s publicly funded science and knowledge base. We specialise in engineering, biology, defence & security, fusion energy, and help capitalise on UK public sector assets. Our investment decisions are based on both the potential societal impact of technologies and the potential for financial return.

Over the past decade and more, the fund has built a substantial track record of companies that between them have attracted over £700m of later stage investment.

The fund is backed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and other public bodies. It is independently managed by Future Planet Capital (Ventures) Ltd, the impact-led, global venture capital firm.

The full list of the fund partners are:

  • Animal and Plant Health Agency
  • BEIS
  • Dstl
  • Government Office for Technology Transfer
  • James Hutton Institute
  • National Physical Laboratory
  • UK Atomic Energy Authority
  • UK Health Security Agency
  • UK Research & Innovation