M2D2 $200K Challenge names pitch contest winners
Cambridge biotech startup awarded top prize in quest for funding, in-kind support
LOWELL, Mass. – A biotech startup that aims to transform how intravenous medications are administered to patients is the top winner in the 2021 Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) $200K Challenge.
Now in its 10th year, the annual pitch contest drives innovations in health care by showcasing the pioneering work of early-stage medical device, diagnostic and biotech companies. Entrepreneurs competing in the contest present their novel products and technologies before expert judges, venture capitalists, clinicians, researchers, government and industry leaders and the public to win a share of $200,000 in sponsored services and seed money to advance their inventions.
The contest is the largest event of several programs and services for medical-device and biotech startups offered by the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2), a joint venture of UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School in Worcester. The center assists entrepreneurs with all aspects of moving new products and technologies from the drawing board to the marketplace.
This year’s grand prize winner is Acoustica Bio, a Cambridge-based company that has developed a means to reformulate intravenous medications so they can be administered via an injection under the skin. The startup will receive $50,000 in seed funding to advance the invention from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), the event’s top sponsor and founding sponsor of M2D2, along with $27,000 of in-kind services from M2D2 and Amgen, another event sponsor.
“One cannot tell the story of how successful Massachusetts has been as the global hub for the life sciences without telling the story of M2D2, the UMass Lowell campus and the broader Merrimack Valley cluster,” said MLSC President and CEO Kenn Turner. “We’re grateful to continue our support and partnership with M2D2 and the $200K Challenge. I applaud this year’s winners and all those who participated in shining a bright spotlight on Massachusetts, on the life sciences and on their potential to improve health outcomes.”
For the first time in the competition’s history, M2D2 announced it would award $25,000 in funding to help advance the innovation of one of the competition’s finalists. The recipient of that prize was BioSens8, which is developing an at-home fertility test.
Entrepreneurs from around the world entered the competition, vying for the chance to present their innovations in the contest’s finals, which were held virtually on March 24. The winners were announced during an online event hosted by Mintz in Boston on Wednesday, April 7.
“M2D2 is proud to help grow the medical device and biotech ecosystem through the $200K Challenge and the center’s many programs and services for startups in these sectors. Once again, this year’s contest featured remarkable innovations that are poised to energize the market and transform the landscape of health care,” said Steven Tello, UMass Lowell’s vice provost of graduate, online and professional studies. A founder and director of M2D2, Tello is a key leader of UMass Lowell’s many entrepreneurship initiatives, which assist students and startups around the world.
Along with Acoustica Bio and BioSens8, nine other finalists were awarded a share of $200,000 in in-kind support, including use of M2D2’s research facilities, lab and meeting space, access to engineering and product development assistance, and legal, regulatory, clinical and business services from the competition’s sponsors.
“Medical-device and biotech startups assisted by M2D2 benefit from the partnership between UMass Medical School and UMass Lowell, through the co-location of labs in Worcester and Lowell and our world-class faculty and researchers who share their expertise to advance companies’ innovations,” said M2D2 Co-director Dr. Nathaniel Hafer, director of operations in the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science at UMass Medical School, where he is an assistant professor of molecular medicine.
Other top winners include:
- Weill Cornell, which will receive $29,000 in in-kind services from Hologic and Asahi-Intecc in support of the company’s new 3D MRI technology;
- SaluTech Limited, which will receive $25,000 in in-kind services from M2D2 and Boston Scientific to advance a new method to treat atrial fibrillation;
- General Prognostics, which will receive $25,000 in in-kind services from M2D2, Argenta Advisors and Johnson & Johnson in support of a remote technology to monitor blood biomarkers.
Winners that will receive in-kind support from the companies that sponsored their prize include:
- Aidar Health, which will receive $20,000 in in-kind services from MPR and Mintz toward the development of its non-invasive, hand-held, home monitoring device;
- Kalia Health, which will receive $17,500 in in-kind services from Kohler and Argenta Advisors for a new test to detect preeclampsia;
- D&P Bioinnovations, which will receive $5,000 in in-kind services from Argenta Advisors toward the development of a new organ regeneration platform;
- Breegi Scientific, which has invented a portable biocontainment head chamber; Theromics Inc., which has created a new substance for the ablation of soft tissue; and Tremedics Medical Devices, which has developed a new type of stent, will each receive $5,000 in in-kind support from Mintz.
Other sponsors of the competition include the Deshpande Foundation, Healthcare Technology Innovation Centre, RQMIS, Sarepta Therapeutics and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (DRIVe).
“M2D2 is grateful for the support of these medical-device and biotech leaders who foster the next generation of innovators as we work to solve some of society’s toughest health challenges,” said M2D2 Director of Operations Mary Ann Picard.
M2D2 operates lab-based incubators in Lowell and Worcester and offers networking opportunities and other programs for startups. Since the center was founded in 2007, M2D2 has vetted more than 250 medical-device and biotech ventures for inclusion in its programs and provided support to more than 100 startups. In total, M2D2 resident companies have secured more than $150 million in external funding for their innovations.
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M2D2, the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, is a joint initiative of the Lowell and Worcester campuses of the UMass system. Its aim is to help new biotech and medical device entrepreneurs develop products every step of the way, from proof-of-concept to commercialization. Affiliated faculty and staff have assisted more than 100 start-up companies and entrepreneurs since the program kicked off in the spring of 2007.