CEO Spotlight: Frank Cheng, Caristo Diagnostics
Caristo’s Frank Cheng speaks with OUI on transforming heart disease diagnostics, the evolution of Oxford, and the future of one of Oxford’s most exciting companies.
One of the most discussed spinouts in the Oxford University portfolio, Caristo Diagnostics is bringing to market the ability to spot a heart attack ten years before it happens. With obvious benefits in tackling heart disease, one of the biggest killers in the world, Caristo has been creating a storm of interest in cardiology circles and is now aiming its ambitions worldwide. Frank Cheng, a veteran of both the Oxford innovation ecosystem and the US medtech industry, joined Caristo earlier in 2023 to help the company achieve its rollout in the US. To hear more, OUI recently sat down with Frank to discuss his vision for Caristo, views on how Oxford has evolved, and the future of treating heart disease.
Q: You’re now three months into the job, Frank. What attracted you to Caristo? What attracted you to Oxford?
A: The most important reason is that Caristo’s journey ahead aligns well with my previous experiences. I have taken multiple companies from early technology stages to advanced commercialization, generating significant revenue. One of these companies uses AI and machine learning to detect diseases autonomously, and another company was also an Oxford spinout. So, Caristo’s road ahead is something I am very familiar with. Another attraction was the incredible technology that the scientists at Caristo have developed. Our flagship product, called Cari-Heart, uses non-invasive routine cardiac CT scans to diagnose coronary artery disease and predict heart attacks 10 years in advance. It does so by detecting and quantifying coronary inflammation, which could not be measured in the past. With Caristo’s ground-breaking technology, we can enable better and early diagnosis of coronary artery disease and can potentially save millions of lives.
From the point of view of Caristo’s directors, I bring with me over 25 years of experience in the med-tech industry, mostly working with global companies based in the US. That familiarity with the US market aligns with Caristo’s aspiration to enter the biggest healthcare market in the world. The combination of a fantastic company and cutting-edge technology, along with my familiarity with Oxford, made Caristo an exciting opportunity for me.
Q: You were first involved in Oxford’s ecosystem in 2004. From your perspective, how has the ecosystem evolved over the past two decades?
A: I have been very impressed with Oxford’s ecosystem for venturing since I came back this year. There are now more successful investors who are both sophisticated and knowledgeable in every field. The Oxford ecosystem, in particular, has become well-known globally, attracting industry giants and savvy investors from leading funds in the US, UK, and elsewhere. The culture has become more transparent, dynamic, and confident, with a comprehensive ecosystem from services to investors and improved outreach and communication with the rest of the world. It has not only grown and matured in science but also in commercialisation.
Q: Caristo was first launched in 2018. How has the company evolved since?
A: Firstly, Caristo Diagnostics no longer just has a product concept or prototype, we have a clinically validated platform with paying users in multiple countries. In terms of technology and product, we have recently launched the latest version of Cari-Heart, which is a significant advancement from the initial prototype developed five years ago. This new platform has been cleared for use in UK, EU as well as Australia.
Another important update is our strong position in front of key stakeholders, including the NHS. We have engaged in various projects with the NHS, as a recipient of the Artificial Intelligence Award, ranging from technological validation to real-world implementation and healthcare economic analysis. We are currently preparing for a full submission to NICE for nationwide adoption approval within the United Kingdom. As part of our latest engagement with the NHS, we are embarking on an implementation project with five hospitals, moving our platform into routine clinical care rather than solely focusing on research. This progress demonstrates the shared belief between the NHS and Caristo that CaRi-Heart is ready to provide real-world clinical and economic benefits.
In terms of our customer base in UK, we are not only working with the public sector, but also collaborating with reputable private clinics in London. Major names such as HCA, Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic, renowned healthcare institutions headquartered in the United States, have recognized our technology and decided to adopt it in their UK clinical operations. As we move toward nationwide rollout in the public sector within the UK, we are making significant strides among leading private clinics in London.
People can follow Caristo’s progress at www.caristo.com
Q: Caristo recently raised £13 million. How do you plan to use this funding, and what does the future look like for the company?
A: A significant portion of this funding will be allocated to our expansion into the United States. We are currently preparing for a full submission to the FDA to obtain their approval for our technology. Once we have the green light from the FDA, we will establish an office in the US and assemble a team to drive our product’s clinical adoption there. This expansion into the US market will require investment, and the funding we raised will provide a solid foundation for our US operations.
Q: If there’s one thing that could make your life easier and accelerate Caristo’s growth, what would it be?
A: Speaking for patients in the UK, I would say a more streamlined approval process for proven medical technology that saves lives and significantly improves healthcare. As a company focused on patient care, Caristo understands the importance of following the appropriate processes. However, considering the extensive validation and research studies we have conducted on thousands of patients, which have yielded exceptional results published worldwide, I believe a more accelerated and streamlined review process for promising technologies like ours would greatly benefit patient care in the UK.
Read the article on Oxford Innovation
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