MedTech Actuator 2021 Menzies Scholar: April Van Der Kamp

MedTech Actuator 2021 Menzies Scholar: April Van Der Kamp

2021 MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholar April Van Der Kamp is successfully fusing science, research commercialisation and entrepreneurship. 

When it comes to scientists doing their life’s work, April comes to mind. As a founder of DFU Solutions and a PhD Candidate at Flinders University, April is building a scientific career founded in impact, commercialisation and innovation.


Phage therapy to treat diabetic foot ulcer infections

Diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) are a serious and common complication of diabetes which are frequently infected by Staphylococcus aureus. Coupled with the rise of antibiotic resistance, diabetic foot ulcer infections are increasingly difficult to treat. This commonly leads to foot amputations which are correlated with a 5-year mortality of up to 70%. 

After losing a family member and looking at inefficiencies in the treatment of infected DFUs, April chose to pursue a PhD at Flinders University and founded DFU Solutions with her PhD supervisor, Associate Professor Peter Speck, to bring innovative treatments that harness bacteriophage therapy to market. 

“The passing away of loved ones due to complications associated with DFUs that are a preventable disease is a sad story. After experiencing first-hand how traumatic this can be, Peter and I are passionate about developing treatment options to improve patient outcomes and putting an end to this common story,” says April.

“We strive to improve patient outcomes with effective treatments targeted towards infection clearance.”

April Van Der Kamp in lab
April Van Der Kamp carrying out research as part of her PhD.

Science, research commercialisation and entrepreneurship with the MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship

April was selected as a 2021 MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholar, leveraging the program to dive into research translation and commercialisation. With the opportunity to network with a cohort of Scholars, see entrepreneurs grow in MedTech Actuator Origin, and receive mentorship from industry leaders, April engaged with the industry and channelled her focus into her research. 

“I am so grateful for being a recipient of the scholarship and becoming a part of the MedTech Actuator family.”

As a part of the scholarship, across an industry-led intensive sprint and mentorship, scholarship recipients gain an extensive overview of entrepreneurship, the startup ecosystem and the commercialisation process as well as a one-off, $1,000 stipend to aid the commercialisation journey. Topics covered include pathways to market, business models, navigating Australia’s healthcare ecosystem, idea validation, intellectual property, pitching, professional development, and funding for early-stage ventures.

Through the program and its benefits, April was able to understand what it takes to successfully launch a startup and get a product to market. As a result of mentoring and leadership development, April overcame her biggest challenge, that is, doubting her capabilities to succeed. 

“I applied for the scholarship using the mantra “when in doubt, apply”. I thought the worst thing they can say is no and the best thing that could happen is I learned from experience. And I’m still learning. You don’t need to have all the answers and all the confidence to get started,” says April.

Aid your commercialisation journey with the MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship 2022

Through this scholarship and the MedTech Actuator community, April launched DFU Solutions. Prior to the program, becoming a founder was not a reality.

“I feel accomplished presenting DFU Solution’s one-minute pitch and to have expanded my network. By moving outside of my comfort zone and gaining new experiences beyond academia, I’ve gained a refreshing perspective of entrepreneurship and the landscape that startup founders must navigate throughout their journey.”

The Scholarship experience aims to support the scientific community’s capacity to bring innovation to the market by facilitating knowledge transfer from industry to scientists and researchers. For April, the support from her supervisor and MedTech Actuator helped her take the jump into becoming a founder and following her passion.

“Other members from MedTech Actuator startups, such as Hatisens and the like, are such great support network in that they provide advice and guidance. This made a really big difference in my journey,” says April.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship is an opportunity for scientists, researchers and innovators to explore the world of entrepreneurship, research commercialisation and MedTech, BioTech and HealthTech startups.  

Applications are now open for the 2022 MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarships. Find out more about the Scholarship here and apply now.

You can also join MedTech Actuator Program and Community Coordinator, Makenzie Thomas for an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session on July 6. Register here.

To stay in the loop sign up for news and updates below, and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship is supported by the Menzies Foundation as part of their Entrepreneurship in Science mission.

MedTech Actuator 2021 Menzies Scholar: Dr Rowan Page

MedTech Actuator 2021 Menzies Scholar: Dr Rowan Page

MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholar Dr Rowan Page is transforming his impact by developing a wearable light sensing device to guide people toward healthier light exposure patterns together with the team at Circadian Health Innovations.

Dr Rowan Page is an early-career researcher and the Director of the Industrial Design program in Monash University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture. Rowan’s research and practice are focused on the design of smart wearable devices for health and medical applications. Through design practice, his research helps to translate fundamental medical and technology research into commercially viable outcomes.

Melding industrial design and research

Constantly blown away by technologies being developed at Monash University, Rowan knows how innovations can have a real impact on people’s lives but can see how difficult the development processes at universities can be. He has seen several projects where the quality of early-prototype research devices makes it difficult to collect data, from real people, in real-world contexts.

“The existing devices are fragile, too big, uncomfortable, hard to use, or people are embarrassed to wear them. Bringing industrial design into research early enables us to also bring consideration of human factors and end-user needs into projects early, enabling researchers to collect better and more reliable data.”

A wearable light sensing device

Rowan is carrying out the light pin device project as an Industrial Designer working in close collaboration with Circadian Health Innovations, sleep scientists, mathematical modellers, and creative technologists.

“The light pin device we are working on is the perfect embodiment of pairing world-leading research expertise, incredible electronics and technology development, and early design involvement.”

Light pin device
The light pin device: An embodiment of early design involvement & research expertise

The device enables our partners to amplify their research in circadian and sleep science and has also revealed numerous consumer applications from supporting shift work, to jet-lag management. To complement the wide application of this device, the team has also been approached by NASA and elite sports teams interested in performance optimisation.

 

Science, Research Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship with the MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship recipients embark on a four-month journey, where recipients gain knowledge from leading industry experts, work alongside Australia’s emerging healthcare entrepreneurs and receive mentorship from MedTech Actuator.

Light pin device app
The light pin device also comes with an application to track the light score.

“The biggest challenge to overcome at the moment is the worldwide shortage of electronics components. As a small start-up, it is difficult to operate in these complex global supply chains. The scholarship program provided us with a great product development mentor who was able to connect us with excellent local manufacturers. Additionally, navigating the transition from the university to the industry had us thinking carefully about IP, funding, and how we scale up in a very different environment.”

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship encourages the next generation of health leaders to build strong foundations in commercialisation. In doing so, this program supports the scientific community’s capacity to bring innovation to the market by facilitating knowledge transfer from industry to scientists and researchers.

Mentoring during the program enabled Rowan to start producing devices for sale.
Mentoring during the program enabled Rowan to start producing devices for sale.

“The program connected us with great manufacturers by pairing us with a product development mentor. This was a key milestone in enabling us to organize our first small run batch of manufactured devices. Allowing us to move beyond prototypes and start producing devices for sale. We also had great exposure to investors and the wider ecosystem outside of the university.”

For Rowan, mentorship with Procept was incredibly valuable, as was the advice received from MedTech Actuator CEO, Dr Buzz Palmer and the team. Alongside the 2021 Scholarship, Rowan and team members from SensiLab at Monash University, A/Prof Sean Cain, Dr Andrew Phillips, and Elliott Wilson, took part in MedTech Actuator Origin, taking their innovation through to the semi-finals.

 

Are you a future MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholar?

Apply now- MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship
Apply now- MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship 2022

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship is an opportunity for scientists, researchers and innovators to explore the world of entrepreneurship, research commercialisation and MedTech, BioTech and HealthTech startups.

“My advice to future Scholars is to make the most out of the experience and the learning opportunities that it provides. Even if your current project is not at the right stage for this journey yet, you never know when the knowledge that this program gives you will be useful in the future.”

Applications are now open for the 2022 MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarships. Find out more about the program and apply now.

You can also join MedTech Actuator Program and Community Coordinator, Makenzie Thomas for an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session on July 6. Register here.

To stay in the loop sign up for news and updates below, and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship is supported by the Menzies Foundation as part of their Entrepreneurship in Science mission

MedTech Actuator 2021 Menzies Scholar: Dr Anushi Rajapaksa

MedTech Actuator 2021 Menzies Scholar: Dr Anushi Rajapaksa

MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholar Dr Anush Rajapaksa is fusing science, research commercialisation and entrepreneurship by developing rapid, life-saving drug delivery for children with infectious respiratory disease.

Dr Anushi Rajapaksa is a Senior Research Officer, at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne and more recently a graduate researcher within GSK, Melbourne. Anushi leads large, international, interdisciplinary research projects as the inventor of several newborn technologies. She is also the Founder of a not-for-profit organization, Think Projectthat helps to facilitate the transfer of STEM solutions to low resource settings. She has recently founded “Vitality by Dr Anushi” to cultivate her love of nutrition inspired by nature.

Turning needle phobia into an idea

Anushi says that she was on a personal mission to design ways to deliver vaccines and other therapeutics to the lungs non-invasively due to her phobia of needles. Anushi discovered and developed a new technology in the form of a nebulizer that enables a liquid vaccine to be inhaled, rather than injected.

“Growing up, I had a significant needle phobia. You could almost say that I was on a personal mission to invest in a career to explore alternative ways of medication delivery – vaccines in particular. Delivering medications to the body through the lungs seemed like a no brainer to me”, says Anushi

Anushi working in the lab developing novel, non-invasive solutions for drug delivery.
Anushi working in the lab developing novel, non-invasive solutions for drug delivery.

A new frontier in pain-free therapies

Anushi’s research has focused on RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), the most common cause of acute, lower respiratory infection in young children under 5 years of age. Preterm infants are at significantly increased risk of severe RSV disease. There is no RSV vaccine and the only preventive treatment is passive protection with Palivizumab, an RSV-specific monoclonal antibody (mAb). However, this is costly (A$7,500 per course) and requires repeated injections throughout the RSV transmission season. In Australia, its use is restricted to only preterm infants with complications such as severe pulmonary hypertension and chronic lung disease.

“The aim is to develop a novel, non-invasive solution and solve the problem by delivering a first-in-class, low-cost device that is effective in protecting our children.”

Science, research commercialisation, and entrepreneurship with the MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship encourages the next generation of health leaders to build strong foundations in commercialisation. In doing so, this program supports the scientific community’s capacity to bring innovation to the market by facilitating knowledge transfer from industry to scientists and researchers.

As a 2021 MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholar, Anushi was exposed to the ecosystem, built strong foundations in commercialisation and took home the MedTech Actuator People’s Choice Award in MedTech Actuator Origin.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship Experience

As a part of the Scholarship experience, recipients overcome their knowledge gaps with the support provided during intensive sprints and 1:1 coaching.

“The biggest struggle I have overcome is facing my own doubts and the unknowns regarding advancing my area of scientific passion and working through them one by one. It is a unique journey worth taking as it has certainly been transformative and personally rewarding to me. I may not have all the answers yet, but realising some fundamental questions that need head-on attention is a very good start,” says Anushi.

“I felt right at home with the friendly and resourceful team at the MedTech Actuator. It was the right amount of challenge and inspiration to take action on a vision I had been working on for over a decade. I am confident that the skills and experiences I gained through this unique program will help me make advances.”

Scholars receive access to the MedTech Actuator Origin intensive sprint and see, first-hand, what it takes to launch a healthcare venture. Anushi’s vision is to position her research to best serve a community that needs it the most through commercialisation. Whilst undertaking the Scholarship, Anushi also took The Think Project through MedTech Actuator Origin.

Dr Anushi Rajapaksa, The Think Project, with Georgia Downing and Charles Aitken, Gild, and Tim Tyndale, Quitta.
Dr Anushi Rajapaksa, The Think Project, with Georgia Downing and Charles Aitken, Gild, and Tim Tyndale, Quitta.

When embarking on a four-month scholarship, recipients gain knowledge from leading industry experts, work alongside Australia’s emerging healthcare entrepreneurs and receive mentorship from MedTech Actuator.

“I would like to thank my team, Mr. Sanjeeva Rajapaksa, Prof. James Friend, Ashica Sood, Mayomi Samarawickrama  Mallawaarachchi, Shamal Wijeweera and Ashleigh Allan, for their support in realising our vision. I also want to recognise the support provided by Dr Buzz Palmer and my mentor Richard Sokolov and the MedTech Actuator Team for numerous discussions and advice throughout the program and beyond,” says Anushi.

Are you a future MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholar?

Apply now- MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship
Apply now- MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship 2022

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship is an opportunity for scientists, researchers and innovators to explore the world of entrepreneurship, research commercialisation and MedTech, BioTech and HealthTech startups. 

Applications are now open for the 2022 program. Find out more about the MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship and apply today.

You can also join MedTech Actuator Program and Community Coordinator, Makenzie Thomas for the Ask Me Anything session for any questions related to the scholarship. Register here.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship is supported by the Menzies Foundation as part of their Entrepreneurship in Science mission.











Harnessing telehealth to power a connected global health ecosystem

MedTech Actuator startup Neev Tech Labs is transforming how patients around the world experience and access healthcare through telehealth innovation

The Neev Tech Labs virtual care platform, Connect2MyDoctor is powering a connected global health ecosystem – supporting the response to challenges including delivering healthcare while preventing the spread of COVID19, and rising chronic illness.

Connect2MyDoctor is a HIPAA compliant and ISO 27001 certified virtual care platform that enables healthcare providers to deliver care in efficient and patient-centric ways. The comprehensive platform spans on-demand care; consults between rural hospitals and large tertiary care centres; care for in-patients in isolation and regular care; home care; and remote patient monitoring including medical device integration to capture real-time data.

The idea for Connect2MyDoctor was sparked in 2012 when, soon after moving with his family from Dubai to Australia, the daughter of Neev Tech Labs CEO Pramod Kutty needed to see a medical specialist.

“We were not used to the long wait period and tried to find help in the meantime through Dr Google and doctors overseas to understand more about the problem. I thought, there should be a better way to do this,” says Pramod.

This experience and Pramod’s subsequent market research led him to launch Connect2MyDoctor in 2016. Neev Tech Labs is now headquartered in Melbourne and has teams in India, Dubai, and Bahrain, along with a growing network of advisors.

Healthcare providers, hospitals, insurance companies and corporates around the world are turning to Connect2MyDoctor in growing numbers to improve and save the lives of individual patients and to create systems-wide change. The virtual care platform is deployed in 35+ multi- and super-speciality hospitals in India, the Middle East, Turkey, Azerbaijan and others. There are currently 2,000+ doctors across 50+ specialisations on the platform, supporting patients in 15+ countries. Connect2MyDoctor will soon open an office in Dubai and will also expand into the African subcontinent.

In a reflection of the difference the platform is making, Connect2MyDoctor was selected as the preferred telehealth platform of a leading healthcare association in India. This has opened access to a member base of 10,000+ hospitals. Connect2MyDoctor has also launched work with the Federal Authority of Human Resources, UAE and their mental health partner to provide 300,000+ employees and their families with access to mental health specialists from the comfort of their homes.

Neev Tech Labs was recently accepted into Hatch Quarter’s MENA Bridge for Startups global bridge program – designed to give exceptional Australian companies the tools and connections to enter and succeed in the booming Middle East and North Africa “MENA” markets.

Connect2MyDoctor wins Micro Business Award

Connect2MyDoctor wins Micro Business Award at India-Australia Business and Community Awards 2022. The annual IABCA Awards initiative looks to strengthen and celebrate the organisations, social enterprises and business leaders from across the globe who are advancing the India-Australia relationship.

Connect2MyDoctor wins Micro Business Award at India-Australia Business and Community Awards 2022. Photo credits: IABCA

“We feel privileged and honoured to have won this prestigious recognition from IABCA. It is a testament to the ground-breaking work we have done in the area of telemedicine and virtual healthcare. The importance of online healthcare has grown significantly during the pandemic and we are happy to have contributed our bit by enabling high-quality virtual healthcare access for the needy. In our next phase, we focus to deploy our new modules – cARe – 3D/AR module for patient education, OmniROM for remote rehabilitation, HomeDoc our home care module with Remote patient monitoring globally. As the preferred telehealth partner of the Association of Health Providers of India (AHPI), which has over 10,000 hospitals in its network, we are looking to further expand our horizons and address the health requirements of the patients in a virtual and efficient manner.” Says Pramod Kutty, Co-Founder and CEO of Connect2MyDoctor.

The MedTech ActuatorTM is proud to support Neev Tech Labs on their journey. The company joined the MedTech Actuator in 2019 to support market validation of Connect2MyDoctor; to connect with global industry and mentorship; to be guided through commercialisation models and capital raising.

“The MedTech Actuator helped us validate our business models and opened doors,” says Pramod.

“For any MedTech startup, the MedTech Actuator is the perfect kickstart for access to teams, industry leaders, mentors and pre-seed funding.”

Follow the journey of Connect2MyDoctor and learn more about the platform in this Economic Times story by Pramod Kutty.

Navigating the Hurdles and Hoops of Research Commercialisation

The way in which humans solve and navigate healthcare problems has progressed immensely over the past century. From penicillin to AI-driven medical imaging, health innovations have enabled humans to flourish in ways never imagined possible.

Often, the foundations of innovation begin with research, and the commercialisation of research plays a large role in the ability of innovation to get to market. When produced at scale, these breakthroughs can save lives and improve health outcomes. But it isn’t always an easy path for innovators and researchers. The journey to successfully commercialise research is fraught with hurdles and unforeseen challenges.

At the Talking HealthTech Autumn Summit, MedTech Actuator’s Head of Programs, Maria Pelipas, joined Siew Joo Beh, CEO and Co-founder of HatiSens, and Greg Miner, CEO and Co-founder of Evidentli, to discuss translating research and the challenges of commercialisation. Here, we reflect on this discussion and highlight some common speed bumps along the journey.

Talking HealthTech Autumn Summit 2022

Taking the first steps

Protecting your idea might seem like an important first step, and it is vital to consider, but none of it matters if there is no market interest in the innovation itself. The number one tip from Siew and Greg was simple – get out there and validate your idea with users, clinicians, experts and the healthcare community. 

“At HatiSens, we should have spoken to more clinicians from the start. When we did finally meet with them, we were met with so many questions, such as why are you doing this? What makes us different? We had to adopt and adapt to feedback quickly and include it in our proof of concept ” – Siew Joo Beh, CEO and Co-founder of HatiSens.

Speaking to customers isn’t a one-and-done job. Much like researchers, founders are constantly testing assumptions over and over again. This moulds the product during its development and clarifies which features need to be prioritized, or not needed at all.

Beyond validation, it comes back to the opportunity presenting itself and how you communicate it. Moving away from technical language and learning how to communicate what you’re building is crucial. Throw developing a business case into the mix and you’re easily looking at the first 12 months of work.

“When Evidentli first started out, the team had to figure out if there was a market and how we could get to it, as well as who our customers are, how we reach them and how we talk to them. And market acceptance is slow, especially in health. When you’re spinning something out, be ready for that.” Greg Miner, CEO and Co-founder of Evidentli.

Strategic teams and support networks

The timeline from idea to market for medical devices can be well over seven years, so it is vital to surround yourself with the right team and ensure that you’re all on the same page. For HatiSens, commercialisation was an opportunity for Siew to continue her Ph.D., whilst for the other Co-founders, it was about shaking up senior careers. 

“The team at HatiSens were all at different stages of our careers, so the opportunity to commercialise was really appealing… We didn’t know what we were doing at first, but we had a common interest in changing the pace of our work.” – Siew Joo Beh, CEO and Co-Founder of HatiSens.

However, building the right team is no easy feat. The team can be a major hurdle to overcome and, often, team dynamic can be the make or break element for a promising research project.

“At MedTech Actuator, we often talk about the complementarity of skills of co-founders, referencing Jim and Spock (from StarTrek) as two unique characters with drastically different approaches, visions and work styles… From our experience, four to six co-founders can enable teams to navigate the ups and downs of a startup journey while maintaining their sanity. We even have a team of 11 Co-founders – somehow they make it work really well.” – Maria Pelipas, Head of Programs at Medtech Actuator. 

Listen to Maria’s podcast on the startup journey and team issues on Talking HealthTech.


Furthermore, internal capabilities should always be strengthened by strong networks of support. Subject-matter experts, research institutions and universities can all provide vital resources at different points in time. 

When it comes to validation, the connections of research institutions can be instrumental for tapping into customer or user groups and building relationships with advisors and KOLs. For Evidentli, subject-matter experts even became investors down the line. So finding, establishing and nurturing these relationships is essential and you never know where they might lead. 

Funding

In the first few weeks or months of building a startup, funding can be scarce and delaying the use of personal funds is always preferred. Early costs, such as incorporating as a company, building a brand, consulting with IP lawyers, and developing prototypes, can add up as you try to get closer to market.

Unfortunately, it can be really hard to convince people to take a chance on something that’s never been done before, especially in the early stages. You need proof that it works and you need money to do that, but you also need to prove that it works in order to get that money. This can be particularly tricky for specialised innovations where the technology is complex.

“Finding funds is really hard. Often, investors don’t understand what you do. If you’ve got a piece of research, you’re most likely the expert. What worked for us was finding deep subject-matter experts who were willing to invest” – Greg Miner, CEO and Co-founder of Evidentli.

 

Greg from Evidentli recommends this alternative pathway that provides a double benefit. Even if the group of experts is smaller and more niche than traditional startup investors, it can help you build credibility. For example, if you are working on a very technical cardiovascular device, go to cardiologists first. It helps with market validation, innovation and team credibility, and can even result in a cheque, alleviating some of those early-stage risks. Once you’ve made headway here, others will jump on board.

 

Final words of advice

Learning about Siew and Greg’s experiences, it was clear that persistence, resilience and passion are essential ingredients in any commercialisation journey. Going all-in on a startup idea is the only way forward. You’ll be closer to success by making sure there is a market opportunity presenting itself, a strong team and support network behind you, and enough funds to provide you with a viable runway.

Want to read more about HatiSens journey? Check out a full piece on the HatiSens team here.

 

Apply for the MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship 2022

Menzies Scholarship 2022- Expression of Interest is now open

If you’re interested in learning more about the commercialisation journey, apply for the MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship 2022.

 

Each year, MedTech Actuator and the Menzies Foundation award ten high-potential health, medical and biotechnology researchers with the MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarships, supporting them to develop a career that fuses science, research, and entrepreneurship.

 

Recipients embark on a four-month scholarship, where they gain knowledge from leading industry experts, work alongside Australia’s emerging healthcare entrepreneurs, and receive mentorship from MedTech Actuator.

 

Interested? Join Dr Buzz Palmer, CEO of MedTech Actuator, and Liz Gillies, CEO of Menzies Foundation, for a fireside chat and information session on June 7 at 12 pm. 

 

This piece was written by Makenzie Thomas, Program and Community Coordinator, and Shanna Lam, Project Officer, from MedTech Actuator






Women in Health Entrepreneurship

When it comes to healthcare and entrepreneurship, there is no such thing as a founder journey without challenges, hurdles, difficulties or dilemmas.  That said, across the system, it is often the case that female-identifying and diverse individuals face particular and specific barriers that are not always faced by their counterparts.

For example, 63% of men are highly confident about raising their next round versus just 10% of females (The State of Australian Startup Funding Report).

At the MedTech Actuator, we’re for founders.  And this means really understanding the diversity of experiences of entrepreneurs from all corners of the system, and from multiple backgrounds and contexts. The MedTech Actuator is creating opportunities so more women can learn about and participate in the healthcare innovation ecosystem.  

In this blog, we’re sharing key tips from the expert panel at the recent MedTech Actuator Women who lunch. And keep reading to check out more ecosystem opportunities and to sign up for upcoming MedTech Actuator events near you.

Women Who Raise
Women Who Raise | MedTech, BioTech and HealthTech

Women Who Raise | MedTech, BioTech and HealthTech

Last month, the MedTech Actuator hosted Lunch Chats: Women Who Raise – MedTech, BioTech, and HealthTech, putting female founders at the helm of the conversation to talk about capital raising. 

Dr Anabela Correia – CEO and Managing Director at LiVac, Rachel Yang – Partner at Giant Leap, and Tanisha Banaszczyk – Principal at Folklore Ventures joined the panel and provided a broad overview of the investment experience in Australia. We’ve wrapped up the panels’ key tips and tricks for navigating fundraising for MedTech, BioTech, and HealthTech startups.

Tips and tricks for successfully raising capital

1. Prepare, prepare some more, then go back and prepare again. 

“I’ve learned to prepare and I can’t overemphasise – prepare! It takes us about three months to get ready for a capital raise and to set up a really detailed data room. We pride ourselves on (the fact) that if an investor asks us a question we can answer it straight away. There is no hesitation. That helps to keep the conversation moving… It is all about preparation,” – Dr Anabela Correia, CEO and Managing Director at LiVac.

2. Understand the path you’re taking before you even begin. Start by reading Venture Deals or watching some of Startup Vic panel discussions (recommended by Rachel Yang – Partner at Giant Leap).

3. Know who you’re pitching to and know your investor’s mandate. There is no point speaking to an investor who doesn’t invest in early-stage startups if that is what you are. Do your research. 

4. Getting noticed by investors can be hard. Accelerator programs like the MedTech Actuator Accelerator can get you in front of potential investors. And ecosystem partners such as Startup Vic, Fishburners and What the Health?! often run investment focused events where you can learn more and meet people.

“We really nurture our networks. We’re constantly updating investors on our progress, at least once a month, and we often stop by for coffee. They’re part of the LiVac family. These relationships are really important to us,” Dr Anabela Correia,CEO and Managing Director at LiVac

5. If this is your first time seeking investment, talk to others who have been there before. Use your founder network as a support group, a sounding board, and a pathway for warm introductions.

6. A lot can happen before that first meeting. Investors will want a pitch deck, some market context and even anecdotal evidence from a trusted community member. Don’t be alarmed if they perform their own due diligence too. Be ready to answer any questions and send over all requested documents before you sit down for the first conversation.

7. In the early stages, it is all about the founders and the team. 

“It is very much a people game… really we want to know that the people behind the business are there doing their life’s work, growing the business and that they’re executors – they can get the things done that they need to get done and also attract a strong team around them,” Rachel Yang, Partner at Giant Leap.

8. Impact has to come from within and it has to be woven into the very fabric of what you’re building. Be prepared to start measuring impact potential.

“(Giant Leap) looks for impact embedded in the business model. So what that means if for every dollar invested, there is a unit of impact… In the healthcare space, it is things like improved health outcomes, healthcare savings to the broader system,” – Rachel Yang, Partner at Giant Leap.

9. The ecosystem is optimistic about digital health and its impact on healthcare, so there has never been a better time to dive into healthcare startups, especially if you’re a female founder.

“When you think about what opportunities are out there and where there is the most potential for innovation in a space, it is about what problems can be solved. (Investors) are really optimistic about… the digital health space and digital therapeutics. The ability to solve these (healthcare) problems at scale is really exciting.” – Rachel Yang, Partner at Giant Leap.

What’s next?

There are many opportunities for you to explore entrepreneurship across the healthcare innovation ecosystem. Join the MedTech Actuator at an upcoming event near you:

  • Morning with Women in Health Entrepreneurship – Join the MedTech Actuator and partners for a morning exploring what it takes to be an entrepreneur in the healthcare ecosystem. This event will speak to the hurdles and challenges often faced by female-identifying and diverse individuals in healthcare. Anyone interested in healthcare entrepreneurship is welcome to attend. Reserve your seat today.
  • The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship – if you’re an early-stage researcher or post-graduate student interested in innovating in human health then the Menzies Scholarship is perfect for you. Applications open soon. Register your interest here.
  • The MedTech Actuator Office Hours – we’ve opened up our calendars and would love to sit down with emerging female and diverse founders. From friendly intros to questions about programs to soundboard, Makenzie would love to chat with you. Book a call today!

The MedTech Actuator is actively opening and fostering an inclusive MedTech innovation ecosystem. We strongly encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds to engage with our community and apply to our programs. 

This post was created by Makenzie Thomas, Program and Community Coordinator, and, Simran Jain, Marketing Coordinator, at MedTech Actuator

Meet Shanna – Project Officer

Project Officer Shanna Lam works with the MedTech Actuator team to organise and provide project management support for the MedTech Actuator programs, including the flagship 12-month MedTech Actuator Accelerator, the idea-stage innovation competition Origin, Menzies Scholarship and Fellowship and its community across Australia and the Asia-Pacific. 

As a recent graduate from the University of Melbourne with a Master of Biomedical Engineering, Shanna brings project management skills along with STEM knowledge to the role. During her final year at the university, Shanna undertook Biodesign Innovation as a capstone subject, which introduced her to the world of MedTech innovation. During the unit, Shanna and her Team – Venosense – applied the interdisciplinary concepts to design an innovative medical device. 

Her team’s project was focused on transforming peripheral intravenous visualisation through the use of a 3D imaging system that would help improve the accuracy of cannulation procedures. Cannulation is one of the most widely performed invasive procedures in medicine, and their invention had the potential to make a significant difference to the patient experience and quality of healthcare. This experience inspired her to get involved in the startup community. 

“I love learning new things and being challenged, so I’m very excited to join Medtech Actuator”, says Shanna. 

The opportunity to help MedTech Actuator programs run as smoothly as possible to help new founders make an impact with their innovative technologies is what drives her. 

Shanna is inspired by how much Medtech Actuator has already achieved in just a few years, and is now looking forward to more accomplishments in the future.

“I can’t wait to work with all the new startups making a difference in Medtech”.

Outside of work, Shanna likes to travel, play board games, and sew. 

Meet our team

More on how the MedTech Actuator team is supporting Asia Pacific’s next wave of health innovators – meet: 

Meet Matt – Commercial & Partnership Director

Commercial and Partnership Director Matt Frith works with the MedTech Actuator team to develop and drive the execution of strategies to ensure the long term growth of the MedTech Actuator, and its programs such as MedTech Actuator Accelerator, Origin, Menzies Scholarship and Fellowship, and its ecosystem across Australia and the Asia-Pacific. This includes engaging with and supporting startup founders and developing and managing strategic relationships with key partners and stakeholders across public policy, health, and innovation ecosystems.

With an Executive MBA with Distinction from RMIT University, Matt is a successful and impact-driven senior leader with over 15 years of industry and innovation ecosystem experience leading and delivering complex commercial projects and partnerships to drive business and profit growth and social impact. His partnerships experience spans senior Sales & Marketing and Commercial roles in global manufacturing businesses with responsibility for managing teams, annual revenue budgets ranging from $40-$80 million, and strategic relationships with key partners across Australia, NZ and Asia.

Creating impact through innovation 

Matt has built programs to support, and collaborated with inventors, researchers, and technical R&D experts to successfully commercialise and translate new innovations. He worked within RMIT’s Activator team to establish and implement the inaugural startup and innovation programs. And for the last 4 years, he has supported The University of Queensland with the commercial development and launch of evidence-based digital health intervention, BeUpstanding, which is being used by thousands of employees to improve their health at work. 

With a passion for generating impact through innovation, Matt founded kin8 and over the last 7 years has delivered innovation commercialisation and change management projects for a network of diverse clients including RMIT University, The University of Queensland, JLL, Haworth, TALi Health, Fire Protection Association, Whitehorse City Council, LaunchVic, Defence Innovation Hub, The Victorian Government, and the Shared Value Project. 

“I’m looking forward to building on the solid foundation of existing relationships, networks, and diverse MedTech Actuator partners, and developing new collaborations that create mutual value”, says Matt.

Matt is super excited with the momentum and the ambitious growth plans that are in motion to further scale MedTech Actuator in the Asia Pacific region. With this, he can support an even greater number of founders to successfully commercialise innovative new technologies that will change the face of healthcare. He is passionate about the MedTech, HealthTech, and BioTech innovations leading to more personalised health care and a future where we can better understand, prevent, and treat mental health conditions.

“I’m driven to rapidly expand MedTech Actuator’s impact even further, and I’m inspired by founders that have the courage to take on the challenge of developing an innovative MedTech, HealthTech or BioTech startup.”



Meet our team

More on how the MedTech Actuator team is supporting Asia Pacific’s next wave of health innovators – meet: 

Synchron: Unlocking The Natural Highways Of The Brain

Synchron founders and inaugural MedTech Actuator Origin alumni Associate Professor Thomas Oxley and Professor Nicholas Opie spoke with us recently about their journey to unlock the natural highways of the brain. 

For startups who may be struggling with funding, technology and doors closing, Thomas and Nicholas’ story shows that curiosity, resilience, drive and friendship are key to success in the long road of MedTech innovation.

On consciousness and Astro Boy

Tracing early childhood’s influence on life-changing innovation.

Thomas: As a boy growing up, conversations with my father got me thinking about wanting to do new things. I think innovation is a curiosity, or wanting to change the way that things are into something new. And from a very young age I was fascinated with things that we didn’t understand, or things that we didn’t know. 

“My conversations with my father about philosophy and space kept pushing me towards the areas of the unknown.”

Thomas talking about the origins of his innovation during MedTech’s Got Talent (now known as MedTech Actuator Origin) Gala Final 2013

I remember deciding quite early on as a teenager that there were three big mysteries that were worth chasing in life: the brain, the ocean, and outer space. I was exposed to things around the brain when I was quite young and it was this big black box mystery to me.

A lot of people go into medicine because they have an experience in their family, or they want to be healers. I went into medicine with a fascination around what was not known. I was drawn to solving mysteries around what the brain is, and what consciousness is.

When I finished medicine, I was first exposed to brain computer interfaces (BCI) on night shift in 2008. I saw a scientific piece about the first human implant with a BCI. And it just set off my imagination with what it could mean and where it could go. 

And this was all, I think, the origin of my person.

Nicholas: For me it was a little bit different. My fascination came from cartoons: Inspector Gadget, Astro Boy. I watched those cartoons as a kid and said, “I want to do that. I want to build robotic devices that people can use.” And this has stemmed throughout my career.

When Nick saw Astro Boy as a child when he was 6 learning to make things he said, “I want to do that.”

I did science and engineering at university and then continued on that passion, developing prosthetic devices and bionic eyes. 

“I tried to find ways that I could make technology using my hands, and help people who didn’t have any other option.”

I did a lot of research and academic work, and solved a lot of interesting problems. But in academia, at least from my perspective, there was this continual cycle of, “There’s a new problem – you solve it. There’s a new problem – you solve it.” 

Sure, we found new knowledge and that was great. But it didn’t seem to make a big impact on the community at large. 

It was really only when meeting Tom, and we came up with the idea of making a technology that goes inside blood vessels as a novel way to access the brain and learn the information contained within, that we really had the chance and opportunity to say:

 

“It’s now up to us. Do we want to continue this cycle of learning? Or is there a way that we can really push this forward and make sure it gets to the people that need it.”

Tom and I were well aligned early on that this was the path we wanted to take. And this started progressing with the MedTech Actuator Origin (then known as MedTech’s Got Talent) helping us along the way, showing us what it means to turn from academia or research into a commercial company.

Nicholas and Thomas took out the top prize for Synchron at the inaugural MedTech’s Got Talent (now known as MedTech Actuator Origin) Gala Final 2013.

“Hello World” – the first direct-thought tweet 

When Philip communicated with the world through thought.

Thomas: The first patient was implanted with the Synchron brain computer interface back in August 2019. He had his first system and was using WhatsApp within a few weeks of having turned the system on. 

Then the idea for direct-thought tweets came about at the end of 2021, as a feel-good Christmas story. A patient that we work with, Philip O’Keefe, [voice cracks a little with emotion] is an amazing guy and just full of energy. Philip is 62 years old, and has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“Philip is facing this horrible illness and his mortality with this enthusiasm and understanding that what he is working on is hopefully going to help people in his position in years to come after him.” 

It was very stressful for Philip, with a thirty minute take-over period for him to tweet directly from my twitter account using his thoughts. His whole family was there with him.

Phil sends the world’s first-ever tweets using direct thought with the Synchron brain computer interface.

But he had his 16-year-old daughter there and his wife and the family. There were tears, it was incredible. It was a life affirming moment for Philip, and an inspiration for his family. It was really special.


Phil created these tweets from Thomas’ account using direct-thought

Building the team behind a groundbreaking technology

And the ecosystem behind the team.

Nicholas: People can learn what they need to learn. But it’s very hard to change who you are. I really go into a lot of the interviews and try to find people that I gel with, that I think are enthusiastic and have the same values, and really want to make a difference. 

If they don’t have particular skills, if they’re good enough and they want it enough – which becomes apparent when you’re speaking with them – they’ll be able to learn those skills, for the most part. 

I don’t really use the skills that I learnt in my engineering degree any more, because they’re not the ones that I’m passionate about. And I think the same goes the other way around. 

“If you’re really passionate about something then you can learn anything.”

So largely, it’s been about getting the right people – not necessarily the right skills. Skills are certainly important, you don’t want to be too far away. But we look for the right people to form a team and to form a culture of excellence, people who are enthusiastic about driving forward the mission that we have.

Thomas: Going back to really key leadership positions that we had to put in place – research and development, clinical, regulatory, and product. You also have to sell a vision – it’s not just a job now. This is a generational chance to make a contribution to something that’s going to change the world. And to do that you have to take risks, because everyone has taken a pay cut to come to the company, because there are other rewards. And so that plays into what Nick was talking about. 

“We’re looking for the risk-taking, entrepreneurial, full of life people who are willing to find ways to make it work.”

I think entrepreneurship is growing in Australia. I did notice when I moved over to the US, the cultural norm of a startup is more at the forefront of psychology there. It’s more talked about, the language is there, the words are there, there’s more of an understanding of it. And I think it’s growing now in Australia too, and that takes time.

Nicholas: I think it also comes from the education sector. When I finished my PhD along with others, we handed in our thesis, and off we went. We were done. And we didn’t know what to do next. There was no pathway. 

“But at a lot of American institutions, you have to do a final year in your PhD, whether you’re successful or not, and try to start a business out of what you’ve made.” 

So you’re already in the mindset of doing this [PhD] for the purpose of taking it further. And you’re guided – but not only guided, you’re mandated – to do that and to get that experience. 

I think it would be great to have this in Australia. To get everyone to start thinking about, ‘why am I doing this?’, and ‘if I do it, how can I take it further’? Regardless of whether it works or not, that’s not the point. 

It’s about getting in the mindset of not just doing things for the sake of doing things. But doing things because there’s a beneficial societal role that comes at the end.

On determination, resilience, and being uncrushable

Facing things not going your way, again and again.

Nicholas: I don’t know how many of those pitches you did, Tom. But you continued to do them, refining them, getting them better every time – even though it all kept shutting on you. To be able to continue doing that and then finally get to a point where someone says, ‘we’re ready to go’, that must have been a highlight for you. You put in a huge amount of effort and I don’t know how you were able to continue receiving the ‘nos’ – that’s amazing.

Thomas: Thanks Nick. I think we made contact with a particular investor in January 2019, and then the deal was done in 2021. So it took two years. And I think I counted that it was 200 engaged groups until we got the deal done and got to Series B. And now the trajectory is looking a bit different to where we were.

Nicholas: That’s a bit of a lesson for founders in MedTech Actuator programs and the innovation ecosystem more broadly. That you’ve got to have that resilience. You need to believe in yourself and your own technology. And you need to be able to face a whole lot of things not going your way, particularly in the pitching space. 

And hopefully you’ll get lucky and the timing will be right, and it’ll kick off. But you know don’t stop after two or three or five or ten – or 200! [laughs] – negative ones, right? You’ve got to keep going. The position we are in today is because Tom has had the ability to keep going and to keep searching. 

Thomas: Throughout our time working together, Nick has had this unending amount of enthusiasm and optimism that is uncrushable. A lot of people just give up or don’t have this sort of resilience. 

What I’ve loved about working with Nick for all these years is that when I get a little bit flat or down, he’s always able to bounce us back up. Sometimes he misplaces his optimism and feels that everything is going to work out! But when it’s getting tough I really feed off Nick’s resilience.

Nicholas and Thomas’ journey as friends and Founders at MedTech’s Got Talent (now known as MedTech Actuator Origin) Gala Final 2013

On answering childhood curiosities

And the calling of Inspector Gadget.

Thomas: In terms of my childhood curiosity, I think the subconscious in the brain is a massively untouched area that still seems invisible. I’m probably going to die before we get the chance to really understand that. There’s so much to learn from the brain to understand what we’re manifesting.

Nicholas: I’ll never genuinely feel like Inspector Gadget. There’s always more tricks that he can pull out of his hat. That’s a never ending story that will keep going and keep getting better. 

Learn more about Synchron, and read the Press Release announcing Philip O’Keefe’s ‘Hello World’ moment on 23 December 2021.





MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellow 2022: Dr Greg Stewart

MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellow Dr Greg Stewart is fusing research with entrepreneurship to deliver better medicines for psychiatric disease.

Developing New Therapeutics For Schizophrenia 

Dr Greg Stewart is the Better Medicines program manager and Senior Research Fellow in the Neuromedicines Discovery Centre based at Monash University’s Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science.

Working between academia and the pharmaceutical industry, Greg drives programs that deliver better medicines for the treatment of psychiatric disease.

Dr Greg Stewart

Greg notes that current medicines to treat psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia are far from ideal.

“My drive is to create new medicines for psychiatric diseases to improve the quality of life of those affected.”

Greg explains that schizophrenia is one such disease that has no effective treatment options. 

“I believe my project can create a therapeutic for schizophrenia with vastly improved efficacy and greatly reduced side effect profile – thereby improving patient outcomes,” says Greg. 

Research x Entrepreneurship With The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship

Greg became a MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellow to connect with industry leaders in Australia and the region, and to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the Australian BioTech industry.

“The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship forms a critical component in the transition I wish to make to an industry-oriented position and Australian BioTech.”

As a MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellow, Greg is building expertise in entrepreneurship, commercialisation, and the startup ecosystem. 

This support will help to unlock the potential in his research and embed improved therapeutics for psychiatric disease in clinical practice.

Through the Fellowship, Greg receives mentorship from industry experts, a $20K stipend, networking opportunities and invitations to exclusive events.

Our Network Becomes Greg’s Network For Life

The MedTech Actuator’s network becomes Greg’s network – not just throughout the program, but for life. He joins our community of:

  • MedTech Actuator’s extensive ecosystem of partners spanning hospitals, product development firms, multinational corporations, and investors
  • The brightest MedTech, HealthTech and BioTech founders across Asia Pacific in the MedTech Actuator Accelerator
  • MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholars and Fellows
  • MedTech Actuator Origin entrepreneurs – Asia Pacific’s next wave of innovators

Are you a future MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellow?

If you’re a senior researcher in human health, the prestigious MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship can help you to transform your research impact.

Dr Greg Stewart

Get ready to fuse your research and science expertise with entrepreneurship – applications for the MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship 2023 open in the coming months.

Women and applicants from diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply for our 2023 intake. We want to hear from you and are here to chat if you have questions – reach out below.

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You can also reach out to MedTech Actuator Programs and Community Coordinator Makenzie Thomas with any questions at makenzie@medtechactuator.com