After the COVID crisis, four Vaud spin-offs receive support from EPFL

Covid Cover © February 2020 EPFL

Covid Cover © February 2020 EPFL

The FIT Selection Committee has chosen to support a new start-up, Alithea Genomics, with a grant of CHF 100’000. Moreover, in view of the financial and logistical difficulties caused by the pandemic, the three projects Flowbone, Limula and SenSwiss, which had been awarded a FIT Innogrant in 2019, received an exceptional extension of CHF 20'000.

A new Innogrant of CHF 100'000 for Alithea Genomics

To support its development, EPFL and FIT have just awarded a scholarship to Alithea Genomics. The start-up designs low-cost transcriptomics solutions. This field consists of the study of messenger RNAs produced during genome transcription.

The technology developed enables large-scale studies to be conducted in the pharmaceutical and biomedical fields, such as the diagnosis of COVID-19. With this innovation, Alithea Genomics hopes to make basic and clinical research projects, such as biomarker discovery or drug development, which were previously unfeasible for economic and practical reasons, possible.

The start-up provides high quality, highly informative data that can be directly exploited by R&D platforms, thus making efforts to functionalize biobanks and drug screening more productive for successful discoveries.

Flowbone, Limula and SenSwiss, three medtechs see their Innogrant extended

To fight the coronavirus, the EPFL campus and laboratories were closed at the beginning of March, drastically curtailing research activities. EPFL hence conducted a survey of its projects to assess the impact of this crisis on their progress and financial situation. In view of the worrying results of the survey, EPFL Start-up Unit and FIT have decided to grant an additional CHF 20’000 to projects that have been awarded an Innogrant in 2019. The extension of these grants, whose primary objective is to cover the team's salaries, will therefore enable the three start-ups to conclude the developments planned and slowed down by COVID-19. 

Flowbone will thus continue the development of its gel capable of locally strengthening the bones of people suffering from osteoporosis, a disease that affects 250 million people worldwide and is characterized by an increased risk of fractures. Flowbone's biomaterial can be injected with a syringe directly into the patient's bone where fracture is to be avoided.

For its part, Limula Biotech is focusing on cell and gene therapies (CGT), which represent a real revolution in personalized medicine because of the potential impact on the quality of life of patients suffering from a wide range of diseases, but which are unfortunately very costly. With its fully automated, fully contained system for the manufacture of these treatments, Limula enables fast and safe production directly at the patient's bedside in the hospital. Limula's technology will save time, reduce costs, simplify logistics and ultimately increase the safety and accessibility of these advanced personalized treatments.

Finally, SenSwiss is focusing on the therapeutic monitoring of immunosuppressants, in particular vancomycin. This antibiotic of last resort can have serious side effects on the kidneys and hearing if its dosage is inadequate. The level of vancomycin in blood plasma should therefore be monitored regularly. This is made possible by the portable SenSwiss biosensor: developed by eight master students at EPFL, it detects the antibiotic in less than five minutes with just a few drops of blood, and costs less than 5’000 francs.

Other EPFL start-ups and FIT alumni are developing solutions in the fight against COVID-19

These include Helvitek Labs, Technis, Rovenso, Magma Learning and Abionic, among others. In response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Helvitek Labs modified its pollution mask production activity to supply healthcare personnel with an innovative facial structure to prevent injuries caused by prolonged wearing of respiratory masks.

Technis has implemented the Stop&Go solution to help public facilities automatically regulate flows to meet state limits for VIDOC-19.

Rovenso has adapted its security robot to add UVC disinfection functionalities to neutralize work areas of industrial sites and common areas.

Magma Learning's customized learning platform facilitated distance learning related to the closure of the EPFL Campus. All EPFL courses are now available on Ari9000.com.

Finally, the tool developed by Abionic allows the effective detection of sepsis or septic shock in patients intubated for COVID-19, in whom this infection is particularly frequent.

Find other start-ups developing solutions in the fight against COVID-19


Authors: Aurélie Schick, Julie Bocquel
Source: Innovation