Ideas for medical and health innovation win prizes

28 May 2013

Novel ideas for medical and health innovations were among the winning entries in this year’s University of Auckland Spark Ideas Challenge.

Interest in the challenge was strong this year with a record 365 entries for the 32 prizes.

Entrants had 1000 words to come up with an original product or service for a commercial or social venture and explain what it would do and how it would be marketed.  Each entrepreneurial idea was eligible for a share of more than $30,000 in prizes.

Each team entry could also get valuable feedback from some of New Zealand’s top entrepreneurs and industry professionals and could develop the idea further to enter it in the Spark $100k Challenge.

Winning team entries in the Medical and Medical Devices section were;

  • PachyMatrix (Chiasma Prize) hopes to offer a treatment that modifies the behaviour of keratoconus, an eye disease in which thinning and weakening of the cornea results in loss of vision. The treatment, which stops progression of the condition and potentially improves vision, could help improve the lives of those affected and reduce the economic cost accompanying treatment.
  • Aesthetic & Reliable Dental Crowns (Commercial Prize) has developed a strong, tough and aesthetic glass ceramic for dental restorative applications. Because of its exceptional mechanical properties, the material can also be used in posterior dental bridges, and is significantly affordable because of its common glass-making techniques used. It will revolutionise current dental restorative materials that can easily be chipped away during daily service.
  • InfinityTek (Computer Science Prize) will help people manage their sun exposure by offering personal UV sensors that talk wirelessly to a smartphone to monitor the user’s exposure to UV and provide alerts when they are in danger of getting sunburnt.
  • DTTAce (Social Prize) is a multi-touch software application to help certified behaviour analysts and parents conduct and monitor Discrete Trial Training (DTT) sessions with children on the autism spectrum more easily and accurately.
  • Bactisafe (UniServices Prize) proposes to develop a novel portable optical device to enable fast, sensitive and accurate monitoring of microorganisms in solution. Bacterial counts are an important daily concern for many industrial sectors (such as pharmaceutical, food & beverage), yet standard methods are slow and of limited accuracy. The cutting edge optical probe, packaged into a prototype ready for commercialisation, will overcome these limitations and satisfy the needs of health regulatory agencies in NZ and worldwide for robust bacterial enumeration in real time.
  • DNA Sensors (UniServices Prize) capitalises on a recently developed first-of-its-kind tentacle DNA sensor bound to a fluorescent polymer-coated magnetic nanoparticle, which opens up only in the presence of target DNA. Potential applications of this device include in-vitro genetic studies, medical diagnostics, forensics and monitoring of food contaminants.
  • LearnEmotion (UniServices Prize) has developed a novel digital application based on an ‘emotional engine’ technology that has been used in movies such as Avatar to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The application establishes a strong connection with the child, assisting them to recognise the expression of emotion in others and training them to express emotion, assisting not only the child but its wider family group to better manage relationships.

Winning entries in the Health section were;

  • Avatar anonymous (Social Prize) aims to explore an innovative solution to health risk behaviours by creating a virtual reality environment for effective group-based behaviour change. The ultimate goal is to create an optimal and universally applicable virtual environment that can help to combat cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes in an anonymous.
  • My Mood Diary (Social Prize) is an innovative smartphone application that aims to promote mental health and reduce depression among adolescents and young adults by offering a multifunctional tool that integrates knowledge of modern psychiatry and psychology into a fun and user-friendly app.
  • Composeable App Store (UniServices Prize) will offer Tele-health, a library or store ‘composeable’ mobile services or applications for health facilities at a distance…and the novelty of this project lies in mobile services which could be combined like LEGO blocks to create new services on-the-fly and enable a shared care environment by providing a patient’s record as a mobile service to his/her doctor, care-givers and the family members.

As well as the annual main prizes of 10 x $1,000 cash prizes awarded for commercial ideas and 10 x $1,000 cash prizes for social venture ideas, there are also special prizes awarded by faculties, and the five UniServices research prizes.

The annual UniServices Research prizes introduced in 2011, are to encourage and stimulate the commercialisation of University of Auckland research and technology especially in the form of spin-outs from research projects.

These are 5x $1,000 cash prizes available for researchers at The University of Auckland who enter, into the Ideas Challenge, an idea that is based on the commercial application of their own research or research from their laboratory or department.

Spark has become a vehicle for university staff and students to build the business case for their own research to facilitate its commercialisation and attract further funding. It also serves to educate non-business people on the basics of building a new business.

To be eligible for this prize the team must include a current Masters, PhD, Post Doc or Staff member from The University of Auckland and the research that they enter with must be their own, or from their own laboratory or department at The University of Auckland.

Spark CEO William Locke said the 40 per cent increase in entries for the ideas challenge was exciting and reflected the support received from faculties across the University, the continuing development of the Spark programme and the effort put in by the Spark organising committee.

Entries for the flagship Spark 100k Challenge close in early August, giving all those who entered the ideas challenge an opportunity to further develop their ideas.

Venture PachyMatrix team members