Information and communication technologies (ICT) have a growing impact on the health sector and are a constant source of new and improved therapies and healthcare solutions. “The integration of ICT tools leads to the development of mobile and connected health solutions that meet medical needs in an increasingly personalised and patient-centred way,” says Dr Françoise Liners, head of the health technology directorate at the Ministry of the Economy. “Fit 4 Start’s new health technologies pilot reflects the dynamism of the sector in Luxembourg.”
Launched by the Ministry of the Economy and managed by Luxinnovation, Fit 4 Start offers four months of intensive coaching and pre-seed funding to promising start-ups with a strong drive to succeed. For the autumn 2018 edition, 15 young health tech companies pitched to a jury at the Fit 4 Start Selection & Graduation Day on 4 October. Five of them were rewarded for their innovative ideas and potential with a place in the programme.
Improving cancer surgery with augmented reality
“Augmented reality (AR) is a new and promising technology that can be applied in a variety of sectors. We use it to bring about a significant change in how surgical data is used and represented in the operating theatre,” says Dr Cédric Spaas, general manager of ARspectra. The company has developed AR glasses that drastically improve fluorescence image-based surgery for various high-incidence cancers by providing direct visual demarcations of tumours. The aim is to significantly enhance the precision, completeness and time efficiency of surgical interventions.
“Luxembourg is an ideal launch platform for bringing health tech business to the global level,” says Dr Spaas, who will benefit from the Fit 4 Start coaching to prepare the commercial launch of ARspectra’s technology which, according to him, is “a most innovative new technology in the medical field”.
Smart vaccination scheduling
Targeting international markets is the ambition of several of the new Fit 4 Start participants. “We hope to create a network that can help us not only to raise significant investment but also to gain a foothold in the European market,” says Dr Nadeera Nilupamali, co-founder of ImmunifyMe that has developed a smart scheduling and monitoring tool using real-time data to manage large-scale vaccination programmes. “Our ambition is to gain significant traction in countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain.”
Communication support for autistic patients
Two of the other start-ups use ICT to facilitate the communication with patients suffering from autism. LuxAI has developed a scientifically validated robot used for teaching autistic children social interaction and improving their communication skills, while SOVI Solutions’ digital companion Talkii uses pictograms and a simplified application to help people with autism communicate and organise their days. “Talkii reduces frustration and difficult situations in families,” says co-founder Alessio Weber. “We enable language development and growth in communication skills. For us, Luxembourg is an attractive market because of its multicultural, multilingual population and favourable business environment.”
The fifth start-up, Molecular Plasma Group (MPG), has developed a key enabling technology that can “open up new development pathways for the life sciences industry, in fields such as affordable large-scale public health diagnostic programmes and personalised medicine. For example, we are able to graft antibodies onto a glass wafer more than 1,000 times faster than the current solvent-based manufacturing process for in-vitro diagnostic tests while maintain comparable functionality. We expect to show similar performance for a wide range of biomolecules,” explains MPG’s investor and chairman Marc Jacobs.
Contrary to the other start-ups, MPG has only recently started to focus on the biomedical sector. “We applied to Fit 4 Start as we lack sector knowledge and really need mentoring in this field. The programme will give us access to experts that can help us build a roadmap for our future development,” Mr Jacobs concludes.