Meet Maria – Head of Programs

With a career that spans the US, Australia, Belgium, and Russia – managing international activities for over 200 startups – MedTech Actuator Head of Programs Maria Pelipas is supporting Asia Pacific’s next wave of health entrepreneurs to improve and save lives.

A seasoned program manager, Maria has experience in BioTech strategy consulting, partnerships, accelerators, investment funds, a startup, and innovation agencies. She holds a Master of International Relations from Tomsk State University, Russia and a Master of European Studies from the University of Brussels, Belgium – and is qualified in project management, venture deals and tech transfer management.

“My role involves managing the flagship MedTech Actuator – Asia Pacific’s MedTech accelerator,” says Maria. “We help founders to achieve in 15 months what usually takes three years or more – the program is unusually long for an accelerator due to the complexity of the medical space.”

Maria explains that bringing a MedTech, HealthTech or BioTech innovation to market requires an industry-specific acceleration model. As a life sciences startup, they are likely to design and manufacture a physical product, navigate clinical trials, regulatory submissions, reimbursement models and multiple customer and stakeholder groups.

“It definitely brings a lot of exciting challenges which we tackle as a team and with our dense ecosystem of partners,” says Maria.

Maria has enjoyed supporting teams through diverse challenges including founders moving at a different pace across verticals such as medical devices and digital health, and founders with research backgrounds taking the first steps to nurture their idea into a solid business.

“What excites me the most is seeing the growth in real-time,” says Maria. “I would even compare it to being a passenger in the backseat of a fast moving car – you help startups accelerate by fine-tuning the course. It is pure enjoyment to plant those seeds and watch the growth unfold.”

Maria has recently onboarded a new cohort of Asia Pacific’s best MedTech and HealthTech entrepreneurs and will kick off the program in the weeks ahead. Maria anticipates a dynamic journey for the startups that span Australia and Singapore and looks forward to lots of in-person glitz and glamour for all startups.

Maria is blown away by the MedTech Actuator team, saying that it is a kind and welcoming environment where people with different backgrounds and experiences come together to drive health innovation forward.

“Running this program reminds me of building a startup – we come up with MVP ideas; choose the best solution; pivot when we face obstacles; and keep building the best experience for our startups,” says Maria.

“I am impressed with how far the MedTech Actuator team has come since the program’s inception in 2018 and look forward to taking this to the next level, applying all of my skills, knowledge, and passion.”

AI technology reducing discomfort for patients during childbirth.

A traumatic childbirth drives MedTech Actuator alumna, Cailin Ng – CEO and Co-Founder of Singapore-based HiCura Medical – to advance an AI-powered technology that can significantly reduce discomfort and risks for women around the world.

During caesarean birth and vaginal birth women often endure painful repeated needles for spinal anaesthesia, and risk complications such as nerve injury – and in rare cases, paralysis.

HiCura’s artificial intelligence-powered imaging assistant, uSINE reduces pain and risks by delivering spinal anaesthesia in the right location, at the right angle, the first time. One study revealed that doctors were able to achieve a first attempt success rate of 92 per cent using uSINE, far higher than the global first attempt success rate of 50 to 60 per cent.

“Women all over the world choose epidural to relieve their pain during childbirth. I truly hope my technology will help them, so they do not have the traumatic experience I had,” says Cailin.

HiCura joined MedTech Actuator – Asia Pacific’s MedTech, HealthTech and BioTech accelerator in 2020 to connect with Australian hospitals and investor networks. 

“As a startup in Singapore, the MedTech Actuator is helping us to establish important connections in Australia’s MedTech network,” says Cailin.

“We identified Australia as a potential market to expand into, as we saw that the adoption of MedTech innovation in Australia’s hospitals and investor sentiment is very positive. I would definitely recommend MedTech Actuator to other Singapore MedTech startups.”

HiCura’s biggest challenge was commercialisation.

“The MedTech industry is complex with many stakeholders. You have to consider the hospital, doctors, patients, insurance companies, and regulatory compliance,” says Cailin. 

“Unlike any consumer or industrial product where you can ‘test’ the market by selling and revising the product, the route to commercialisation for a MedTech device is a long and arduous one involving clinical trials and regulatory approval.”

The MedTech Actuator supported HiCura through this challenge, and the company has now validated the product and developed a regulatory strategy.

The HiCura team found the experience of being surrounded by a community of MedTech startups on the same journey very valuable.

“Having friends around to listen is very helpful as the world of MedTech startups can be stressful. We could share our joys and frequent challenges,” says Cailin.