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Life Sciences and Health Solutions highlighted in the first edition of Sciencepreneur Hands-on

Sciencepreneur Hands-on aims to accelerate knowledge transfer at NOVA, supporting scientists with a technological or scientific breakthrough to identify the best path for its commercialization, through a one-on-one guidance on how to build a go-to-market strategy, from research results to impact.

The first edition of this program took place between 7 December 2020 and 12 March 2021. Over three months, three teams with promising scientific and technological projects participated in an immersive program that allowed them to acquire skills to accelerate their solutions with the support of dedicated mentors, and from the entire NOVA Mentor Network, who accompanied the evolution of the teams and facilitated the validation of their business models.

The three selected entrepreneurial projects for this first pilot edition are from the health and life sciences field, demonstrating the potential for innovation in this field at NOVA. Among the projects are: a device to assess the effectiveness of taking inhaled medication associated to respiratory diseases (Easy Breathie); a highly specialized gene editing service done by scientists for scientists (GeneTagus); and the only diet available worldwide for rearing malaria mosquitoes, that do not require blood and can contribute to the global efforts towards the eradication of this disease (BloodLess).

The program culminated with a final presentation of the developed solutions developed to a renowned panel of national and international specialistas and venture capitalists and specialists, namely: Daniela Couto (Partner, Biogeneration Ventures), Ricardo Perdigão Henrique (CEO, Bionova Capital) , Duarte Mineiro (Partner, Armilar Venture Partners) and David Braga Malta (Venture Partner, Vesalius Biocapital).

The overall quality of the projects was highlighted by all those present in the session, who have mentioned that the potential to give rise to NOVA's next spin-offs is evident.

Find out below the testimonies of the selected project promoters about the technologies they are developing, as well as about their participation in this program:

Easy Breathie

“We aim to empower asthmatic patients to better control their disease, but also to allow real-time monitoring by their assisting doctors, leading to more personalized healthcare delivery and closer relationship with the patient. To this end, we are developing the smart inhaler Easy Breathy, a medical device that turns the traditional inhaler of an asthmatic patient into a smart and connectable inhaler. Through a sensor adapted to the inhaler that the patient already uses, we are able to transmit useful and reliable information to a mobile application, which will help not only the patients to have a better quality of life, but also their doctors to better manage the disease and associated medication. This project results from a collaboration between students and researchers from NOVA University with backgrounds on computer science, biomedical engineering and medicine.

By participating in the Sciencepreneur Hands-on program we were able to mature and outline in more detail the value of our solution and what are the next steps to be taken both in terms of technology and business development, which would not be possible without the valuable help of our dedicated mentors. The sharing of experiences with everyone involved in the program was undoubtedly positive and very enriching.”

GeneTagus

“We are a research group working at CEDOC, Nova Medical School. Like hundreds of research groups around the world, we have adopted CRISPR-Cas as the preferred genetic editing technology for manipulating cell lines. We kind of stumbled on a real market need and quickly realized that we could offer a quality service at a very competitive price, meeting the needs of various research groups worldwide. Therefore, we launched our service in October 2019 and, even without a sales department, in September 2020 we had already reached 33 customers from 15 different countries, with revenues of 185 000 €.

The participation in this program was essential to structure and create the bases in order to make our service more professional and business oriented. As scientists, we often find very difficult to perceive the potential and economic value of our research activity. This program has equipped us with various tools that will allow us, among other things, to leverage our growth in the market. We highlight the excellence of everyone involved, from the mentors to the organizers, culminating in the group of experts of the jury - together, the feedback given by each one of them was the best support we could have had for the moment and the future.”

BloodLess

“Mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, kill millions of people every year. To control the infections, we have to control the mosquito that transmits the disease. This requires the production of mosquitoes on a large scale, and females of the malaria-transmitting mosquito need to feed on blood to produce eggs and thus complete their life cycle. This leads to the need for high volumes of blood (human or human), for rearing mosquitoes on a very large scale. To respond to this need, we have developed an effective, blood-free artificial diet for breeding mosquitoes, which can contribute to the global effort to eliminate malaria. This artificial diet can be applied in remote locations where the disease is endemic (especially in Africa), allows the elimination of the use of animals for rearing mosquitoes, reduces the risk of accidental introduction of pathogenic organisms, the variability of batches, and has the potential to be used in innovative infection control applications worldwide.

We appreciate the immense support and the opportunity to discuss BloodLess from another perspective than the usual perspective of a scientist in the laboratory of IHMT NOVA. With participation in this program, we are certainly much more ahead than when we started and we highlight the numerous tips, the comprehensive and pragmatic vision of our mentor, as well as the comments of the experts in the final session that will certainly allow us to evolve.”

If you want to apply for the next edition of Sciencepreneur Hands-on, you just need to have a technology or scientific breakthrough with the potential to be valued from an economic perspective. You can also take a look into the Sciencepreneur | The Basics course, to acquire basic skills in business modeling and value creation from research. Stay tuned and follow our social media, where the next opportunities will be announced in due course.