Isabelle Musy Award: 50'000 francs for the start up BioMe

© 2016 EPFL

© 2016 EPFL

EPFL’s Isabelle Musy Award was presented to Sandra Sulser this evening for her start-up project BioMe. The 50,000-franc award, funded by a private donor, is aimed at encouraging women to become entrepreneurs.

Sandra Sulser won over the jury with poise, enthusiasm and a solid project. And she walked away with a check for 50,000 francs to fund her start-up, which is developing a new treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases. “We will use this money to quickly validate our concept and, if it proves successful, launch the start-up,” said Sulser, a biologist by training whose project has also received funding from the Foundation for Technological Innovation (FIT).

Intestinal flora in capsules

A therapy that only emerged in recent years aims to prevent and heal intestinal disorders associated with the bacterial ecosystem. The therapy consists in extracting the microbiome from the stool of a healthy donor and then transplanting it into the patient’s intestines using a colonoscopy or endoscopy. This approach could help treat type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, for example.

“Fecal microbiota transplantation has been done successfully on many patients, but the administration of this therapy needs to be simplified,” said Sulser, who carries out her research at the University of Lausanne. Her start-up, BioMe, seeks to do just that by developing pathogen-free intestinal microbiome extracts that are compatible with the patient’s natural intestinal flora and freely available. Administration could take the form of capsules or suppositories. “We offer microbiome preparations that can contain several hundred species of organisms, without the need for lab cultures," said Sulser. “This is because only a small fraction of the microbiome can be lab-grown.”

The Isabelle Musy Award was created, almost by chance, by the woman it was named after. Surprised at the small number of women presenting projects at start-up events, Musy stopped students in the metro and asked them for names of people who could help her with her idea. After several phone calls and meetings, the award was created. It is organized by EPFL and handed out once every two years to an up-and-coming female entrepreneur working in a high-tech field in French-speaking Switzerland. It was first granted in 2014.

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© 2016 Alain Herzog
© 2016 Alain Herzog

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