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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

Leader in uterine monitoring to help couples with fertility problems celebrates fundraising success

Published: 27 January 2019
Professor Morgan and Dr Cheong
Professor Hywel Morgan and Dr Ying Cheong

Interdisciplinary researchers from Medicine, the Institute for Life Sciences (IfLS) and Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), are celebrating a £3m fundraising round by University of Southampton spin-out company Vivoplex. The funding will be used to advance a biosensor to help couples with fertility problems.

Vivoplex Group Ltd was set up in 2015 to continue development of the small, implantable, batteryless sensor that can help understand and improve fertility.

The financing round was led by existing investors with support from some new high net worth individuals and family offices. The proceeds will be used in the clinical development of the VivoPlex product, CE marking and development of a finalised production-ready device.

Vivoplex, a leader in real time and accurate intra-uterine monitoring, has also announced the appointment of experienced life sciences executive Joanna Smart as the company’s new CEO. Joanna, formerly the company’s COO, will lead the organisation as it takes its intra-uterine monitor through the next stages of product, clinical and regulatory development.

VivoPlex’s product is a wireless, battery-free sensor that monitors three influential factors in the uterine environment - pH, temperature and oxygen level - for the optimisation of fertility treatment and uterine health. It is the first insertable wireless device (no bigger than an intra-uterine device or coil) for the measurement of these parameters in vivo, and is expected to have a significant impact on low IVF success rates which currently stand at 25-30%. A wearable, in the form of washable, discreet briefs, provides wireless power to the device and transmits data to proprietary software for use by the fertility specialist. It has generated positive results in early studies, and has potential in a range of other applications.

The company brings together a multidisciplinary team of clinical fertility experts and world-class biosensor and digital technology engineers - led by the University’s Professor Hywel Morgan (Deputy Director of the IfLS and a Professor of Bioelectronics in ECS), and Dr Ying Cheong (Professor of Reproductive Medicine) - with experienced corporate and business development executives.

A future 30-patient clinical pilot study is being supported by the UK NIHR’s i4i Programme through funding to the University of Southampton in a joint project with VivoPlex.

Joanna Smart has worked with VivoPlex since 2016 and has played a key role in operational, product and corporate development. She has over 15 years’ experience in the healthcare sector in Europe and the US, at investment bank Nomura International and with senior business development roles at US biotechnology companies Onyx Pharmaceuticals and Chiron Corporation. Joanna has also worked with several companies as an independent consultant.

Dr Chris Dickson, Chairman of VivoPlex, said: “VivoPlex is pleased to have closed its Series A, which provides the funding to take our innovative intra-uterine monitor through its important next stages of development. I’d like to thank existing and new investors for their support and look forward to working with them as we take the company forward.

“Joanna has played a significant role in the evolution of VivoPlex and its intra-uterine monitor to this stage. Her background and experience make her the ideal leader of VivoPlex as it grows and develops, and I am pleased to welcome her to the CEO role.”

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