Two startups from Latvia have been announced among finalists in the prestigious European start-up competition InnoStars Awards 2019 organized by EIT Health, one of the biggest European public-private partnership in the field of healthcare innovation.
Overall in the third year of the InnoStars Awards, the winners were chosen from 116 high-quality contestants coming from 13 countries participating in the EIT Regional Innovation Scheme Programme (RIS). Selected by a panel of experts, the winning start-ups include five from Portugal, two from Poland, two from Hungary, two from Latvia, one from the Czech Republic, one from Lithuania, one from Italy and one from Romania. As the winners of this year, 15 start-ups from Central, Eastern and Southern European countries that are still developing in terms of healthcare innovation will be given €25 000 in funding, as well as training and individual mentoring support for four months and the opportunity to participate in two bootcamps in Europe.
This year Latvian participants won a prestigious InnoStars Award in healthcare innovation by presenting two unique start-ups. Mhydrogel which is chemical start-up offers therapeutic contact lenses to save eyesight after a chemical eye injury. “This program has brought us three benefits. The first to emphasize is the opportunity to attend workshops in Europe and improve knowledge with 14 other healthcare start-ups. Secondly, access to internationally renowned mentors through the EIT Health Mentorship and Coaching Network and the third benefit is financial resources for business development,” says Kristaps Krafte, CEO of startup company Vigo.
Other just as significant is Vigo, startup which develops a prescription rehabilitation guide that uses artificial intelligence to help people recover faster and more efficiently from a stroke by providing therapeutic guidance, practical assistance, and tools based on cognitive behavioral therapy, in a smartphone interface. “The grant from EIT Health Innostars Award gave us the opportunity to launch things off the ground for our therapeutic contact lenses development. This is the first money for the company, which enabled us to apply for the international patent. Besides that, our mentor from EIT Health investors network introduced us to the leading ophthalmologist and secured his assistance in organizing and management of the first-in-human trials – somewhat we even did not realize could be achieved so fast. Even communication with fellow Innostars Award nominees was very helpful. We got to know about the state-of-the-art ocular in vitro diagnostic models, which will be useful for further lenses development. And of course, it is always exciting and emotional to be among like-minded people disrupting healthcare with their passion, energy, and persistence,” says Anastasija Drebot, Co-Founder & CEO of MedHydrogel.
EIT Health InnoStars will also organize three validation interviews with potential customers, investors, and partners for the award winners. After the four month-program, ten finalists will be selected to participate in the InnoStars Awards final pitch in November, to compete for the three top prizes: an additional €25 000, €15 000 or €10 000 in funding.