Seven life sciences startups are hoping to grow with the help of some Pittsburgh expertise.
This week, Pittsburgh life sciences resource hub LifeX Labs announced its fourth cohort of startups since launching its accelerator in 2020.
The three month-long accelerator is open to any early-stage company or idea in the realm of life sciences and healthcare, and doesn’t take any equity or other financial stake in the companies that participate. It offers specialized content shared in both group and individual sessions for the cohort, hands-on support from mentors through LifeX, and access to experts and advisors through the organization’s network.
“[The accelerator] is very open to entrepreneurs and companies that can benefit from it, no strings attached,” said Kelly Collier, leader of the LifeX accelerator. “And in that way, it is designed to be more of an economic development type of program to really help a lot of companies that are starting in this region reach a certain milestone of success.”
The accelerator is one of many recent efforts aimed at growing commercial opportunities for the life sciences in Pittsburgh. While several participating companies have previously participated in university accelerators or similar programs before coming to LifeX, Collier said LifeX takes the basic principles founders may have learned elsewhere and tailors them to the life sciences industry.
Though the accelerator itself doesn't take equity, the hope is that it will set companies up for investment and further support from LifeX in the future.
“We’re talking a lot more about regulatory challenges and fundraising challenges when you’re many years and many clinical milestones away from bringing the product to market,” she said. Financial support for much of the LifeX program comes from the Economic Development Administration within the US Department of Commerce. Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse also provides some resources to the teams during the accelerator along with additional cash and service prizes that are available for accelerator teams to win at the end of the program.
The accelerator is open to all companies or business ideas related to life sciences or healthcare, but Collier said that the companies within this cohort in particular have more of a focus on digital health. But that’s not surprising given the overlap of technical prowess at universities like the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University with the medical needs of local hospital systems.
Though the accelerator itself doesn’t take equity, the hope is that it will set companies up for investment and further support from LifeX in the future. One such example is the commercialization program — “a very customized consultative program,” Collier said. That latter program aims to provide startups with the operational and executive mentorship needed to grow a company in the life sciences, something that other local leaders have pointed out is lacking in Pittsburgh.
Outside of these efforts, LifeX is continuously looking to grow its community and resource base, Collier said. One thing she wants more people to know is that LifeX is for everyone, not just medical experts from a couple of local universities.
“Our perspective is just being very open to opportunities to connect not only the different organizations and institutions within the region, but even outside,” she said. “And how do we kind of use that perspective to further foster the ecosystem here.”
As far as other programs, investments, events, collaborations and more planned from LifeX for the rest of the year? Collier said, “stay tuned.”
Here are the seven startups in the latest cohort for the accelerator, along with descriptions of each provided by LifeX:
- Aneurysm Prognosis Classifier — The Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Prognosis Classifier uses clinical, biomechanical and morphological data to develop a proprietary machine learning algorithm that reports a risk score to better predict outcomes for patient when compared to the current clinical standard.
- E-Carebetics — E-Carebetics combines a mobile app with a deep learning model and 3D printed ophthalmoscopy to provide a more efficient and economical diagnostic solution for diabetic retinopathy in developing countries. (The company was also a winner at this week’s McGinnis Venture Competition.)
- Illuminate Therapeutics — Illuminate Therapeutics has developed a drug delivery platform that allows one to control the release of therapeutics in the body using light, which offers precision targeting of the location, timing, and dosing of a therapeutic, enabling safer and more efficacious therapies for a wide range of diseases.
- NOMA AI — At NOMA AI, we are building a real-time, automated, and more accurate maternal hemorrhage risk assessment solution that monitors mothers’ clinical data in real-time and uses artificial intelligence to identify high-risk patients as early as possible.
- PharmChain — PharmChain makes pharmaceutical supply chain decision support software to help hospitals reduce their pharmaceutical cost of goods, maximize their pharmaceutical revenue, optimize their pharmaceutical contracts, and mitigate shortages.
- READE.ai — READE.ai is a machine learning notification tool that provides neurophysiologists with a reliable method to diagnose intraoperative stroke, which results in timely interventions during surgery.
- Re-Solution — Re-Solution is developing an automatic, portable, self-cleaning contact case that performs the steps of proper lens care. As a connected device, it also can collect and utilize data around a user’s habits to eliminate common causes of eye irritation and infection.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.