Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Alimetry – Pioneering health solutions to gastrointestinal diseases
Alimetry is a digital healthcare and diagnostic devices start-up grounded in world-leading science in gastrointestinal diseases. It has established itself as a pioneer in health solutions and was named a finalist in the 2021 NZ Hi-tech Awards. Gastric symptoms are extremely prevalent, affecting around 10% of the global population, and can be painful and debilitating.
The team behind Gastric Alimetry aim to transform the diagnostic pathway for millions of patients worldwide suffering from diseases such as functional dyspepsia, gastroparesis and chronic nausea and vomiting. Alimetry is the culmination of over a decade of award-winning scientific research out of the University of Auckland. Research has been supported by the start-up experience of its founding team, who are serial entrepreneurs. Both CEO Greg O’Grady and Chief Scientific Officer Peng Du gained experience in innovation and entrepreneurship through participating in Velocity. Read more
Global Bio Fund – Supporting entrepreneurs addressing global challenges in healthcare
University of Auckland alumna Ipshita Mandal-Johnson is the CEO of the Global Bio Fund (GBF), an impact fund with a world-leading approach to growing diverse entrepreneurs (especially women-led companies). GBF is building the world’s first seed accelerator fund focused on the best diverse entrepreneurial teams addressing global challenges in healthcare, food security and climate change.
It operates to serve a number of functions – building research and learning experiences through an open network of thought leaders and entrepreneurs, sharing knowledge through consulting and advisory services to raise capital or scale businesses, and directly investing through two vehicles: the Global Bio Xcellerator and the Global Bio Fund. Read more
GreenSpot Technologies – turning food waste into high-nutrition flour
Greenspot Technologies, a start-up that came to life through the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Velocity programme, has created a range of flour made from fermented fruit and vegetable pulp. Greenspot Technologies’ range includes pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, apple, beetroot, orange, carrot and parsnip flours. Their flours are high in protein and fiber and low in sugar and fat. They are made using a sophisticated fermentation process first developed in the research labs of the University of Auckland. Since going through the Velocity programme, Greenspot Technologies has received substantial investment and has made the move to France and have won multiple international awards for innovation.
HeartLab – Using AI to innovate the future of cardiology
HeartLab, a venture founded by University of Auckland Science alumnus Will Hewitt, is building the world’s first end-to-end solution for echocardiography, a medical test that uses sound waves to produce live images of patients’ hearts. Echocardiography is a doctor’s ‘go-to’ scan if they know or suspect that a patient has some form of heart disease.
Given that tests are carried out so frequently, Will saw an opportunity to use AI to enhance the entire workflow. Rather than having cardiologists manually annotate each video scan, HeartLab’s technology highlights the most important milliseconds so they can spend less time sitting at the computer and more time with their patients. In 2020, HeartLab raised $1.1 million in their first round of seed funding in an investment round led by Icehouse Ventures and supported by US-based VC firm Founders Fund. Read more
Junofem – Women’s health start-up developing innovative solution to global problem
A device created by biotech company Junofem is providing a solution to help women address a common health problem with dignity and precision.
Junofem has created the femfitⓇ, a pelvic floor trainer that is a medical device designed by clinicians to meet the needs of women suffering from urinary incontinence. It is different from other gadgets on the market, offering real-time biofeedback which shows users their pelvic floor and abdominal muscle allowing them to learn effective techniques. It is slim and flexible and can be worn comfortably during exercise, and the exercise programme integrated into the app is clinically validated. The femfitⓇ is also a tool for healthcare professionals allowing them to functionally assess how the entire muscle bed is functioning in different positions and they will have access to a clinical portal to allow them to remotely monitor patients and provide individual advice based on their progress.
The femfitⓇ is based on research from the Pelvic Floor Group at the University of Auckland. When it came time to commercialise the idea to make it an accessible solution for the general public, the group approached Jen Barnes to take the role of CEO. Jen is a trained scientist with 15 years of commercial experience and was known to the team from her time working at UniServices, the University of Auckland’s commercialisation company.
Jen was always a scientist but she wasn’t always an entrepreneur. While working at UniServices, Jen took part in the Velocity entrepreneurship competition run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, becoming a finalist for her team’s diagnostics venture SpotCheck. Jen says “The Velocity programme was the first time I reframed the way I looked at myself and considered myself an entrepreneur. I have never considered myself a creative person and I believe entrepreneurs are generally very creative. Velocity helped me realise we all have different sides and strengths and there is no rule about creating a business. You just have a vision backed by sound decisions, and the fortitude to build that vision.” The skills she has gained have helped Jen lead the team at JunoFem to achieve an astonishing array of achievements, delivered at pace. Read more
Maara Fresh – Feeding hearts, minds and stomachs
An innovative business idea developed by Manurewa’s home-grown entrepreneurs will benefit more than 2,000 Manurewa High School students through Ka Ora, Ka Ako, the Government’s healthy school lunches programme, starting in 2021. Maara Fresh is a social enterprise that literally grew out of the Manurewa Community Garden.
Developed with the support of the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) it provides a structure to ensure the financial sustainability of initiatives run out of the gardens. These include growing fresh produce to supply to local families, community kitchens and food banks in Manurewa and an education programme about horticulture for students to ensure sustainability. Read more
Objective Acuity – Breakthrough technology advancing eye care for children
Objective Acuity is creating an accessible and accurate way of detecting vision problems early in life by developing the first objective vision screening test based on visual acuity for children under the age of five. The venture was founded by Dr Ben Thompson, a Professor of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Auckland, Dr Jason Turuwhenua and Dr Mehrdad Sangi at the University of Auckland’s Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI).
Objective Acuity has meaningful potential to help identify vision problems in children as early as possible. Undetected problems can reduce school achievement, harm the development of hand-eye coordination, and lead to a lifelong reduction in vision. Objective Acuity was one of four innovative Kiwi businesses that received a share of $625k from Spark’s 5G Starter Fund, a fund dedicated to businesses that have showcased how 5G could deliver positive outcomes to communities across the country. Read more
OPUM Technologies – The Digital Knee®
OPUM Technologies Limited optimises care pathways for musculoskeletal conditions, delivering remote patient monitoring to patients with knee conditions through their Digital Knee®. Their offering incorporates both product and service, with wearable technology and virtual therapy from clinical staff who support patients through their care journey.
OPUM CEO, inventor and Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering Dr Andrew McDaid says “We manage peoples knee health by collecting previously unattainable real-time data and using AI to glean insights that drive improved decision making by healthcare providers and insurers. This ensures the best care is delivered in a timely and cost-effective manner.” Read more
Orbis Diagnostics – The 15-minute Covid immunity test
Orbis Diagnostics, founded by University of Auckland Faculty of Science professors David Williams and Cather Simpson, is on a mission to re-enable movement during a pandemic by making complex medical testing accessible wherever and whenever it is needed. They have developed an accurate, cost-effective quantitative immunity test for Covid-19 capable of verifying a person’s health status and assess whether vaccines have been effective in as little as 15 minutes. They can process up to 15 samples simultaneously and provide laboratory-grade results at any point of need, such as airports and cruise ship terminals, supporting the safe resumption of international travel.
David also sees potential in other applications for their technology. He says, “It’s a very powerful general method for enabling laboratory instrument-type accuracy of complex measurements of biochemical markers away from the central lab – in local clinics for example. Read more
Pacific Med Tech – Answering Pacific healthcare professionals calls for help
Pacific Med Tech is a social venture that aims to support capacity building in biomedical engineering departments of hospitals in the Pacific. It was established in March 2020 after founders Janette Searle and Larissa Michelsen returned from a trip to the Pacific where they saw talented and dedicated medical professionals struggling to meet patient needs due to broken equipment.
Pacific Med Tech empowers hospital and health clinic staff to be able to fix broken equipment by supplying practical troubleshooting guides and other technical education opportunities. Pacific Med Tech started while Larissa was completing her Master of Engineering Studies, which meant they had the opportunity to enter into the Velocity $100k Challenge, delivered by the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Read more
SpinPoi – Spreading the health benefits of playing with poi
Dr Kate Riegle-Van West is on a mission to spread the health benefits of playing with poi. The researcher and artist completed the world’s first scientific study of poi and wellbeing as a PhD student, winning awards for her ground-breaking research. With the support of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Kate is now taking her venture SpinPoi to the world.
Her poi techniques are being implemented by healthcare professionals as a rehabilitative tool. Her clinical study proved benefits in grip strength, balance, and attention for healthy older adults after just one month of poi practice. A subsequent pilot study conducted at Auckland Hospital’s Rangitoto Ward measured the success of poi with patients primarily recovering from a stroke, falls, and/or other neurological conditions. The feedback from the study was very positive, with the majority of patients reporting they thought poi could be helpful for their recovery. Read more.
Surgical Design Studios – Taking bowel disease technology to the world
Surgical Design Studios (SDS) has developed a range of medical devices that reduce the time it takes until patients can use their guts again following bowel surgery from five months to two weeks. The technology developed is truly revolutionary and has attracted $4.3 million through early-stage capital raising. SDS raised the money through its first angel fundraising round led by Icehouse Ventures fund Tuhua II. The company will use the funds raised to bring its devices to market, with plans to launch in New Zealand later this year, and then overseas once it gains regulatory clearances.
SDS was founded two years ago at the University of Auckland’s Medical School department of surgery. Trials at Auckland City Hospital showed extremely promising results. Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Greg O’Grady is an alumnus of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Velocity programme, and continues to work as an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. Read more
Ūkaipō – Biodegradable Rau Whenua placenta planting packages
There are few moments more precious than when a family brings new life into the world. Business student Te Miringa Parkes’ venture Ūkaipō aims to help families celebrate the occasion through its leak-proof, biodegradable Rau Whenua placenta planting packages. Planting the placenta underneath a tree sapling following birth is a custom in many cultures, including Māori.
The construction of the Rau Whenua basket, of a particular cardboard with an inner membrane that breaks down, means that it is both home-compostable and freezer safe (as planting often happens a few months after birth). The package also contains kowhai or pohutukawa seeds, an information brochure with a guide to the placenta burying process and a Muka pito tie (a natural alternative to plastic umbilical clamps). Te Miringa entered the Velocity $100k Challenge in 2020 and placed second. Read more
Vaxx.nz – Helping Kiwis get their Covid vaccines
Vaxx.nz is a tool created by nine University of Auckland and AUT alumni that helps people locate an available vaccination centre near them quickly and easily, with the aim of helping New Zealand reach its 90% vaccination target as soon as possible. On the website, users simply specify their location and the maximum distance they wish to travel, and they will be shown all of the earliest available vaccination slots that fit their search parameters in a clean, easy to digest format. After selecting their desired slot, users are taken to the official government website to complete their booking.
The team also released a widget that can be compactly integrated into any website such as news outlets and Microsoft Teams. The design was built around visual clarity and ease of use and supports nearly 20 languages. Thinking about the future, the team hopes to be able to apply their technology to other issues faced in New Zealand and around the globe. Read more