The finalists for the 2016 Bertarelli Prize are announced by Harvard’s iLab

The 2016 Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge at Harvard’s iLab is nearing its final stages as the finalists for this year’s competition have been announced.  From over 60 applicants, five student-led teams have been selected, one of which will be awarded the Bertarelli Prize on May 4th.

This year’s finalists are:

  • Antera produces an all-natural solution formulated to safely reduce the risk of peanut allergy development in infants.
  • Buoy creates a simple and safe way to understand your symptoms, answer questions about your illness, and get an assessment of possible causes.
  • Herald makes healthcare safer by offering clinicians real-time access to clinical data exactly when and how they want it.
  • Pykus Therapeutics develops a dissolvable intraocular device to make retinal surgery less painful and more successful.
  • Searna Technologies provides uniquely sensitive and affordable molecular diagnostics for the non-invasive detection of cancer.

The Bertarelli Foundation is delighted to support the iLab and the Deans’ Challenge; since its inception in 2014, over 100 nascent student-led teams have been mentored towards commercialising their business ideas in the health and life science sector.

The previous winners have already had a huge impact in improving human health around the world.  Aldatu Biosciences, the 2014 winners, have developed a diagnostic test for HIV drug resistance which is being trialed in Botswana, a country with an historically very high prevalence of drug-resistance.  And LuminOva, the 2015 winners, are commercialising a method of detecting the viability of human embryos to increase the probability of successful invitro-fertilisation.

LuminOva wins the 2015 Bertarelli Prize with their groundbreaking IVF tool

The culmination of the academic year at Harvard University’s iLab is the awarding of the Bertarelli Prize to the winner of the Dean’s Health and Life Sciences Challenge.  This year it was the turn of LuminOva to walk away with the prestigious award and a cheque for $40,000.

LuminOva was formed to address the problem of infertility which affects 15 per cent. of couple around the world and the relatively low success rates of current IVF treatment.  LuminOva’s technology is non-invasive diagnostic techniques which is able to  assess eggs and embryos in terms of the quality and viability.  LuminOva’s technology measures fluorescence signals and from that derives the metabolic state of embryos.  This means that clinicians will then be able to select only the very best embryos for implantation.  The result of this is not only increased success rates, but also a reduction in the number of multiple pregnancies, an often unwanted

Alexandra Dickson explained the origins of LuminOva and why they are so committed to making progress with their technology:

“What makes us so passionate at LuminOva is that we see a field where there hasn’t been much innovation taking place, things haven’t changed that much in the industry and we really feel that a simple technology like ours can really make a huge impact.”

LuminOva intends to use their prize to engage with regulatory attorneys to help the company develop their road-map to market.  They hope that very soon they will be able to move their technology from the laboratory and into the clinic so they can begin impacting the lives of patients.

Aldatu Biosciences wins the inaugural Bertarelli Prize at Harvard’s iLab

At the concluding event of the 2014 Dean’s Health & Life Science Challenge, Aldatu Biosciences was selected as the winner of the inaugural Bertarelli Prize – an impressive achievement for a young company with huge potential.

Aldatu Biosciences was founded at the iLab by David Raiser and Iain MacLeod to further their efforts to apply PANDAA (Pan-Degenerate Amplification and Adaptation) technology to the challenge of detecting drug resistant strains of HIV.  PANDAA is a familiar technology to many in the scientific community but Aldatu Bioscience have applied it in a novel way to great effect.

Drug resistance is already a huge problem and Iain McLeod be believes the problem is only getting worse:

“Year on year, both transmitted and acquired resistance to HIV antiretroviral is increasing around the world.  When a Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute study started in 2010, about 4 per cent. of women who were coming into antenatal clinics had resistance. Now it’s up to 10 per cent.”

Aldatu Biosciences are entering an exciting stage of their development and intend to use their prize to help further their existing relationships with health professionals in East Africa where there is urgent need for improved detection of drug resistance.

The Bertarelli Foundation is a keen supporter of entrepreneurs in the life science sector, and especially those that can make practical improvements to the health and well-being of large numbers of people.  Aldatu Biosciences is an excellent example of a young company with big ideas and the drive and desire to make a difference.

Partnerships renewed at Harvard Medical School and EPFL

The Bertarelli Foundation has today signed gift agreements with Harvard Medical School and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne that will secure and develop the Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering. The new donations – totalling several million dollars – will fund the continuation of the education, research and knowledge-sharing program that was established in 2010. The signing of the gift coincided with the third annual Bertarelli Symposium, which took place in January at Harvard.

A unique partnership between American and Swiss universities, the Bertarelli Program brings together medics and scientists in neuroengineering to develop new therapies that will have real life-changing outcomes for patients with psychiatric and neurological diseases. It is this aim that really defines ‘Translational Neuroscience’ – marrying our increasing knowledge of the brain and nervous system with advances in neuroengineering to create results that are truly transformative. Among the research that is being undertaken are projects that are looking into cures for congenital deafness, as well as how we might combat paralysis – using electrodes and pharmaceuticals to reawaken the dormant circuitry that controls movement.

A further gift will establish the Bertarelli Catalyst Fund for the Dean of Harvard Medical School, with the goal of “supporting HMS priorities at the discretion of the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.”

Commenting on the renewed partnership with EPFL and Harvard, Ernesto Bertarelli, Co-Chair of the Bertarelli Foundation, said:
“My family’s commitment to life sciences research goes back three generations. That is why we are particularly pleased to have cemented our association with these two world-leading institutions. The scientists on the Bertarelli Program are undertaking work that could herald astonishing and vital achievements – progress that could, potentially, improve the lives of many millions of people. The program also, I believe, serves as an example of what can be accomplished through real and meaningful collaboration.”

Image ©Steve Gilbert

The 2014 Bertarelli Symposium takes place at Harvard Medical School

At Harvard Medical School, 17-18 January, researchers and clinicians from the university joined colleagues from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne for the third annual Bertarelli Symposium.

This year’s meeting coincided with the formal renewal of the partnership between the Bertarelli Foundation and the two academic institutions in the form of the Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering, established in 2010. The new gift – totalling several million dollars – will help to “continue to inspire neuroengineering advances by bringing basic and clinical investigations together with experts in device design for sensory and other neurologic systems.” The Program’s defining aims are collaboration and innovation. 

The 2014 Symposium was entitled Neuroengineering:Molecules, Minds and Machines and it provided an opportunity to hear and discuss current efforts in translational neuroscience, not least initial findings from the first six research grants awarded through the Bertarelli Program in 2011.

Read more here about the programme for the 2014 Symposium, including case-studies of the pioneering research that is being carried out.

Commenting on the Symposium and the Bertarelli Program, Ernesto Bertarelli said:

“The strength of this program is in what it achieves as a whole—facilitating and encouraging scientists and medics from wholly different disciplines, backgrounds and, of course, locations to work together. I look, for example, at the work being done on paralysis and hearing problems and am heartened and excited by the fact that we have different research programs, from the two universities, working together, combining specialties and all with a common goal. It is how science should be, I believe.”

David Corey, director of the program at Harvard, said:

“In designing the Bertarelli Program, we needed to decide what neuroengineering really means. It combines engineering, neurology and neuroscience, yet it becomes more than the sum of its parts by focusing on new solutions for neurological and psychiatric disorders and seeking neuroscience knowledge that will be useful for patient care immediately rather than down the road. In just two years, it is clear the program is delivering on that vision.”

Image ©Steve Gilbert