Harvard University Launches the 2021 President’s Innovation Challenge

The Harvard Innovation Labs has launched the 10th Annual President’s Innovation Challenge, a competition designed to bring together the Harvard community to work on compelling solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. For the 202Challenge, winning teams will receive $510,000 in prizes from the Bertarelli Foundation.  Ernesto Bertarelli commented:

“The Bertarelli Foundation has long recognised the importance of entrepreneurship in driving forward human progress.  I’m pleased to see that with each passing year, the iLab and the President’s Innovation Challenge, fosters more and more young entrepreneurs as they tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

“As we kick off this year’s President’s Innovation Challenge, our focus first and foremost is shining a light on the incredible innovators and entrepreneurs across the global Harvard community,” said Matt Segneri, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Executive Director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “Over the next six months, we look forward to supporting all of the venture teams participating in the Challenge, and recognizing their many achievements both leading up to and during the PIC Awards Ceremony.”  

Participants in the 2021 President’s Innovation Challenge will have access to a variety of Harvard Innovation Labs virtual resources, including advisors and industry experts from around the world, workshops on topics focused on starting and scaling a venture, and panels that are both industry- and stage-specific. 

In May 2021, the 10th Annual President’s Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony will celebrate the work of 25 finalists through a unique, immersive, and interactive virtual experience with focus on a “more human” future. Ten of the finalists will receive $500,000 in Bertarelli Foundation prizes across five tracks: Social or Cultural Impact; Health or Life Sciences; Open for ideas that transcend categories; Launch Lab X GEO for eligible alumni-led ventures, and Life Lab for high-potential biotech and life sciences ventures accepted into the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab. Additionally, the President’s Innovation Challenge will award $10,000 as part of the Ingenuity Awards, for ideas with the potential to be world-changing, even if they are not yet fully formed ventures. 

Last year’s grand-prize winners, each receiving $75,000, were Umbulizer for building a reliable and low-cost device that can provide continuous ventilation to patients; Coding it Forward for empowering the next generation of technology leaders to create social change; Fractal for developing a solution for streaming Windows 10 desktops to macOS or Windows devices; Vincere Health for using real-time incentives and behavioral nudges to motivate people to live healthier lives; and Tectonic Therapeutic for transforming the discovery of novel drugs addressing targets in the G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) family. 

To learn more about the 2021 President’s Innovation Challenge visit innovationlabs.harvard.edu/presidents-innovation-challenge.  

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2020 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge

$510,000 in Bertarelli Foundation prizes were awarded to ventures across industries during a virtual awards ceremony presented by the Harvard Innovation Labs

The 2020 President’s Innovation Challenge (PIC) Awards Ceremony was vastly different to the ones of previous years.  The corona virus pandemic meant that the event was held online rather than on Harvard’s campus but, despite this, the ceremony was still a great success with more than 1,000 people tuning in to see the largest prize pool awarded to the successful teams.

People tuned in from around the world for the PIC Virtual Awards Ceremony to see ventures founded by Harvard students and alumni showcase their solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems across industries. During the one-hour live-streamed event presented by the Harvard Innovation Labs, 25 finalists showcased their work, and 10 ventures received $500,000 in Bertarelli Foundation prizes across five tracks: Social Impact or Cultural Enterprise; Health and Life Sciences; Open for ideas that transcend categories; Launch Lab X for eligible alumni-led ventures, and Life Lab for high-potential biotech and life sciences ventures accepted into the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab.

This year’s grand-prize winners, which each received $75,000, are Umbulizer for building a reliable and low-cost device that can provide continuous ventilation to patients; Coding it Forward for empowering the next generation of technology leaders to create social change; Fractal for developing a solution for streaming Windows 10 desktops to macOS or Windows devices; Vincere Health for using real-time incentives and behavioural nudges to motivate people to live healthier lives; and Tectonic Therapeutic for transforming the discovery of novel drugs addressing targets in the G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) family.

Sanchay Gupta, Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of Umbulizer commented after receiving grand prize award in the Health & Life Sciences Track:

The world needs ventilators now more than ever, and this award will directly fund the production of additional devices that we can then deliver to patients in need.

The four runners-up, who each received $25,000, were Concerto Biosciences for discovering functional microbial communities for human therapeutics using a patented screening platform; Tang for its international mobile payment app that makes paying and sending money easier; Change The Tune: The Studio for providing impactful learning opportunities for young people and innovators; OZÉ for its platform connecting small business owners in Africa to data, cash, clients, and each other; and Day Zero Diagnostics for combining genome sequencing and machine learning to modernize infectious disease diagnosis and treatment.

The President’s Innovation Challenge awarded a further $10,000 as part of the Ingenuity Awards – for ideas with the potential to be world-changing, even if they are not yet fully formed ventures. This year’s Ingenuity Grand Prize winner was Foresight for empowering people with vision impairments with a novel wearable navigation device using soft actuators and computer vision. The two runners-up were 1,000 More for facilitating crowd-funding lobbying efforts so that average Americans have access to that part of our democracy; and Datacule for developing molecular data storage technology.

Matt Segneri, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Executive Director of the Harvard Innovation Labs.commented:

I am so proud to be a part of this diverse and incredibly talented Harvard Innovation Labs community.  This year is our ninth year hosting the PIC and over 1,500 teams have now passed through this community that we are building together. We are excited to be a hub that connects, supports, and inspires students and alumni across all Harvard schools, and we are dedicated to nurturing the endless curiosity of these entrepreneurs and innovators.

The President’s Innovation Challenge prizes are exclusively funded by the Bertarelli Foundation, which announced the President’s Innovation Challenge Fund in October 2017 to fund the competition for the next five years. This gift extends the Bertarelli Foundation’s support of student-led ventures at Harvard, which began in 2013 when the Foundation funded the Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge at the Harvard i-lab.

To watch the President’s Innovation Challenge Virtual Awards Ceremony and learn more about the winners, visit pic2020.innovationlabs.harvard.edu

An interview with Dr. Ida Pavlichenko, co-founder of PionEar Technologies Inc.

The Bertarelli Prize is awarded each year to the winners of Harvard University’s President’s Challenge – an initiative of the university’s Innovation Lab which helps students and alumni develop their nascent business ideas.  PionEar Technologies was one of the 2018 Challenge winners after impressing the judges with their use of anti-biofouling technologies to treat infections of the middle ear.  Dr. Ida Pavlichenko, one of the company’s co-founders, describes how PionEar has progessed since winning the Bertarelli Prize.


After earning her PhD in inorganic chemistry at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in 2014, Dr. Ida Pavlichenko joined Prof. Joanna Aizenberg’s lab at the Harvard J. A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, which pursues a wide range of research interests in the field of bioinspired materials science. She became interested in the idea of anti-biofouling, and together with her colleague Dr. Michael Kreder and collaborators from Prof. Jennifer Lewis’ group – Nicole Black and Dr. Claas Visser – she started to contemplate what novel medical applications might arise from these technologies. Very quickly she wondered whether it might help improve treatment of middle ear infections.

Why are ear infections such a serious problem?

Over 700,000,000 people globally suffer from ear infections each year. For young children the consequences can be very serious – over 40% develop a chronic condition with a persistent fluid in the middle ear and 25% suffer from a permanent hearing loss which impacts their learning ability and communication skills.

If infections become regular and the fluid in the middle does not clear for more than three months, doctors will often suggest the surgical implantation of an ear tube into the eardrum which helps equalize pressure in the middle ears, drain away any build-up of fluid, and allow the introduction of antibiotics. After six to 24 months ear tubes typically fall out from the eardrum on their own accord. Incredibly, the insertion of ear tubes is the most common surgery for children in the US.

What is wrong with the current design of ear tubes?

Up to 40 to 60% of the current tubes fail for a variety of reasons and resulting in the lumen or passageway of the tube getting clogged by blood, pus, bacteria, cellular debris, etc. This clogging prevents ventilation of the passageway, and does not allow for drainage of fluid and passage of medicine through the tube and into the ear. Some tubes even get prematurely pushed out of the eardrum, or stay in the eardrum longer than needed. In either case, the tube will need to be removed or replaced which is another unwanted operation under general anaesthesia – especially for a young child. Tubes can also get infected by the bacteria present in the middle ear and cause new infections which can be challenging to treat.

How will your product help doctors treat infections of the middle ear?

We have pioneered a novel design which features a unique material and design geometry that allows us to address all of the key complications experienced by patients today. Our proprietary design leverages a unique “non-stick” material to reduce biofouling and blockage of the device, and improve ear fluid drainage. The combination of our material and proprietary shape enable the unique fluidic properties of our device. Importantly, the improved fluid flow properties of PionEar’s device enable a drug delivery channel with a smaller device size – this is a great benefit for young children and means their surgeries are less invasive and the tube causes less damage to the eardrum. Our invention has also won the Collegiate Innovators Competition by National Hall of Fame and the United States Patent and Trademark Office this year.

How did winning the Bertarelli Prize help PionEar Technologies?

Winning the Bertarelli Prize gives us a great deal of credibility and confidence as we take the venture forward over the next few years – perhaps that’s even more important that the prize fund itself. We are incredibly thankful for the Bertarelli Foundation for giving our team the impetus to commercializing out technology!

We are using the $75,000 prize to outsource the manufacturing of the prototypes with silicone injection companies, and pay to the costs associated with starting a new venture.

How did you come up with the idea behind PionEar Technologies?

I have a young daughter who was herself suffering from recurrent ear infections; eventually her paediatrician started to talk about ear tubes and so tackling this problem and making treatment more effective is really very important to me.

The idea was borne out a meeting with the co-inventors of the technology: Nicole Black, Dr. Michael Kreder, Prof. Joanna Aizenberg, and our medical collaborators at the Mass Eye and Ear – Dr. Aaron Remenschneider and Dr. Elliot Kozin, and we started to recognise the potential for this material in treating ear infections.

Having an interdisciplinary team is so important; by combining the expertise of medical doctors, material scientists and experts in business, we’ve been able to progress this venture much more quickly than we’d be able to do otherwise.

How’s does the iLab prepare you for the Innovation Challenge?

The iLab environment – and the staff – are incredible. Our iLab mentor Alice Ly was a huge help and really made sure we were making the most of everything the iLab had to offer.

Likewise, other mentors, entrepreneurs-in-residency and iLab staff are all fantastic. They’re obviously very knowledgeable, but also very personal and encouraging. It’s a very supportive environment but one in which you get on if you’re prepared to work hard.

Apart from the Bertarelli Prize, what have you got out of the Innovation Challenge?

Thanks to the Innovation Challenge I’ve caught the “entrepreneurship bug”, so I guess it catalysed a very critical career decision for me. I’ve decided to commercialize our invention, and I was recently appointed as a Technology Development Fellow at the Wyss Institute, which has provided us with a highly competitive and prestigious Validation Grant to support our in vivo studies. I am also currently a part-time CEO and co-founder of PionEar Technologies, seeking to transition into the company full time when locking down the next financing round.

How did PionEar Technologies evolve and what’s next?

Winning the Bertarelli Prize at the President’s Innovation Challenge in May 2018 has opened doors to so many great opportunities for our team. We were accepted on to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council’s MassCONNECT program and got an incredible help from a large team of experienced Biotech and Medtech mentors on a weekly basis. Our team has won the Audience Choice Grand Prize at the Mass Innovation Nights 115’s 5th Annual Female Founders Event. We are also extremely fortunate and grateful to have won the Gold Prize at the MassChallenge – is the largest-ever start-up accelerator that supports early-stage entrepreneurs.

Shortly after winning the Bertarelli Prize we successfully applied for the grant at the Wyss Institute – one of the world-leading institutions with a unique model that applies the development of disruptive technologies across a range of disciplines. I know that there is more is to come for PionEar Technologies as we compete at the Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge, and apply for US government funding programs. Currently our medical device is undergoing the studies at the Mass Eye and Ear, and we are aiming to continue fundraising for securing the FDA clearance in the near future.

Winning ventures announced at the 2018 President’s Innovation Challenge

A device toolkit that makes STEM education truly engaging, a mobile app for helping small businesses in emerging markets improve their performance, and a startup that’s revolutionising the treatment of ear infections were awarded the three top prizes in the seventh annual President’s Innovation Challenge showcase and awards ceremony at the Harvard Innovation Labs.

President Drew Faust of Harvard University awarded each of the three student ventures, STEMgem, OZÉ, and PionEar, with $75,000 in prize money from the Bertarelli Foundation to help them turn their ideas into impactful, real-world ventures.

Three runners-up, which received $25,000 in prizes, were FinWeGo, a workplace financial wellness platform that helps employers provide affordable and convenient credit to their employees; Jump Credit, helping nonprofits provide free, instant, personalized credit advice to economically vulnerable clients; and X-Cor Therapeutics, which is working on a cheaper and safer extracorporeal COremoval (ECCOR) therapy for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Based on an audience vote, the second annual Crowd Favorite prize of $10,000 was given to Mozambique School Lunch Initiative, which is investing in community-owned school lunch programs to improve childhood nutrition in Mozambique.

This year, prizes for the President’s Innovation Challenge were exclusively funded by the Bertarelli Foundation, which announced the President’s Innovation Challenge Fund in October 2017 to support the winners of the competition for the next five years. This gift extends the Bertarelli Foundation’s previous backing of student-led ventures at Harvard, which began in 2013 when the foundation funded the Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge at the Harvard Innovation Labs.

Ernesto Bertarelli, co-chair of the Bertarelli Foundation said:

“Bringing students together from diverse backgrounds and industries to solve complex global challenges has the power to change millions of people’s lives.  We’re therefore delighted to partner with the Harvard Innovation Labs and to have established the Bertarelli Prize Fund for the winners of the President’s Challenge. I look forward to seeing what the winning ventures from 2018 accomplish in the years to come.”

PionEar co-founder Ida Pavlichenko, winner of the grand prize in the Health or Life Science category, said on hearing the news:

“Winning the President’s Innovation Challenge will play a significant role in helping us commercialise our product.”

The President’s Innovation Challenge is open to any Harvard student or postdoc across the 12 Harvard Schools. This year, a record 460 teams entered the competition — more than double the previous year. Teams competed across three tracks — Social Impact or Cultural Enterprise, Health or Life Science, and Open Track for ideas that transcended categories. All 15 finalists showcased their products and services at the event, and gave one-minute pitches onstage prior to President Faust announcing the winners.

 

Bertarelli Foundation President’s Innovation Challenge Fund at Harvard Business School

The Bertarelli Foundation is pleased to announce that through its gift to Harvard University, the Bertarelli Foundation President’s Innovation Challenge Fund has been established at Harvard Business School.

Ernesto Bertarelli commented:

“We are delighted to support the President’s Innovation Challenge Fund, building once again on our existing relationship with Harvard.  Our aim is to help Harvard find and support the next generation of entrepreneurs with bold ideas and the commitment to see those become reality. With the support of the remarkable community of teachers and innovators at the School, I am confident this Fund will continue to help fuse the scientific vision and the passion for business that Harvard inspires amongst its students.”

Established in 2012, the President’s Innovation Challenge was established to encourage members of the Harvard community to engage with issues facing the world and to spark the creative development of solutions that will address vexing social, medical, and scientific problems. In 2017, more than 200 student teams from across Harvard University competed in the Challenge.

In 2013, the Bertarelli Foundation funded the Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge at the Harvard i-lab. This new commitment to the President’s Innovation Challenge Fund will extend the Bertarelli Foundation’s generosity to a broader range of early stage ventures and enable creative ideas to flourish at Harvard and beyond. In recognition of this new gift, the winners of the President’s Innovation Challenge will be awarded Bertarelli Foundation Prizes each year for the next five years.

Harvard President Drew Faust said of the gift:

“Whether it’s the development of safe and affordable surgical kits that are easily transportable to places in need of medical resources, a venture working to accelerate advances in artificial intelligence, or the scores of other projects that have been part of the President’s Innovation Challenge, the program has helped unleash the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of the Harvard community.  Making progress toward solutions to global problems requires new thinking that transcends boundaries and disciplines, and we are very grateful to the Bertarelli Foundation for the vision and generosity they have shown in their support of this community of innovators dedicated to that task.”

Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria added:

“We see countless examples of the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in finding solutions to society’s most intractable challenges.  The Bertarelli Foundation’s generous gift will fuel the entrepreneurial spirit that exists across the University by ensuring that students have the resources to bring their game-changing ideas to fruition.”

 

 

Babson College Names William B. Gartner as Bertarelli Foundation Distinguished Professor of Family Entrepreneurship

Professorship endowed by the Bertarelli family’s Foundation will expand the College’s deep-rooted commitment to family entrepreneurs

Babson College, ranked No. 1 for entrepreneurship, has announced the appointment of William B. Gartner as its first Bertarelli Foundation Distinguished Professor of Family Entrepreneurship— endowed by the Bertarelli Foundation through a substantial gift to the college.

Building on Babson College’s long history of educating family entrepreneurs and advancing the study of family entrepreneurship, Professor Gartner will lead a multi-disciplinary approach to teaching and studying family entrepreneurship with an emphasis on expanding the entrepreneurial mindset and skillset across generations to ensure family entrepreneurs are equipped to create economic and social value in any context.

Gartner is universally recognized as a thought leader and leading scholar in the area of entrepreneurship, published across a variety of publications including Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Academy of Management Review, Small Business Economics, Journal of Business Venturing, and many more. He will be a tenured full professor in Babson’s Entrepreneurship Division.

“We are pleased to welcome Professor Gartner as Babson’s first Bertarelli Foundation Distinguished Professor of Family Entrepreneurship,” said Babson College President Kerry Healey. “For nearly a century, Babson has been at the forefront of educating entrepreneurial families and providing research and programming to help family enterprises achieve continued growth and innovation. Thanks to the generosity of the Bertarelli Foundation, Professor Gartner’s globally-recognized thought leadership in entrepreneurship, and Babson’s ongoing investments in this field, we will continue to make great strides in supporting entrepreneurial business families.”

Family businesses were the core of Babson’s founding mission in 1919 and, today, 40 percent of the school’s undergraduate students and 70 percent of full-time MBA students hail from family enterprises. In 2005, Babson was the first to launch a global research study focused on entrepreneurship in families. Through the Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices (STEP) Project, Babson has convened and collaborated with 35 academic affiliates and 175 scholars to publish 11 books and 120 cases focused on family entrepreneurship across generations.

“I am thrilled to be at the No. 1 institution for entrepreneurship in the world, around colleagues who are leaders and pioneers in entrepreneurial research and teaching, and working with students who have a great reputation as creative organizers,” said Gartner. “Family business is an exciting area of entrepreneurship. As Babson’s mission and vision is global, and the college was founded on the principles of family business, I am excited to explore the various ways that families serve as the foundation for entrepreneurial activity all around the world.”

Ernesto Bertarelli said: “In establishing this Chair, our aim is to enable new avenues of research and thought in an area of scholarship that is central to successful entrepreneurship and to how future family business leaders adapt to an ever-changing world. We are delighted that, in Professor Gartner, Babson College has a world class academic who, as the first Bertarelli Foundation Distinguished Professor, will challenge orthodox approaches and build a team to help lead Babson forward in this vital field.”

William B. Gartner

In addition to serving as the Bertarelli Foundation Distinguished Professor of Family Entrepreneurship at Babson College, Gartner is also a Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship at Linnaeus University in Vaxjo, Sweden. He has served in various academic positions at the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, Clemson University, San Francisco State University, ESSEC in Paris, and, the Copenhagen Business School. He is the 2005 winner of the Swedish Entrepreneurship Foundation International Award for outstanding contributions to entrepreneurship and small business research. His book: Entrepreneurship as Organizing was recently published in a paperback edition by Edward Elgar. His scholarship has focused on a variety of topics in the entrepreneurship field: entrepreneurial behavior, the social construction of the future, value creation and appropriation, possibility and failure, “translating entrepreneurship” across cultures and countries, the poetics of exchange, and, the demographics of family entrepreneurship. Gartner received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1982.

About Babson College

Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds®. The top-ranked college for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value.

UrSure Inc. win the 2017 Bertarelli Prize at Harvard University’s iLab

For the last several years, the Bertarelli Foundation has proudly sponsored Harvard University’s Innovation Lab.  More specifically, we have provided the Bertarelli Prize, which is awarded to the winner of the ‘Health & Life Science Track’ in the annual President’s Innovation Challenge.

The Innovation Challenge supports Harvard students on their journey to turn their desire for a better world into a sustainable venture. This year’s finalists responded to the desperate need for innovation within the health and life sciences industry, as well as solve social issues (equitability, sustainability and safety), and also innovate in other areas that transcend the Challenge categories.

This year, more than 200 student teams applied to participate in the Innovation Challenge with the finalists being selected by a committee of more than 150 judges with a wide array of industry experiences.

In March, five finalists were selected for the 2017 Bertarelli Prize:

  • Day Zero Diagnostics combines genome sequencing and machine learning to modernise infectious disease diagnosis.
  • GEMS Samaritan Stations has developed a smart devices that reduces emergency response time by turning bystanders into first responders when every second counts.
  • Jane Diagnostics has produced an innovative, low-cost, accurate, rapid, and easy-to-use HPV diagnostic chip for early detection of cervical cancer.
  • Nanoshear has created a nanotechnology-based liquid embolic agent for immediate haemorrhage control in vascular injuries and bleeding patients.
  • UrSure Inc. prevents HIV by focusing on protecting vulnerable populations from infection.

Given the exceptional quality of all the finalists, it was a very difficult decision for the prize judges to select the winners; ultimately however, UrSure Inc. was awarded the Bertarelli Prize of $75,000 and Jane Diagnostics were awarded the runner-up prize of $25,000.

The team behind UrSure are no strangers to the Bertarelli Prize, having participated in the competition in 2016.  In the year which followed, Giffin Daughtridge and Helen Koenig were able to refine both their product and their business plan and ultimately impress the prize judges.

Ernesto Bertarelli commented:

I’d like to congratulate all the finalists and entrants for the Bertarelli Prize.  I’m confident that by taking part in the Challenge over the last year, you will have refined your business ideas and embraced the entrepreneurial spirit which is so important if you are to succeed in your ambition.

I’m delighted that Giffin and Helen of UrSure Inc. have been able to develop such an important medical tool which shows great promise in helping to reduce HIV infection.  I will watch the development of their company very carefully.

UrSure’s CEO and founder Giffin Daughtridge, commented:

Winning the Bertarelli Prize is an absolute game-changer for us.  We had enough funding to get through the next couple of months, but this will help us accelerate our timeline.