Date: 3rd. June 2016
Barcelona, 3 June 2016.- A chip that, when stuck to a mother's breast, can measure the amount of milk a baby drinks; a belt that simulates abdominal massage to relieve chronic constipation in patients with spinal injuries; devices to combat fecal or urinary incontinence; or a channel for doctors to follow the contractions of a pregnant woman remotely: these are just some of the medical technology projects being led by former fellows of d·HEALTH Barcelona, the University of Barcelona masters degree promoted by Biocat to train healthcare entrepreneurs. Of the six teams of fellows that have completed the program, five start-ups have already been created, four of which are still active.
Design Health Barcelona (d·HEALTH Barcelona) is one of only four training programs in Europe inspired by the University of Stanford biodesign method. Following this method, students experience an immersion process at local hospitals to detect real unmet clinical needs “in situ” that have the potential to become new products or services. In the case of the Barcelona masters program, students look for business ideas at the city's top hospitals, such as Hospital Clínic, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu and Institut Guttmann. Over the course of the program, students experience a whole innovation cycle, from identifying a business idea to designing and prototyping a viable solution and searching for funding. At the same time, they acquire knowledge in medicine and business development, as well as design thinking and creative leadership skills, with classes with more than 50 international professors from Stanford, Kaos Pilot and Silicon Valley companies, among others.
Since 2001, the Stanford biodesign program has led to the creation of more than 40 companies that have generated products to treat half a million patients. The Barcelona program, d·HEALTH Barcelona, has only been around for three years and all of the fellows from the first two classes are still working in the healthcare sector, two thirds of them at their own start-ups.
One of the start-ups to have come out of d·HEALTH Barcelona is usMIMA, which won the 2014 BioemprenedorXXI Award. “One year after finishing the masters degree, we closed our first round of seed capital and this summer we will begin marketing MowoOT, a belt-like device that simulates a colon massage to alleviate chronic constipation in patients with spinal injuries and multiple sclerosis that is a non-pharmacological, non-invasive solution with no side effects," explains Markus Wilhelms, a fellow from the first edition of d·HEALTH Barcelona and cofounder of usMIMA. This business idea came out of the clinical immersion Wilhelms and his colleagues Immaculada Herrero, Marc Benet and Angel Calzada did at Institut Guttmann, where they also did a clinical pilot study with the device, as well as at associations for patients with spinal injuries and multiple sclerosis.
Another project that has come out of d·HEALTH Barcelona and will soon launch a clinical study is Meelk, a device that measures how much breast milk a baby drinks at each feed, which the mother can track on her mobile phone in order to boost her confidence in breastfeeding. “Since I finished the masters program, I've been developing the prototype and raising funds, and now we expect to start testing with a pilot program at Sant Joan de Déu hospital,” explains Maria Isabel Castellanos, a fellow from the second edition of d·HEALTH and founder of Meelk. “The product could hit the Spanish market by summer 2018.”
Combating fecal incontinence is the aim of one of the other devices to come out of the program: My-qup. “We’re currently in the product development phase and doing a materials study at a technology center to develop a functional prototype, and we hope the product can reach users by early 2018,” explained Laura Lagares and Anna Echegaray, former fellows of the second edition of the master and co-founders of My-qup.
Seeking potential entrepreneurs
d·HEALTH Barcelona is an initiative of Biocat, the organization that coordinates and promotes the life sciences and healthcare sector in Catalonia, and is accredited by the University of Barcelona. The program receives support from Sanofi and Fundació Banc Sabadell and collaboration from Mobile World Capital Barcelona and Danish school KaosPilot. Furthermore, along with other European biodesign programs, d·HEALTH Barcelona is part of the EIT Health Innovation Fellowship program, which allows students to do international exchanges with other programs.
The deadline for pre-registration for the fourth edition of d·HEALTH Barcelona, which will start in January 2017, is now open. The program is geared towards graduates in business, design, engineering or the life sciences who are interested in going into business in the sector. The admissions requirements are available online (http://moebio.org/programs/d-health-barcelona/application-process).
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