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Imec invests millions in diagnosing sleep problems

19 August 2021

The Leuven-based fund imec.xpand is again investing in Dutch start-up Onera Health, which focuses on diagnosing sleep problems. Imec.xpand is a fund that invests in companies for which the expertise of the electronics research institute Imec is of great importance.


The fund is again participating in a capital round of the Dutch company Onera Health, which is miniaturizing equipment for sleep research and wants to make it into a portable, disposable product. Onera Health is based in the Brainport region near Eindhoven in the Netherlands, its commercial operations are in the United States. The company just raised 10.5 million euros from investors, including existing shareholder imec.xpand.

Onera Health developed a system that uses two 'smart patches' to monitor a patient's sleep activity. The complete technology of a hospital machine used for sleep monitoring is integrated on one computer chip.

The basic technology for that chip comes from Imec. The Leuven-based electronics research center owns 25 percent of imec.xpand, but the fund operates independently.

Onera Health's product can be used both at home and in a sleep research center. The company is working on a smaller disposable version aimed at the consumer market, and there too imec plays an important role. The Leuven research center specializes in integrating systems on chips that reduce cost and energy consumption. 'The disposable product should be ready within 12 to 18 months,' says Tom Vanhoutte, fund manager of imec.xpand. 'The sleep market is huge. It's one of the fastest growing health markets worldwide.'

In 2019, Onera Health raised €8.3 million from a consortium of investors led by Nasdaq-listed biotech company Jazz Pharmaceuticals. At the time, imec.xpand also participated, along with the Leuven research center Imec and Dutch investor BOM (Brabantse Ontwikkelingsmaatschappij), among others. 'We believe that sufficient large capital rounds is one of the keys to success in deep-tech investments, which is why we invested three million euros in the first round and now another two million in this round,' Vanhoutte said.

Imec.xpand is a Leuven-based fund that invests early on in companies working on innovations in which the expertise of the Leuven research center Imec plays a distinctive role. It launched in 2017 with a capital of 117 million euros and has invested in 13 companies so far. Imec holds 25 percent in the fund, which however operates independently. The fund received money from reputable chip companies such as Samsung, Applied Materials, Philips and SK Hynix, as well as from banks, universities and regional government funds.

'We can draw on the current fund for a few more months,' says Vanhoutte. There will be a successor. The Flemish government is already investing 30 million euros in it.

Source: De Tijd, translated by Leuven MindGate

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