This UMBC-born medical device startup got accepted into Y Combinator

Astek Diagnostics is developing a platform to help doctors treating sepsis. Before getting the attention of the well-known SF accelerator, it previously received funding through TEDCO's Maryland Innovation Initaitive, and won national competitions.

Astek Diagnostics' path has included local and national resources.

(Courtesy photo)

A Baltimore startup is getting support and connections from a prominent Silicon Valley accelerator this summer.

Astek Diagnostics, a spinout of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) was accepted into Y Combinator (YC) for its summer 2021 cohort, announced officials with TEDCO, the Maryland agency that supports early-stage startups, in a news release on Monday.

San Francisco-based Y Combinator operates on a cohort model that concentrates resources around selected startups while helping to refine their funding pitch. It also makes its network available, and features the companies in a demo day with investors; Astek’s pitch will be held on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. The top-line list of alumni for YC list includes many big names in tech of the last decade, such as Stripe, Airbnb, Reddit, Dropbox and Instacart.

Founded in 2020 and led by CEO Mustafa Al-Adhami, Astek’s technology is a diagnostic device, which is a single-use cartridge designed to detect bacterial infection in blood. This could be used by doctors as they are prescribing treatment for sepsis. More about the company, via TEDCO:

Astek, located in Baltimore, is a University of Maryland, Baltimore County spinout that is building a platform (Eugris) that guides physicians in prescribing appropriate antibiotics for patients with bacterial sepsis in one hour. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that affects more than 1 million patients a year in the United States and even more patients around the globe and is one of the leading causes of death. For patients suspected of sepsis or septic shock, rapid initiation of the correct antibiotic therapy is crucial: Every hour of delay increases mortality by 7-8%. A proof-of-concept prototype of the Astek diagnostic platform has been verified using commercial blood and archived clinical samples. The Eugris is projected to launch in the market 2023.

“We’re excited to work with Mustafa as he develops Eugris,” YC’s Surbhi Sarna said in a statement. “Sepsis — which is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals — is an incredibly important problem to tackle and we’re impressed with the progress he’s already made to validate the technology.”


That validation was in part funded via grants through TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII), a program opportunity to work with the national program comes after local resources provided earlier support for the company. Astek received $165,000 grant via MII’s technology assessment phase to derisk the technology, followed by a $150,000 investment through MII’s company formation phase in 2020, according to MII Director Dr. Arti Santhanam.

Al-Adhami also won the national Three Minute Thesis competition, and VentureWell’s BMEidea competition, per YC.

It’s a pattern we’ve often seen for startups that eventually rise to take part in top programs: tap local resources, look nationally to get the message out, and build from there.

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