On June 15, SwissNex Boston gathered 30 biomedical technology entrepreneurs for its annual Global Pitch Fest. At the event, held on a lavish yacht in the Boston harbor, innovators pitched their ideas to industry leaders and Swiss investors.
The entrepreneurs were each given one minute to pitch their solutions to global health issues to a panel of judges and a room full of attendees. A pitch that caught everyone’s attention was that of Tiba Biotech, a team that has come up with a method to synthesize new vaccines in under seven days.
“Vaccines often take six to eight months, they’re not guaranteed to be 100 percent effective, and they’re only for a specific strain of a virus. It takes us under two weeks to synthesize a vaccine, and we can do it on demand,” said Omar Khan, who began the project with Jasdave Chahal when they were both postdoctoral researchers at MIT in 2014.
Tiba Biotech is changing the way vaccines are made. Rather than developing and manufacturing vaccines from infected cells, the company builds vaccines from the ground up by using nanotechnology to temporarily implant self-replicating RNA into a few patient cells, cleverly imitating the disease without any risk of sickness. In doing so, the vaccine trains an immune system on how to fight, and scientists are able to control the whole process.
The vaccines aren’t limited to just humans. Tiba Biotech has successfully vaccinated different animal species, and this could benefit agricultural communities around the world tremendously. If a virus affects even part of an animal population in a developing country, it may not be able to export any meat, which could have a brutal economic impact for that nation.
Swissnex is an initiative of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, designed to connect Swiss companies and the Swiss government with new innovations from around the world. The project grew from a strong desire to connect Swiss startups with investors, and Swissnex’s American locations help Swiss companies gain an understanding of American markets. This event was an opportunity for Swiss organizations to see some of the most exciting new ideas coming out of Boston, a hub of biomedical tech innovation.
Several entrepreneurs had project ideas with the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry, including SonoView, a tech company that will allow healthcare providers to detect breast cancer at earlier stages than ever before. SonoView combines cutting edge ultrasound sensors with special algorithms that will allow doctors to easily differentiate malignant and benign tissue.
Following the Pitch Fest, SwissNex wasted no time in gearing up for its next event, a collaboration with Race Across America. The event invites cyclists to race across 3000 miles, 12 states, and three mountain ranges. One of the teams participating is Switzerland’s Haute Ecole de Santé Vaud (HESAV). On June 26, SwissNex Boston hosted a panel discussion with race coordinators on the health benefits of athletic activities. SwissNex Boston’s activities continue year round.
Bryce Fricklas is a journalist from Boulder, Colorado. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal (2013 – 2015) and Guinea (2016), where he focused on community health. His interests include culture, music, nature conservancy, and public health. He is an MA candidate in international relations and international communication at Boston University.
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