Silicon Valley has long been revered for being the cradle of tech innovation. Increasingly innovation is happening elsewhere and the University of Cambridge is being recognised as a leading supplier of entrepreneurial talent.
This technology has many applications beyond tracking potential melanomas and has allowed the company to focus on other skin health issues such as monitoring chronic wounds.Neil Daly, Skin Analytics CEO
One company to benefit from this is Skin Analytics, which has developed a remote monitoring service to detect melanoma earlier.
In the battle against melanoma*, Skin Analytics have developed an app which helps to scan an individual’s moles by taking an accurate snapshot of each mole and carefully monitor them for change. The app will then prompt the user to undertake further regular screenings, help the individual in question to understand the risks involved and suggest any precautions which should be taken. Finally, the app will provide a report for a GP if any changes have been detected.
Not only was the company co-founded by a University of Cambridge graduate but more than half of the company are recent graduates. Even more critical to the company was the support it received from the late Professor Bill Fitzgerald of the Department of Engineering, who met with the founders when the idea was conceived.
Under Professor Fitzgerald's guidance, Skin Analytics was developed and advanced image processing algorithms underpin the unique intellectual property of the company. This technology has many applications beyond tracking potential melanomas and has allowed the company to focus on other skin health issues such as monitoring chronic wounds.
Skin Analytics CEO, Neil Daly, believes that Cambridge has everything it needs to become a major innovation hub like the Silicon Valley.
"I don't think Skin Analytics could have been started in many other places in the world. Not only did we need the expertise of leading academics to solve our image processing challenges, we also needed the belief that we could achieve something new that Professor Fitzgerald fostered. I can't overstate how important that was and how rare it is."
The University of Cambridge not only provided the foundations for Skin Analytics to get started, it also introduced the company to Founder.org, a Silicon Valley based mentorship programme to help startups commercialise their business and raise funding from the Valley.
The Founder.org programme lasts 12 months and is offered across eight dimensions spanning team to operations. It also comes with a $10,000 grant and is open to University of Cambridge startups again from next year. Any company interested in applying to Founder.org should contact Quintus Liu.
Neil Daly is convinced that this programme will take Skin Analytics from an early stage startup to growing business and help facilitate the company's expansion into the US.
"With the University behind us and now with the support of Founder.org, I hope we can add to Cambridge's growing reputation as a hotbed of innovation."
*Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes, which are cells that produce a pigment called melanin. Melanin gives colour to the skin, hair and eyes. Melanocytes can also form moles, where melanomas can develop. Although most moles do not become cancerous, it's important to spot the rare ones that do.