Three of Norway’s most promising health tech companies Glucoset, Oivi and Hemispherian were recently awarded grants by the EU’s prestigious EIC Accelerator program. – An important confirmation that these companies are developing game-changing innovations, says Sergio Ferreira, Senior Innovation Advisor at Norway Health Tech.
Ferreira says that this is underlining the good momentum in the Norwegian Health Innovation scene. The grant of 2,5 million EUR for each company will help them take a significant leap in solving some of society’s unmet healthcare needs.
Ferreira has been advising some of these companies from the beginning of this extensive process, which for many of the companies started one and a half year ago.
Over 1000 companies from all over Europe applied to this cutoff of EIC Accelerator, and finally in October, 75 were granted funding with an additional investment opportunity from the EIC Fund of up to 15 million EUR. Three of the selected companies are Norwegian, and all of them are members of Norway Health Tech.
Norway Health Tech has a well-established structure to support members in all the stage of the EU funding life-cycle. It is a very complex field, with its own language that is not easily handled by companies with small resources. The cluster help lower the threshold, put it in the perspective of a company, and provide objective advice on whether the companies should go for EU funding or not.
– It is a long process but a very educational one, for the companies and for Norway Health Tech, Sergio says.
Hemispherian: Treatment for the second leading cause of cancer in children
We meet co-founders Adam Robertson and Zeno Albisser between cardboard boxes and unassembled lab equipment at their brand new office at Løren in Oslo. The Hemispherian story started around seven years ago. Adam and Zeno had been working together on a genome sequencing data analysing project for Adam’s lab at Oslo University Hospital, when a student at the lab, Terezia Prikrylova made an interesting discovery; a class of molecules that could be effective in treating glioblastoma, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer.
- Glioblastoma multiforme is the 17th leading cause of cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer in children, Adam and Zeno says.
Patients with glioblastoma multiforme, which is the most frequent and malignant glioma (tumor), present a median overall survival of approximately 15 months after diagnosis. Owing to its aggressive nature, a diagnosis with glioblastoma multiforme results in severe reduction in quality of life and the disease rapidly causes death.
– Treatment of this form of cancer has basically not improved much since the 90s. The current frontline treatment for glioblastoma multiforme, Temozolomide, improves patient survival by a mere two and a half months. New treatments for glioblastoma multiforme are urgently needed to improve and extend patients’ lives, states the co-founders.
Receiving the EIC Accelerator grant has made it possible for Hemispherian to speed up the process for the development of GLIX1, which is in preclinical phase.
– The application process has been very comprehensive, but thanks to assistance from Norway Health Tech and Innovation Norway, we were able to succeed. Even though it has been a very time-consuming work to apply, it has in some way helped us to crystallize the exact activities we want to pursue. And of course, it will in the coming months help us to move forward – both with our product but also in building the company further.
Glucoset: Glucose monitoring to decrease deaths in ICU
After a stay in Boston where he took interest in entrepreneurship as a possible career path, Nicolas Elvemo, a medical doctor and researcher at NTNU, helped spin out the company Glucoset in 2015. The company’s secret sauce, as Elvemo puts it, is a biosensor with a hydrogel matrix incorporated with a glucose binding molecule that can measure glucose, which can be critical in preventing as many as 450 000 yearly deaths in ICUs worldwide.
For Nicolas and Glucoset, the EIC grant has been important to help the company get the runway needed to focus on the right things.
- Compared to a consumer product, it takes several times the amount of time and money to get a medical device technology to the minimum viable product stage. The EIC grant allows us to maintain speed both when it comes to product development and building the company, says Elvemo.
The Glucoset sensor has been tested on patients, and Nicolas now consider the technical showstopper risk to be eliminated.
– The EIC grant definitely represents a financial breakthrough. It gives us room to focus on the next value step, and engage with important VCs, says Nicolas.
He praises the help and support he and the company has received from Innovation Norway, Norway Health Tech and fellow companies at the Aleap incubator.
– Together the health tech ecosystem has been an important motivational factor and important discussion partners to help us achieve this grant, Nicolas says.
Oivi: Fighting blindness through a lens
After starting his career at Tandberg, and then co-founding the video conference startup Huddly, Anders Eikenes were looking for a way to utilize his knowledge in optics and cameras to create impact, in a completely new field. So, he founded Oivi.
– I have worked with optics throughout my career on the R&D side. When we started Oivi, I really wanted to create something that impacted lives around the globe. I was looking around for difficult problems to solve, and became aware of diabetes, which is the dominant cause of blindness in the working population – worldwide. 1 in 3 diabetics develop diabetic retinopathy, says Anders.
Figures suggests that the amount of people suffering from diabetic retinopathy can increase with 51% in 2045. Today, screening for diabetic retinopathy is inefficient and doesn’t scale. This is largely due to the fact that screening happens at eye specialists clinics. There are not enough eye specialists in the world to do screening. In addition they use expensive and complex cameras. Majority of diabetes patients don´t follow advice of annual screening, thus leading to delayed diagnosis and eventually excessive vision loss. To fight this problem, Oivi has developed an AI-powered device that is easy to use and affordable. It can be deployed at primary care clinics where a nurse or a receptionist can screen patients for diabetic eye diseases when they come in for their regular check up. No need for special equipment or training. Consequently, this leads to early detection, reduced costs for the healthcare system and better quality of life for patients.
– We believe the timing to be perfect. Our beach-head market is India, where the demand is enormous, and where we already have 20 employees on the spot in Bangalore. But to reach our ambitions to be a market leader in all markets we need more skilled technicians and provide more clinical trials. The EIC Accelerator grant is super important. It gives us a quality stamp and makes it possible to speed up our process and get to market faster, says Anders.
For all three companies, the EU funding comes at a stage of ‘make-it-or-break-it’, giving them a push and diluting the risk for them to reach the market and create societal value. Norway Health Tech want to see and support many of those in the future. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.