SepTec wins award for device which diagnoses sepsis speedily
Enterprise Ireland’s Big Ideas event features start-ups emerging from third-level bodies
Enterprise Ireland’s Carol Gibbons and DCU-based SepTec co-founder Kellie Adamson: SepTec’s technology can detect sepsis-associated pathogens in whole blood within 15 minutes.
A new medical device capable of diagnosing sepsis in minutes instead of hours took the top award earlier this month at Enterprise Ireland’s annual Big Ideas showcase of start-up innovation emerging from higher education institutes.
SepTec, based in DCU, has developed a rapid, sensitive and cost-effective sepsis test for the life-threatening condition which can claim lives within hours.
SepTec’s approach is designed to achieve more rapid and automated pathogen identification. The technology can detect sepsis-associated pathogens in whole blood within 15 minutes, a major improvement on existing tests.
Co-founder Kellie Adamson was presented with the “One to Watch” award on the night. SepTec was one of 12 investor-ready start-up companies to pitch their new technology solutions to investors at the event. Each company had just three minutes to promote their innovations and business propositions to an invited audience made up of the Irish research, business and investor communities.
Now in its 10th year, the Enterprise Ireland Big Ideas event is designed to illustrate the commercialisation potential of the academic research emerging from Ireland’s higher education system across a range of sectors.
Other finalists included AtriAN Medical which has developed a new medical technology to safely and effectively treat atrial fibrillation – quivering or irregular heartbeat – by targeting the origin of the problem; Way2Be for its smartphone and smartwatch-based navigation solution that helps people with intellectual disabilities to find their way around independently; Senoptica Technologies which has developed innovative sensors to detect faults in food packaging, helping to reduce food waste and health hazards; Prolego Scientific’s algorithms and software solutions can be used to boost the performance of genetic tests and improve breeding values of pedigree animals and crops; and Chemogel which offers a new approach to the treatment of pancreatic cancer by improving patients’ eligibility for surgery.
Transfer of innovation
Each of the finalists has received assistance from Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund. The aim of the fund is to improve the competitiveness of the Irish economy through the creation of technology-based start-up companies and the transfer of innovations developed in third-level institutes and research-performing organisations to industry in Ireland.
“Big Ideas is one of our key events of the year from a research and innovation point of view”, says Carol Gibbons, director of ICT commercialisation with Enterprise Ireland. “The reason we do it is to profile the start-ups we have funded to commercialise research. We hope that start-up community will be the lifeblood of the economy in future years. There are now 110 start-ups surviving and thriving and employing upwards of 1,000 people which have come through Big Ideas over the years.”
Those former Big Ideas contestants include companies like Artomatix, nearForm and Soapbox Labs which have gone on to achieve considerable success both in Ireland and internationally.
The aim is also to promote the start-ups and put them in front of an audience of potential investors and business partners. “All 12 ideas were excellent,” says Gibbons. “It was very difficult to pick one over the others; if we had 12 awards we would have given them. Each start-up had just three minutes to make their pitch. That’s a really short time but it’s the reality of the market. Also, this could be the first time many of them have stood up in front of a large audience of their peers to make a presentation. They had to get across what their technology is, explain its potential and say what they were looking for.”
Community of followers
Apart from the audience who attended the Big Ideas in the Guinness Storehouse, the event was live-streamed on Twitter. “We have a great following from people in academia, as well as investors and industry,” says Gibbons. “Big Ideas has built up a community of followers over the years.”
The Big Ideas finalists are selected each year from spin-out companies from third-level institutions which have received support from Enterprise Ireland. “We select the companies on the basis of their maturity and how far advanced they are on the road to commercialisation,” Gibbons explains.
In particular, they are selected for their investor-readiness. “The start-ups tend to be based on disruptive technology, so the event is very attractive for investors looking to get in early on the next big thing,” she adds. “It is a window on the world-class research being carried out in academic institutions all over the country.”
She advises third-level researchers who have an idea or piece of research which they believe has commercial potential to contact the technology transfer officer in their institution. “They will put you in touch with Enterprise Ireland,” she says. “It’s a great time to avail of supports to start up a company. We have a team of commercialisation specialists who will work with the start-ups to look at the market for the idea and so on. We can support ideas in a number of ways. There is funding available through the Commercialisation Fund, we have 33 offices around the world to look at international opportunities, and we can introduce founders to potential business partners and investors.”