Chronic lymphedema is a common, irreversible and debilitating side effect of many cancer therapies, causing excess fluid to build up under the skin and resulting in painful, swollen limbs. 10 million people suffer from chronic lymphedema in Europe and U.S. alone (according to the lymphatic network), with current therapies being very expensive and time consuming and carrying an estimated economic burden of $70bn.
Lymphatica Medtech - implantable medical device to treat lymphedema
While working as PhD students at EPFL looking at the problem of lymphedema, founders Marco Pisano and Valentina Triacca (picture above) began looking into how to slow or reverse the progression of the disease and hypothesised that there may be a way to remove fluid from the affected limbs, by creating an artificial pump to relocate this fluid to areas of the body where it will be easily removed.
This led to the development of their solution, LymphoDrain, a micropump designed to be implanted just under the skin. A small magnet within the micropump creates the pumping action to move the fluid into silicon catheters and is controlled via an external wearable device. This means that the entire process is easily controllable through the unit worn by the patient, and does not rely on an implanted power source, making it suitable for long-term use without the need for replacement or maintenance. Pilot studies conducted in the research laboratory of Lucia Mazzolai at CHUV have been positive, and the team hopes to move to in-human clinical trials as early as next year.
Founders Marco Pisano and Valentina Triacca say: “During the last 11 months Venture Kick has helped us in the transition from a promising academic project to a structured startup, ready to secure funding to start clinical trials in lymphedema patients. The training camps, the challenges to our business strategy, the jury feedback and the financial support were all key factors in shaping our entrepreneurial mind-set and successfully completing, validating and implementing our business plan.”
Dicronis - early detection of lymphedema
After graduating from her Master’s in Pharmaceutical Sciences at ETH Zurich, Patrizia Marschalkova, co-founder and CEO of Dicronis, developed Lymphit, an early diagnostic tool for lymphedema. The Lymphit works by painlessly injecting soluble microneedles into the skin. As the skin’s environment dissolves the microneedles, they release a harmless fluorescent signal, which is then cleared by the lymphatic system. By measuring how quickly the fluorescent signal is dispersed using a small, watch-like device worn by the patient, lymphatic function can be calculated and lymphedema diagnosed before the onset of symptoms.
“Investors are interested in promising and innovative technologies, explained in a straightforward manner, to be exploited by a capable team with a clear development plan", says Patrizia Marschalkova. “The Venture kick program helped us to realize and improve on all these different aspects. Dicronis will use the funds raised from Venture Kick to start conducting clinical trials in 2018.
GRZ Technologies - hydrogen storage to boost the renewable energy of tomorrow
The global solar power market which is estimated to be worth $160bn by 2023, according to statistical data, still struggles with a key challenge: energy storage. GRZ Technologies, founded by experts in chemistry and engineering, aims to become a part of this high growth industry by providing hydrogen related technologies that will drastically improve solar energy storage capacities.
The startup has developed a series of new technologies using metal hydride to provide safe, efficient and compact hydrogen storage solutions. The objective is to bring this technology into homes by developing hydrogen storage units for engineering services and grid-to-grid storage that are safe to use and small enough to fit in housing complexes. This size reduction is achieved by offering an over 20x increase in KWh storage per cubic meter compared with existing batteries. The technology has already been proven in the first products bought to market, the AGAS (Advanced Gas Scorption Analysis Systems) series, which allows materials scientists to measure how different gases are absorbed and adsorbed.