Earlier this month, the Department of Industry announced the first successful grant applicants under the Accelerating Commercialisation element of the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme. Not surprisingly, there were a significant number of biotech projects in the list. The news came shortly after the second round of MedTech’s Got Talent (MTGT), a startup competition organised by STC and sponsored by the Victorian Government among others. The Grand Final was held at a gala event in Melbourne’s Crown Complex, and it suggests that despite some tentative beginnings, the local biotech sector is in great shape.
Based on my participation at the recent FinTech hackathon weekend, I was invited to join a team to compete at MTGT – which was both a privilege, and a huge challenge that took me out of my comfort zone, as the medical technology sector is not one I have any direct experience of (although of course I consider it to be one of the key sectors in the digital economy).
Our team, led by the exuberant Dominic Pham was presenting a new heart rate monitoring solution that combines wearables, mobile apps and cloud-based analytics. Sadly, despite a great effort by the whole team, we did not make it to the Top 5 – but it was a great experience nonetheless.
The competing teams could be classified into 3 broad categories:
- Diagnostic & Predictive Tools
- Rehabilitation & Spatial Monitoring
- Drug delivery systems (Remote & Non-Invasive solutions)
Projects ranged from the highly ambitious (an artificial placenta) to the incredibly humble (an STI diagnostic kit aimed at developing countries). Some were using cutting edge technology (such as a new form of hearing device), others were applying new mobile and cloud-based technology to existing problems (such as digital pathology).
The 5 finalists (who now go on to an intense accelerator and investor presentation program) were:
It’s fair to say that a lot of the projects are still at the pre-clinical trial stage, and as far as I am aware, none have yet been granted TGA status, and most are yet to secure final patent grants – which reflects part of the challenge in bringing new products to market.
However, the impetus behind, and interest in, the biotech sector in general and MTGT in particular (the event brought together government, academia, clinicians, industry and investors) should mean we will be hearing a lot more about these startups in the months to come.
Finally, if anyone is interested, our own project was CardiacGuard, and is likely to launch later this year, as the underlying technology has already been developed, and some early-stage trials have been conducted in Hong Kong.
My thanks to Dominic and the rest of the CardiacGuard team (Tim Liu, Celine LaTouche and Rayen Magpantay) for giving me the opportunity to experience MTGT, and to all the organisers, mentors, sponsors and supporters who made the event happen.
Next week: Getting Stuck