Startups, Hospitals

At a pediatric innovation challenge, startups illustrate growing maturity of healthcare entrepreneurs

Many digital health and medtech entrepreneurs making better choices of which healthcare pain points to pursue.

CEO Vidur Bhatnagar's company Keriton won the digital health track of the Impact Pediatric Health pitch at SXSW

CEO Vidur Bhatnagar’s company Keriton won the digital health track of the Impact Pediatric Health pitch at SXSW.

The two companies that walked away with awards in their hands and $15,000 checks in their pockets from the Impact Pediatric Health pitch event at SXSW offered practical solutions to common problems.

Luminopia used virtual reality to tackle and treat a common problem —lazy eye, which affects 2 percent to 3 percent of the population. Keriton, which MedCity News profiled earlier this month, developed a system to bring more organization to the task of making sure a mother’s breast milk gets to the right baby in the neonatal ICU and tracking how much mothers are producing.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Not only are many digital health and medtech entrepreneurs making better choices of which pain points to go after, they are increasingly showing a grasp of marketing that makes their pitch more persuasive.

Team Luminopia cofounders Scott Xiao (left) and Dean Travers

Team Luminopia won in the medtech category.

The medtech winner,  Luminopia,  was formed by a group of Harvard freshman who developed a way to use virtual reality goggles to correct amblyopia or lazy eye. Long term, the company’s technology holds the potential to provide a way to detect this condition, which can frequently go undiagnosed. The current practice for treating lazy eye is an eye patch but that comes with a social stigma that is likely to mean children are inclined not to wear it.

Dean Travers is the CEO and one of three cofounders at Luminopia. His presentation noted that one nice aspect of its approach is that primary care physicians can prescribe the virtual reality device to children and they can do the necessary exercises with it from home.

“We don’t need to disrupt the workflow,” Travers said.

The Impact Pediatric Health pitch event at SXSW offers a glimpse not only at how entrepreneurs are trying to solve the healthcare challenges of an often overlooked market. It also offers a perspective on how children’s hospitals are evaluating startups’ technology.

Certa Dose was founded by a physician who developed a color-coordinated syringe showing the appropriate amount by weight as a way to reduce the risk of overdosing young children. The company targets high-risk drugs. The device is aimed at hospitals and parents. Dr. Caleb Hernandez, the Chief Medical Officer and cofounder, noted that the company’s device eliminated the need to make complex mathematical calculations to determine dosage by weight. It also envisions paramedics using its device for conditions like anaphylactic shock, signaling it plans to compete with EpiPen.

Neuroelectrics developed a connected cap to monitor and stimulate targeted brain areas for children with epilepsy. Ana Maiques, the CEO, who modeled the company’s head gear, showed that to make the device less intimidating to children, it provides a cover with mouse ears to make the device more appealing. Asked by judges how the company knows it’s the best for the market it is targeting, Maiques gave an unusual but gutsy answer.

“I don’t know if it will meet the endpoints in the [upcoming]clinical trial, but if we fail we fail.”

Photo: Daniel Kraft of Singularity University, who served as a judge and emcee for the event,  Impact Pediatric Health