They made us cringe. They made us gasp. But mostly, they just blew our collective minds (brain surgery joke intended).
The Challenge Cup competitors in the health category impressed crowds in 16 cities and taught us all something new about the mystery that is the human anatomy. After watching some of these health-tech startups give their one-minute pitches, I became convinced that I could perform surgery (London’s Touch Surgery), take a blood sample (Austin’s Spot On Sciences), or diagnose retina health (Berlin’s OPTretina).
That’s the risk of the affliction I like to call “Challenge Cup Expertise Enthusiasm Syndrome.”
In case it slipped your mind (again, brain joke intended), a Challenge Cup recap: A team from Washington D.C. incubator, 1776, traveled to 16 cities around the world to find the best startups in the most regulated industries, including education, health care, smart cities and energy. Sixty-four winning startups from those 16 competitions will converge on Washington D.C. the week of May 12-17 to participate in the Challenge Festival and compete to win the Challenge Cup championship title and $650,000 in prizes. (Still confused or want more details? Check out this video)
It’s going to be pretty memorable. And FreeEnterprise.com is along for the ride.
But first, let’s look back at five of the Challenge Cup winners working at the intersection of healthcare and technology.
1. Anyone who’s ever changed jobs or insurance providers knows how difficult it can be to get your health care records from one doctor to another. Moscow Challenge Cup winner Medesk is trying to solve that. Medesk is a cloud healthcare platform that captures and securely stores patient medical data from any source or provider allowing for integrated healthcare delivery. Currently in 20 clinics with 1,000 doctors, the company is already looking at future markets. “Russia is the priority market, but we can enter other markets that are similar to Russia—where the government competes with private health care, and private health care needs good communication between practitioners and patients. Potential markets are Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico,” cofounder Vladimir Kovalskiy tells 1776.
2. London Challenge Cup winner Touch Surgery provides surgical simulations for mobile devices. Made by surgeons for surgeons, the company uses scientific methodology to teach surgical procedures in a step-by-step fashion, which improves surgical decision-making and critical thinking. But that doesn’t mean that only surgeons look into the app, which was just released on the Android platform earlier this year. “Our target audience is surgeons in training and surgeons who have completed training but want to learn new techniques. However, we have found a huge interest from the general public and patients,” plastic surgeon and cofounder, Jean Nehme tells 1776.
3. Challenge Cup LA health care category winner Neural Analytics has developed RapidICP, a noninvasive, handheld unit that measures intracranial pressure. This portable, ultrasound device enables doctors to treat traumatic brain injury, subarachnoid hemorrhage patients, and other conditions. The team, which includes Dr. Leo Petrossian and Dan Hanchey, recently won an award from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, and the opportunity to test their prototype on the International Space Station. The company went from idea to working prototype within nine months, but the next challenge is fundraising. “Medical devices are an area that’s not exactly a hot bed of investment currently. The current regulatory climate of the FDA has detracted a lot from investments. We spend way too much of our time on raising money and writing grants, instead of building a product that can save lives,” Petrossian says.
4. Benevolent Technologies for Health (BeTH) won the health category at the Boston Challenge Cup with its design for adjustable prosthetics devices that provide a more customized fit. Since February 2012, Jason Hill and the BeTH team have worked on improving the current cost and comfort level of prosthetic and orthopedic products by asking the hard questions. “Only a few of us on the team really had any background knowledge of what it’s like for someone who lives with a prosthesis. I had a roommate years ago, and I knew of the frustrations, but at the time I wasn’t interested in solving that problem. But I knew the discomfort, and I knew that paying for them was a hassle,” Hill tells 1776. “Next for us in the immediate future is really focusing on the people who wear the prostheses: loving what we can do for them.”
5. Challenge Cup Denver health winner Asius Technologies was a top five finalist for The Wall Street Journal’s Startup of the Year with its revolutionary, inflatable in-depth audio technology, the Ambrose Diaphonic Ear Lens (ADEL). When used in hearing aids, headsets and ear buds, the ADEL gives the user a richer sound quality, a custom fit and a safe listening experience. The futuristic twist on earbuds designed by audio technology pioneer and Asius founder Stephen Ambrose, has even caught the attention of Apple. But the challenge of changing an entire industry is no joke. “They were afraid they were going to get sued because of all this research that suggests that their ear buds are harmful and can cause hearing loss. But they just didn’t know. We weren’t blaming them because they didn’t know,” says Ambrose. But attitudes are slowly changing. “Our discoveries and technology is starting to be accepted. My invention ended up getting the industry to take notice and we get to do it right this time.”
All 16 health finalists will be participating in the Health Semifinals presented by MedStar Health on Wednesday, May 14 here in Washington D.C. See a bracket of all the competitors here.