12 biomedical startups tried to impress iForum visitors. Did they succeed in this?
The International Exhibition Centre was overcrowded that day – thousands of persons came to Ukrainian forum of netizens iForum. Six thematic streams and vivid platforms in the main zone on the first floor competed for visitors’ attention. At first glance, unnoticeable and kind of “hidden” from the outside world hall located on the second floor was jam-packed. Entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, researchers, journalists came to the final round of Ukraine’s first Biomedical Startups Competition MBioS Challenge, held by Innovation House jointly with Borsch Ventures.
Competition jury members (from L to R): Mr. Oleksandr Voznyak, Mr. Vadym Biloshytsky, Ms. Nana Voitenko, Mr. Dmitriy Gilgur
Mr. Alexandr Olshanskiy, founder at iForum, admitted that he did not expect to see so many people there. When he first heard about the Competition he thought that there are no biomedical startups in Ukraine at all, and it would be nice if some twenty startups file their applications. However, 97 projects have applied for the Competition, 12 of which made it to the final and were granted the opportunity to give a talk to the members of a jury and iForum visitors. The ability of startups to introduce themselves and their developments was the most important determinant for the selection of winners.
Innovation House is hereby bringing the light on pitches delivered by finalists and on the most impressive developments selected for MBioS Challenge.
Battle of ideas
Startups were competing in three categories as follows: “Idea”, “Pre-seed/Prototype”, and “Startup with viable business model and cash flow”. This began with ideas.
Ms. Oksana Piven, PhD at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics, took the stage. Jointly with her fellow scientists, she invented how to regenerate heart upon heart attacks and other diseases that kill its muscle cells. To have this implemented, CRISPR technology is offered to be used – i.e. to activate genes in connective tissue (fibroblasts). Ms. Oksana Piven recalls that cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death around the world. These diseases have an impact on the economy and decrease GDP by 7%. A total of 7 persons are engaged in direct cardiogenic reprogramming of fibroblasts.
Ms. Oksana Piven
The final round of MBioS Challenge had two projects, where Ms. Oksana Piven was engaged. The second project was introduced by her colleague Ms. Olya Chaplya. This was also the genetics-related project allowing for human embryos genome editing using CRISPR-Cas9 system. This is the genetic tool that may identify gene and rebuild new one by copying the genetic material. The target group of this project – couples, who are at risk of passing genetic diseases on to their children and who wish to avoid this.
Ms. Olya Chaplya
The next project, mobile ultrasonic surgical instrument MUSIC-Med was developed in Cherkasy city. Four engineers from Cherkasy State Technological University are working on this project introduced by Ms. Yuliia Bondarenko. “The world is full of dangers, such as criminalization of society, terrorist threats, military conflicts that are often accompanied by gunshot wounds. Rapid development of armament is only aggravating the situation and number of people wounded,” – she said. Any damages of the tissue are accompanied by infections. Initial surgical debridements allow for serious complications avoiding, and the use of ultrasound will reduce blood loss. According to Ms. Yuliia Bondarenko, there are analogues of such tools, but they are bulky and costly (from €5,000 to €10,000). The cost of product developed by them is €1,000 only.
Ms. Yuliia Bondarenko
The Ukrainian alternative to global developments was also introduced by Esper Bionics startup. It has developed the bionic hand prosthesis that will cost 5 to 10 times less than foreign analogues. According to Mr. Dmytro Gazda, CEO at Esper Bionics, 5 million people are currently in need for hand prosthesis, and only 0.5% of them may afford this. After all, the cost of bionic hand prosthesis – $30,000 to $60,000. It is expected that the production cost of Ukrainian prosthesis will be some $1,500, market price – $6,000 to $12,000. At an early stage, it is expected to be sold as a gadget. Then, upon the certification – as a medical device. Currently startup is seeking contacts in Europe – scientific and business ones, as well as investments (approximately $250,000) for the certification and manufacturing purposes. The team of Esper Bionics – 6 persons, inclusive of Volodymyr Medvedev, neurosurgeon, MD.
Mr. Dmytro Gazda
Yet another project in this category – Quanta Brain. This is a device attached to the head that fixes eyes in position with the use of eye tracking technology. This device shall also read off brain waves. Startup creators believe that their development will replace traditional input equipment and will become “computer mouse for the brain”. “The goal of our project is to unleash the potential of our awareness, free us from the chains of our bodies, whose opportunities are very limited,” – Mr. Michael Tulsky, Quanta Brain founder, said. He is graduate student specializing in IT and quantum computing. A total of 7 persons work at this startup.
Mr. Michael Tulsky
The best prototypes
5 prototype-level projects went into the finals.
Adsorptive carbon dressing was developed by four researchers at R.E. Kavetsky Institute of Experimental Pathology, Oncology and Radiobiology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Ms. Larisa Sakhno, PhD, who introduced the project, has told that this dressing quickly removes toxic products, bacterial toxins, inflammation mediators from the wound. “More than 2% of adult population in developed countries is suffering from chronic wounds. The adsorptive surface of the dressing is 1,500 to 2,400 m²/g. It is as big as one third of the football field on a small piece,” – explained she. Activated carbon fibrous materials are being used as a basis for the dressing. According to Ms. Larisa Sakhno, the cost of the dressing is far less than the cost of similar foreign products. It is already being used in 15 Ukrainian clinics and military hospitals.
Ms. Larisa Sakhno
Next project – Helsi.me service. It was introduced by CEO, Mr. Artem Mykhaylyuk. Helsi.me helps to find a doctor via internet. Doctor, in turn, obtains the tool to maintain patient health records. Startup developers say that data is stored in compliance with all the international and Ukrainian safety standards. According to Mr. Artem Mykhaylyuk, in the last month alone, more than 250,000 doctor’s appointment were made via this service. Each appointment is time-saving and lots of people did not have to waste their time for standing in line.
Mr. Artem Mykhaylyuk
Mr. Murashevych Bohdan, PhD in Chemistry, has “killed” the visitors from the first sentence. “Every one of us will die, – started he. – But one in 20 will die from superbugs”. Superbugs were evolving since people were long using antibiotics mindlessly, therefore pathogenic bacteria have developed resistance to them. Sodium hypochlorite is usually used in everyday life for disinfection purposes. However, its application in medical field is rather limited since solution is unstable and contains plenty of free alkali. Mr. Murashevych Bohdan jointly with five of his colleagues on this project have developed “active chlorine” chemical immobilization technology on an inert polymer carrier. As a result, researchers obtained the biocidal active polymer, which may be manufactured in the form of “granules” (for water disinfection), “cotton wool” (for air disinfection), “fabrics” (as a component of antiseptic dressings). Startup needs $50,000 for clinical trials of the material, optimization of its end-use properties, purchase of equipment, initial polymer and reagents.
Mr. Murashevych Bohdan
Dory_VR startup is expecting to raise some $100,000 investments during the first year. It is creating application for VR headsets aimed to help children with autism spectrum disorder to socialize. According to startup founder Ms. Solovyova Anna, this application will analyze the oculomotor activity of a child, will help him to comprehend their emotions and emotions of surrounding people. The project team consists of 3 persons, inclusive of neurophysiologist Mr. Danylov Sergiy.
Ms. Solovyova Anna
The last project in this category – LATRAX. It offers to fight epilepsy by using the vagus nerve stimulation. The team of the project consists of two neurosurgeons, two engineers and one neurophysiologist Ms. Irina Hoi, who has introduced the development on the stage of iForum. She told that some 5% of people around the globe are currently suffering from epilepsy, which is 300 million people. And 50 million of them suffer from severe form of this disease. Patients are in constant need for trying the new method of cure. Moreover, sooner or later, resistance to drugs may emerge. Vagus nerve stimulation is the very alternative to medicinal treatment. LATRAX has several devices that may be used for treatment of various neurological disorders – resistant epilepsy, depression, pain syndrome, etc.
Ms. Irina Hoi
Startups with viable business model and cash flow
Two already commercialized startups were in the final round of MBioS Challenge.
The first one – Liki24 service that unites manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, distributors, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacies, and patients and delivers medicines to your home at greatly reduced prices. But in so doing, the artificial intelligence algorithms (neural networks) and big data analysis are applied.
The database of service includes 1,000 pharmacies and more than 30,000 nomenclature items. Monthly turnover is reaching UAH 1,000,000 ($40,000). “Customers pay for the delivery, pharmacies give percentages of sales, insurance companies pay for assistance services, manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and suppliers pay too,” – Mr. Anton Avrinsky, startup founder, said. Even though his company is only six months old and it is doing delivery for 5 month only, it already has 5,000 customers. 25 persons are employed at the company.
Mr. Anton Avrinsky
Currently Liki24 is in search for investment amounting $500,000 and up to hire some stuff and to deploy in various cities. So far, Kyivans and those, who live in adjacent inhabited localities can order pharmaceuticals delivery.
Odesa-based startup QROK MEDICAL was the second in this category. It has developed navigation and positioning system for hospitals for the medical workers to remotely monitor the state of health of patients. The system is using patient’s wristband to trace him, to monitor his body temperature, activity. It will also inform the operator if the patient tries to remove the wristband. Mr. Heorhii Tkachenko, in charge of QROK MEDICAL product development, told that the team consisting of 11 technical experts is developing software for all the functional assembly by itself. QROK MEDICAL is already being used in Odesa city clinic Into-Sana. Startup is generating income from manufacturing and licence payments for the support. It has also executed agreement with PORR Beteiligungen und Management GmbH for the promotion and implementation of product across the European clinics. Therefore, upon deployment in Ukraine, QROK MEDICAL is going to enter the markets of other countries.
Mr. Heorhii Tkachenko
Winners and prizes
Following the results of pitches delivered, MUSIC-Med and Esper Bionics became the winners in “Idea” category. Adsorptive carbon dressing and LATRAX won in the category “Prototypes”. They will obtain acceleration from Borsch Ventures, namely lectures on finance, marketing, and other areas necessary for any startup. Moreover, Innovation House will help them to introduce their developments to British investors during live video conference as a part of Ukrainian Medical Association of the United Kingdom, held on May 12, 2018.
“We give startups something more than money. We give them training and experience for them to establish business global investors will be interested in,” – Ms. Alla Oliinyk, partner at Borsch Ventures and coordinator at Innovation Development Council under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, said.
QROK MEDICAL won in the category of commercialized startups. It will be granted the opportunity to visit one of world’s best R&D centers and to see how medical innovations are being created.
Mr. Igor Yankovsky, patron, businessman, and Innovation House founder, has awarded the special prize – the trip to Life Sciences Baltics, one of the largest European medical and technology conferences that will be held on September 26-27, 2018 in Vilnius. LATRAX startup has got this prize.
Mr. Igor Yankovsky granted LATRAX team the special prize from Innovation House
“Today we paved the decent way for medical startups competitions. Projects, introduced by finalists, already have some foreign analogues, but it is important for us to develop these activities in Ukraine, rather than anywhere else: with more affordable technologies and reasonable pricing policy. All ideas and developments are worth attention, further development, and investments from Ukrainian business. Though I shall confess that I am most interested in LATRAX project that helps to make lives of patients suffering from neural disorders easier. There are millions of such people around the globe, project is at high development phase, and has economic benefits. This is sort of social investment for us, therefore, I have awarded the special prize from Innovation House to LATRAX team,” – Mr. Igor Yankovsky, businessman and patron, said.