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.”

 

 

A conversation with Giffin Daughtridge, winner of the 2017 Bertarelli Prize

Giffin Daughtridge, MD is the co-founder and CEO of UrSure, a venture he started with Dr. Helen Koenig at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, and winner of the 2017 Bertarelli Prize.  Giffin kindly made time to let us know how the iLab and the Bertarelli Prize have helped him achieve his goal of reducing the spread of HIV.

How is UrSure tackling the spread of HIV?

We’re developing tests that let doctors monitor whether their patients are adhering to their PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) regimens. Whilst PrEP only requires a single oral dose per day to be 99% effective at preventing HIV, studies have shown that over the course of a year, adherence to even simple drug regimens can fall to as low as 20 to 50%.  Until recently the only way for clinicians to determine adherence of their patients to PrEP was through self-reporting – a notoriously un-reliable method.

Why is it important to know whether patients are taking their PrEP Medication?

Missing doses can seriously reduce the protection provided to the patient and could lead them to contract HIV.  It’s important for clinicians – and patients – to know that they are protected from infection.

UrSure is developing two tests which will give clinicians an accurate assessment of their patients’ adherence.  The first is a lab-based urine test which provides a quantitative indication of the level of PrEP medication in the patient’s system.  Whilst this is an important tool, it does not give an immediate result.  It also requires the patient to meet with their clinician on another occasion to discuss their test results.  For some patients with chaotic or busy lifestyles, this is a huge hurdle.

We were keen therefore to develop a cheaper test which gives an immediate, albeit binary, result.  We are developing a ‘point-of-care’ urine dip-test, similar to a pregnancy test, which tells clinicians whether their patient is taking their medication.

How did you realise there was need to develop this new test?

I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011 and went to Colombia on a Fulbright research scholarship. While there, I started a vaccination clinic for sex workers.  After a year I moved back to the US and met Dr. Helen Koenig, an infectious disease physician, who was starting a PrEP clinic in Philadelphia, PA.  In our clinic, we realised very quickly that we didn’t know with any confidence whether our patients were taking their medication – in fact, one of our patients contracted HIV, something which would not have happened if he were taking his medication as prescribed.

Helen and I started to think about how this test might be administered.  We didn’t want to develop another blood test for this group of patients and instead decided to see if a patient-friendly urine test might be the way forward.

In 2015 we incorporated UrSure Inc. in order to allow us to apply for a Small Business Innovation Research grant and to other funding streams.  I quickly realised that in order for UrSure to be a success I couldn’t run the company and complete my residency – so I decided to work on UrSure on a full-time basis after graduating medical and policy school.

How has winning the Bertarelli Prize helped UrSure develop?

For Helen and I it has been a game-changer by helping us accelerate the development of our products.  The prize of $75,000 USD, along with other prizes and funding we’ve been able to secure since, will help us develop our point-of-care test and overcome legal and regulatory hurdles that exist to new products entering the marketplace.

But the iLab Challenge is about more than just the prize fund.  Harvard’s iLab provides an incredible place to learn and develop a complete business plan.  When I started in October 2015, I had no idea how to start a company, I knew nothing about business, how to scale-up or how to create a financial model – but the great thing is, the iLab has plenty of people who do.  I sincerely believe that UrSure wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the entire iLab ecosystem – the facilities, the Challenge and the Bertarelli Prize.

What’s next for UrSure?

Now that our clinical test has been validated, we’re working with commercial laboratories to have doctors, patients and insurance companies start using the test.  Ultimately, we want to scale up so we are providing tests for as many PrEP patients as possible – there are over 100,000 in the US alone.

We’re continuing to develop our Point of Care urine test and we hope to have that ready for our clinical trials by 2018.

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.

 

Aldatu Biosciences is helping to overcome HIV drug resistance

After winning the Bertarelli Prize in 2014, Aldatu Biosciences has continued developing their PANDAA technology which aims to improve HIV patient care by detecting antiretroviral drug resistance.  Since then, others have also recognised Aldatu’s potential and they were awarded the Verizon Powerful Answers Award and in 2015 awarded a Direct-to-Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant for approximately $1,500,000 over two years.

Co-founders, David Raiser and Iain MacLeod, travelled to Botswana to meet researchers at the Harvard AIDS Institute.  We went with them to find out how the Bertarelli Prize helped their businesses grow and how their technology might help HIV patients ensure they are receiving the correct treatment.

Herald win the 2016 Bertarelli Prize at Harvard’s iLab

Each year, the Harvard i-lab holds the Deans’ Health & Life Sciences Challenge to encourage cross-disciplinary innovation and to solve some of the world’s toughest health problems.

The year’s five finalists were selected to present their business ideas at the i-lab Demo Day on Wednesday, 4th May, and compete in the final stage of the competition for the Bertarelli Prize.

Herald, whose healthcare software offers clinicians real-time access to clinical data, won the Bertarelli prize of $30,000 and the chance to incubate their idea in the Harvard i-lab through the summer. The company’s chief executive, Brad Diephuis, is an MD/MBA candidate, a dual degree that prepares graduates for a career in healthcare management and finance.

Pykus Therapeutics, a new company which makes a dissolvable device that doctors inject into a patient’s eye to make retinal surgery less painful, was selected as the Challenge’s first-runner up. They received $25,000 prize and summertime access to the i-lab incubator.

LuminOva takes great strides tackling infertility

In 2015, LuminOva, a biotech start-up company based in Boston MA., won the Bertarelli Prize at Harvard University’s iLab.  The prize is awarded annually as part of the Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge which encourages nascent businesses to develop and grow towards commercialisation.

Whilst many businesses enter the Challenge each year and benefit from the mentoring, workshops and judging process, only one can win the Bertarelli Prize.  Providing a welcome stamp approval, the Prize also comes with a substantial financial award which catapults the businesses forward and helps them to overcome barriers and hurdles to their success.

LuminOva is developing a new technology which could help infertile couples select the best embryos for IVF treatment.  Whilst still undergoing clinical trials, winning the Bertarelli Prize has accelerated  the development of the company and will hopefully bring their product to market more quickly – and in so doing, help people achieve their dream of becoming parents.

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.

The Bertarelli Foundation announces support for Harvard Business School’s iLab

Ernesto Bertarelli, co-Chair of the Bertarelli Foundation, has announced the creation of the Bertarelli Foundation Health and Life Sciences Entrepreneurship Fund with a generous gift to Harvard Business School.

The fund will support activities at the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab), which leverages entrepreneurial spirit throughout the University and shows the unlimited possibilities unleashed when individuals from a wide range of fields but with a shared passion are brought together. In particular, the fund will support the Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge, launched in 2012 and chaired by Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School and Jeffrey S. Flier, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (HMS).

Dean Nohria commented:

“Our Deans’ Challenge was created to accelerate the development of innovative solutions and help position Harvard University as the pre-eminent institution in health care and life sciences. With the generous support of the Bertarelli Foundation, we hope this challenge will inspire innovative solutions to major problems in the world’s health care system by advancing new cures and therapies, developing new ways to apply information technology, and designing new health care systems to deliver affordable health.”

Earlier this year, the Bertarelli Foundation made two additional gifts to Harvard University. Driven by the power of scientific teamwork, the foundation gave $6 million to expand the Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering at HMS and EPFL. A second gift of $3 million established the Bertarelli Catalyst Fund for the Dean of HMS, with the goal of enabling key research opportunities at the school.