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P | P | P – our chat with Vitamica

We caught up with Paul Meakin, CEO of Vitamica, as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. Vitamica is developing a novel diagnostic technology to test pathogenic bacteria for susceptibility to antibiotics within one hour.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with grand potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Zoe @ADLIB: Hi Paul, great to meet you! Please can you kick us off with an introduction to yourself and Vitamica.

Paul: I am the CEO of Vitamica, an early-stage company based around a diagnostic technology from the University of Bristol. I have a background working in the agriculture sector, but my real passion lies within rapid diagnostic testing, and I have worked in the sector for 20 years. Vitamica was born through meeting Dr Massimo Antognozzi from the University of Bristol who had developed an imaging technology to detect whether a bacterium is susceptible to antibiotics. This technology was of great interest to my colleagues and I and we managed to raise private equity investment which, together with a grant from Innovate UK, allowed Vitamica to be spun out of the University of Bristol in early 2018.

The aim of the technology is to enable the primary care clinicians to detect whether the bacterium causing a UTI is resistant to any of the commonly prescribed antibiotics. This allows targeted treatment, reduces healthcare costs and helps towards the fight against Antimicrobial Resistance. The technology that Vitamica has developed is an automated imaging microscope that analyses the way bacterium vibrate when illuminated by a laser. Susceptible and resistant bacteria vibrate differently when treated with antibiotics. We are currently at the early stage but have shown the technology can differentiate resistant and susceptible bacteria in urine samples much more rapidly than currently used clinical methods. The main reason for targeting UTIs is that 4,800 deaths a year in the UK occur among UTI patients for whom antibiotic therapy is not effective. Providing targeted antibiotics early in the infection cycle will reduce this number of deaths.

Zoe @ADLIB: How would you like to see Vitamica grow in the next year?

Paul: Once we have received further investment; we would be looking to build out our workforce to support the work. We would need Microbiologists, people who are experienced in working within a start-up environment and people who can apply AI to the data.

We have shown that the concept works and has been applied to bacteria from human and veterinary UTIs. From here we want to test multiple antibiotics at the same time and embed AI into the product to make better use of the data. It would be great to analyse more veterinary and human urine in a pre-clinical trial in both hospital and labs.

Zoe @ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?

Paul: Listen to what people have to say, ignore half of it, think seriously about the other half and then reach a decision on what you feel is best for the business. It is being able to filter and act on what you regard as being sound advice from people who have been there and done it. Every business is different, but it is finding a way for each business. Most importantly, keep the faith.

Thank you so much for your time.