What sort of Biotech Startups are coming out of Italy at the moment?
BioUpper in Milan has launched the first acceleration platform for new entrepreneurs in the field of biotech and Medicine. Here are 3 of the winners awarded €50,000 each in funding.
The project is funded by Novartis and Fondazione Cariplo – the Italian cultural and Scientific grant foundation now worth over €8Bn.
The aim of the project is to enhance promising projects and finance aspiring entrepreneurs, empowering the startup’s evolution, in collaboration with PoliHub (another Italian startup accelerator in Milan).
In November, 118 applications were submitted for only 10 proposal spaces in the second phase of the project. This consisted of a week training at PoliHub in collaboration with the Humanitas research hospital in Milan.
Only 3 of these projects went on to obtain the €50,000 funding to advance their work, but all the groups had access to a unique opportunity for training and networking.
And since we’ve seen similar programs like the German Accelerator in Boston (where increasingly well known companies like PepperPrint started) and more greentech funds like Launch Nordic, it’s interesting to see what Italy has in store.
So who were the Lucky 3 Winners?
EVARplanning is a Medtech ‘app’, which accesses a computerized system designed for heart specialists to plan and render a procedure for inserting aortic grafts into patients which have suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
This is a type of age-related enlargement of the arteries leading to the heart causing pain, erratic blood pressure and even loss of consciousness if ruptured.
So this medical imaging simulation aims to help Doctors navigate the complexity of the heart’s anatomy, to help deliver a graft which repairs the aneurysm.
However, this niche is already being addressed by Therenva (France), a 2007 Medtech spin-off from INSERM, and their EndoSize system. Still, BioUpper clearly see potential in EVARplanning’s interface, given their investment and many are already using the EVAR system globally.
Wound Repair Active Print (WRAP) uses biopolymers and 3D printing technology to produce active dressings based on chitosan and hyaluronic acid to treat chronic or surgical wounds.
These properties of these hydrogels can be used to treat mucosal lesions, even the mucosa of body cavities, such as when lesions are caused by chemotherapy and/or radiation in cancer treatments.
Based on the research of Lisa Elviri and Ruggero Bettini’s team at the University of Parma, these biopolymers have been patented for their topical use. These can be produced from animal sources and growth using bacterial broths.
One of the team members, Valeria Cagno (at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) explained that Panoxyvir is an anti-viral nasal spray that can prevent and treat the common cold (rhinovirus) through the innovative use of oxysterols, molecules derived from the enzymatic oxidation of cholesterol.
However, the concept of a nasal spray using oxysterols is not brand new, with much research into this compounds action as an antiviral being well documented outside of Europe too.
This shows that business support for startups can be invaluable, and could lead to an effective transformation of scientific discoveries into products and services.
Some of the Highlights of the Award Ceremony (don’t worry – no Italian needed)
Feature Image Credit: Remix of Graphics by Labiotech – Venice (Source: BioUpper)
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