Cork company raises €2.2m to fight against infectious disease

1 Jun 2017

From left: Niall Olden, managing partner at Kernel Capital; Dr Tara Dalton, CEO, AltraTech; Dr Brian O’Farrell and Dr Tim Cummins, co-founders of AltraTech; and Cyril McGuire, CEO of Infinity Capital. Image: Paul Lehane Photography

AltraTech is having a good 2017, with a new €2.2m investment complementing a HIV diagnostic project worth a further €3m in EU funding.

Healthcare is reliant on two key strands working side by side: therapeutics and diagnostics. For the former to work, we need the latter to quantify.

An illness makes someone poorly, a treatment makes them better. But what is ‘better’? Accurate diagnostics are required to set that bar, in order to validate what therapeutics can achieve.

Diagnosis focus

AltraTech is a company working to speed up this process, with its diagnostics technology seeing it land more than €5m in recent months, through standard VC funding and a major Horizon 2020 (H2020) project.

Founded by Dr Tim Cummins and UCC-based Dr Brian O’Farrell in 2013, Kernel Capital has been involved since the beginning, seeding the company from the outset and leading the latest round with Infinity Capital.

Cummins has form in this space, as the former CEO and founder of ChipSensors, a Kernel Capital portfolio company acquired by Silicon Labs in 2010.

Cyril McGuire, CEO and founder of Infinity Capital – which recently invested in Corlytics with Kernel Capital – has been added to the board. He joins new CEO Dr Tara Dalton, who previously co-founded Stokes Bio, which was acquired by Life Technologies in 2010.

Portable kit

AltraTech is developing a single-use portable semiconductor test kit for ‘point of care’ testing of infectious viral diseases. The company claims its technology has the potential to “decentralise clinical blood testing into ‘in the field’ point-of-care settings, enabling rapid diagnosis and decision-making on site”.

It has quite a few fans, too. In March, AltraTech secured H2020 support to develop a portable, battery-operated HIV diagnosis kit – a three-year project.

“We are delighted with the support from our investors, Kernel Capital and Infinity Capital,” said Dalton. “Their investment will enable the continued development of AltraTech’s innovations in viral detection.”

Impressive knowledge

McGuire said: “Infinity Capital were very impressed with the level of domain knowledge in the team and IP at AltraTech, and are very excited about the significant commercial opportunities that exist for the company globally.”

Niall Olden, managing partner at Kernel Capital, added: “AltraTech is a company focused on achieving near-term scientific goals that will be productised rapidly and will have an immediate sustainable impact on world health.”

“The company is led by an executive team of high-intellect, repeat entrepreneurs, and has an experienced, cohesive investor base.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic