Refined Laser Systems, a dynamic biophotonics company specialised in pioneering laser systems for SRS-microscopy and quantum technology, today announces a Seed funding round of €2.7 million led by High-Tech Gründerfonds and APEX Ventures, along with NRW.BANK, Onsight Ventures and Papst Venture Capital.
Other investors of the round include private investor Tom Merk, former EVP of leading laser manufacturer Coherent, Hans-Michael Hauser, former partner BCG, and laser and biophotonics expert and consultant Dr Werner Falkenstein, founder and CEO of former StarMedTec GmbH.
The funding will be used to develop an intraoperative microscope prototype that identifies tumor margins directly in the surgery room and will offer a diagnosis within minutes by a remote pathologist and AI assistance.
The core of the prototype produced by Refined will be laser technology, already used worldwide, and an imaging system that will be operational in 2023. The Refined Laser Systems team also plans to use the capital to grow its team and prepare for clinical approval.
Today’s gold standard of cancer diagnostics (Hematoxylin and Eosin or H&E staining of biopsied tissue) requires time-consuming preparation steps, including tissue removal, thin sectioning and staining before a pathologist can make a diagnosis.
Despite many advancements, this process typically takes up to ten hours, prolonging medical procedures. For example, an average of 12 percent of breast cancer surgeries in Germany must be repeated because not all cancer cells could be detected and removed during the first surgery.
Refined Laser Systems has stepped up to help pathologists and surgeons meet this challenge and reduce patient stress and healthcare costs. Its patented technology is based on Raman microscopy, a combination of conventional light microscopy and a unique chemical identification by Raman spectroscopy. Combining these two techniques allows chemical analysis of cells and tissue by linking spectral, meaning chemically specific, information with spatial data.
By stimulating the Raman process using Refined Lase Systems’ laser technology, high-contrast H&E-like microscopy images can be generated within minutes. Since Raman microscopy does not require external stains and can be used on thick, uncut samples, most of the time-consuming sample preparation can be avoided.
Quickly identifying additional tissue components using the Refined Laser Systems technology will allow an increased depth of information for a more accurate diagnosis. This advance will make it possible to increase the safety of complete tumor removal and avoid repeat surgeries.
While conventional laser systems require setups covering a whole table in specialised laser laboratories, Refined Laser System’s turnkey lasers take up no more space than a 19-inch drawer, allowing to bring this promising microscopy technique into clinical environments.
With its developments, Refined Laser Systems aims not only for a reduced time to diagnosis but for advancement in cancer therapy. Identifying individual cancer cells and putting them into spatial context across tissue specimens will offer a deep understanding of cellular interactions needed for an accurate prognosis of disease progression and therapy response.
"In today’s cancer treatments, surgeries must be repeated in up to one-third of all cases because it remains a challenge to quickly identify cancer cells without extensive biopsy processing. We are delighted to raise the capital to build tools that will allow almost instant insights into tissue and cell systems and reduce stress for patients and the costs of cancer therapy. After successfully deploying our technology in the scientific community, we are excited about advancing it to clinical use. We will use the funding to develop a prototype, prepare for clinical approval, and expand our team", Dr Max Brinkmann, Co-Founder of Refined Laser Systems.
"Refined Laser Systems addresses a very relevant problem in cancer diagnostics. The ever-increasing complexity of diagnostics and rising cancer incidences with fewer recruits in pathology are pushing today’s pathology to its limits. Refined’s microscopy procedure will provide much-needed relief by simplifying and improving the workflow. In addition, the acquisition of the complete molecular fingerprint using Raman microscopy in combination with artificial intelligence as a diagnostic aid offers enormous potential for patient-specific selection and use of new cancer therapies", Dr Jan Engels, Investment Manager at High-Tech Gründerfonds.
"We were convinced by the proven track record of Refined Laser System’s technology in the scientific community, coupled with the long-term vision of the founders. Having the ability to digitally process image tissue structures during surgery will allow surgeons and pathologists to establish diagnoses without delay. We expect to see significant improvement in patient well-being and care", Dr Gordon Euller, Partner at APEX Ventures Medical Fund.
"Our investment focus on patented technology found a perfect match in Refined Laser Systems’ IP portfolio. We are excited to help excel this new technology to a level where it will make a significant difference in patients’ wellbeing facing cancer therapy and reducing pressure on the health system", Daniel Papst, Co-owner and managing director at Papst Venture Capital GmbH.