The Weaker Sex?

Portraits of successful women in science

Hemex is particularly inspired by the hard-working women who push boundaries to create innovative healthcare solutions. Dedicated and powerful female leaders enrich the diversity of our Swiss start-up portfolio. Today, we would like to introduce five remarkable female role models to you.

Becoming a successful entrepreneur / leader is not easy, especially for women. Two common challenges female leaders face in the academic and scientific world are sometimes referred to as the “glass ceiling” (the invisible barrier that keeps women from rising) and the “leaky pipeline” phenomenon (the way that women disappear from some career pathways).

The process of building a new company from scratch is challenging, yet incredibly rewarding when dreams materialize, and new discoveries improve the lives of people around the world. Research shows that companies that embrace team gender diversity are stronger and more efficient at tackling external and internal challenges. Therefore, we have decided to dedicate this post to our fast-growing list of impressive female leaders in our portfolio companies.

 

Iselin Frøybu

Iselin is Co-founder and COO at EMOVO CARE. She is a hardware engineer who studied Mechanical Engineering at Penn State University and has a Master’s degree from EPFL. Iselin turned into a business developer with a passion for developing meaningful technologies. She says that the question is no longer whether we can make something, but rather whether we should. She also likes to fight stereotypes and entropy. Iselin is an inspiring woman, who has played a crucial role in the company’s success. Her work never ceases to amaze us. With Emovo Care, Iselin is on a mission to significantly improve quality of life for stroke survivors.

 

Özge Karakas

Özge is Co-Founder and COO at Hi-D IMAGING. She is an experienced scientist, entrepreneur, and a postdoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich. Özge has over 10 years of experience in thermodynamics and fluid dynamic models. On top of this, she has completed a minor degree in Computer Science and Engineering. Özge has been instrumental in the company’s creation, writing the business plan and managing company finances.

 


Ronja Bruhn

Ronja is CEO and Co-Founder of STIMIT. She is a medical engineer with an MBA in Innovation & Entrepreneurship. With 12 years of experience in R&D industry projects and an EMEA product launch, Ronja has impressive experience when it comes to bringing healthcare products to market. Her hard work has demonstrated that STIMIT provides added clinical benefits to patients. With STIMIT, Ronja works on a noninvasive solution for patients lacking natural breathing function. STIMIT’s vision is to empower sedated ICU patients to breathe, creating natural breath instead of pumping air into the lungs.

 

Danuta Cichocka

Danuta is the CEO and Co-Founder of RESISTELL. She is a microbiologist passionately driven by life science, innovation, and self-development. She finished her PhD at the UFZ Leipzig, completed the Executive MBA program at EPFL, and obtained a CAS in Management of Biotech, Medtech & Pharma Ventures. Her key strength is being able to bridge the gap between research and business. Her ability to translate a complex problem into manageable challenges is admirable. Being able to not only see the big picture but knowing how to communicate it is a valuable strength that we truly appreciate at Hemex. With Resistell, Danuta works on the world’s fastest antibiogram to save lives by finding the right antibiotic in time and combat antibiotic resistance.

 

Marija Plodinec

Marija is CEO and Co-Founder of ARTIDIS. She believes in the potential of their technology to transform a cancer patient’s journey (and so do we at HEMEX). Marija studied physics at the University of Zagreb and completed her doctorate from the Maurice Müller Institute at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. She is also a member of several international organizations and a Senior Principal Scientist at the University Hospital Basel. She is an energic source of inspiration in the field of physical sciences in oncology. At Artidis, Marija is dedicated to developing a rapid diagnostic technique to detect cancer.

 

Still think women are the “Weaker Sex”? Think again and embrace diversity – as we do here at Hemex!

Interview with Scailyte’s CEO Peter Nestorov

In an interview on the platform for high-tech startups Venturelab, Peter confirms something that we were already starting to presume in Hemex; Scailyte is developing rapidly. “However, the learning curve has been and still is extremely steep – as the start-up develops rapidly, so do I, and that is really exciting”.

As a founder and CEO, Peter faces a lot of challenges in his daily activities, but he always had the interest to be involved in multiple initiatives. “I managed a student NGO during my studies and organized numerous international meetings, so I had some basis when I decided to become the CEO of a startup”. It is exactly this transition to become the CEO of a company like Scailyte that has given Peter the skills to succeed as an entrepreneur.

The path of an entrepreneur is sometimes harsh. Peter states that surrounding yourself with a smart and experienced team is necessary. “What helps me a lot is the support and coaching I receive from more experienced entrepreneurs and experts from various industries”.

We at Hemex are thrilled to work with vibrant start-ups like Scailyte. Our slogan “Your Ideas. Our Expertise. One Goal.” reflects that we support the start-ups to achieve a common goal, to efficiently combine the smart ideas of entrepreneurs like Peter Nestorov, with our bench-to-market expertise in order to improve patients’ lives.

You can find the full interview here.

Scailyte is a data-driven biomarker discovery company, that detects complex disease patterns from single-cell data at the onset of disease. Only a small fraction of cells is abnormal, and the changes of the molecular profile are subtle. Scailyte’s technology provides unprecedented insights into diseases by uncovering hidden “single-cell” secrets. With an AI-driven approach, Scailyte is unlocking the potential of single-cell data for early diagnostics. Scailyte is ranked among the Top100 Swiss Startups since 2019 and has won the MassChallenge Switzerland in 2018.

Hemex is a privately-owned Swiss investment and consulting company headquartered close to the Basel global life sciences hub, with its focus to bring innovative drugs, medical devices, and in vitro diagnostics to the market. HEMEX specializes in supporting early-stage start-ups, offering tailored solutions to accelerate the project into a successful and sustainable business. Additionally, HEMEX helps start-ups in their efforts to find non-dilutive and dilutive funding.

At Hemex we are proud to have recognized Scailyte’s potential and to be part of their successful journey.

Scailyte is finalist for Nature Research Spinoff Prize!

Congratulations to our portfolio company Scailyte for being selected among the 12 finalists for the Nature Research Spinoff Prize.

The Spinoff Prize is a new Nature Research Award for early-stage university spinoff companies from around the world. The Award has been established by Nature Research in partnership with Merck to showcase and celebrate global excellence in the commercialization of research through the creation of spinoff companies. The Spinoff Prize aims to encourage and provide visibility to academic entrepreneurs and their startups. The judging panel looks for spinoffs that translate original, high-quality scientific research into products and services that address market problems and are well positioned to make a positive impact on society. The focus of this year’s award involves four categories: pharmaceuticals, agriculture, chemicals, and digital technologies. We are particularly proud that Scailyte has reached the finals of this fantastic showcase!

Scailyte is a data-driven biomarker discovery company, that detects complex disease patterns from single-cell data at the onset of disease. Only a small fraction of cells is abnormal, and the changes of the molecular profile are subtle. Scailyte’s technology provides unprecedented insights into diseases by uncovering hidden “single-cell” secrets. With an AI-driven approach, Scailyte is unlocking the potential of single-cell data for early diagnostics. Scailyte is ranked among the Top100 Swiss Startups since 2019 and has won the MassChallenge Switzerland in 2018.

Hemex is a privately-owned swiss investment and consulting company headquartered close to the Basel global life sciences hub, with its focus to bring innovative drugs, medical devices, and in vitro diagnostics to the market. HEMEX specializes in supporting early-stage start-ups, offering tailored solutions to accelerate the project into a successful and sustainable business. Additionally, HEMEX helps start-ups in their efforts to find non-dilutive and dilutive funding.

At Hemex we are proud to have recognized Scailyte’s potential and to be part of their successful journey.

How Animal Health Innovation Enabled a Rapid and Reliable SARS-CoV-2 Diagnostic Test Kit

In the battle of fighting against COVID-19, a rapid test is crucial to understand the spread of the pandemic.

The Swiss start-up LiVET that originally developed diagnostic tests for respiratory diseases in horses has accelerated their platforms to detect COVID-19 in human samples, establishing a newly incorporated company ender diagnostics ag. Undeniably, ender is a fascinating example of how health developments can be transferred from animal health technology into human health. ender’s isothermal technology utilizes a single temperature for all the steps providing a dramatic decrease of detection time when comparing to the gold standard polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR). In addition, its 30-minute turnover platform can support a relatively small sample size, no need for waiting for a large sample size in a batch. Thus, it is flexible and efficient to operate in laboratories.

Besides the currently sold CE-marked detection kit ender LAB, the company is developing its new outstanding platforms, ender MAS and ender MOBILE, which provide much simplified steps for the sample handling and for point-of-care purpose.

As of 25 June, the cost of all coronavirus tests, including coronavirus and antibody tests, will be covered by the Swiss federal government, implying that people would be more willing to get themselves tested (source: The Federal Council). The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has encouraged people to participate in prevention efforts by installing the SwissCovid app, a proximity tracing system to help in contact tracing and informing people who have spent a certain time with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

Hand holding mobile with geoHealthApp for COVID-19 tracking

A similar app has been already launched in Switzerland in April by GeoHealthApp, a german start-up supported by HEMEX.

In an estimated 8,000 tests per day carried out in Switzerland, the need for tests is still increasing (source: thelocal.ch). A prediction model of Prof. Dirk Mohr at ETH Zurich suggests that the second pandemic wave would develop more slowly but potentially more deadly (source: Swissinfo). The good news is that it would not overload the Swiss healthcare capacity and we could better prepare in testing and tracing the population. There is no doubt that start-ups such as ender diagnostics play a pivotal role in this battle of COVID-19.

In summary, with the increased availability of advanced testing kits and tracing apps, we can now better monitor the current pandemic status in Switzerland and respond rapidly in order to prevent catastrophic local outbreaks.

HEMEX supports LiVET, ender diagnostics, and GeoHealthApp with clinical, regulatory and market access services.

For more information, see Swissinfo.ch.

ARTIDIS Meets Primary Endpoints in First Prospective Study

Our portfolio company ARTIDIS announces today promising data from their first prospective study conducted at the Breast Center in Basel, Switzerland. The spin-off from the Biozentrum at the University of Basel has succesfully developed the first nanomechanical biomarker for cancer diagnosis and treatment optimization. 

 

ARTIDIS AG CLINICAL STUDY PRESS RELEASE_ULTIMATE_FINAL_fixed_mgmt_Dr Burian alone

 

HEMEX AG is a privately-owned Swiss investment and consulting company headquartered close to the Basel global life sciences hub, with its main focus to bring innovative drugs, medical devices and in vitro diagnostics to the market. HEMEX specializes in supporting early-stage start-ups, offering tailored solutions to accelerate the project into a successful and sustainable business. Additionally, HEMEX helps start-ups in their efforts to find non-dilutive and dilutive funding. More at https://hemex.eu/

Why Testing for Antibodies after COVID-19 Infection

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) received the first case report about pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China1. Despite draconian containment measures such as lockdown and air travel bans in many countries, as of 4 June 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 6.6 million infections worldwide and the death toll has reached more than 380,000 globally. The numbers are still rising in countries such as Brasil, USA and Russia, and several countries like Bulgaria are seeing signs of the emergence of a 2nd wave.

Researchers around the globe have been investigating the virus that caused the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2. Analysis on the genomic data suggests that there are several strains of the virus: Type B virus is mainly found in East Asia, while type A and C are predominantly found in America and Europe, respectively2. Notably, the SARS-CoV-2 virus exhibits significantly higher binding affinity to the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, compared to the SARS-CoV virus which caused the SARS epidemic outbreak in 20023,4. This may explain why the SARS-CoV-2 virus is much more contagious. However, it is still unknown how such difference contributes to the outbreak of different strains in certain parts of the world.

To fight against the pandemic, companies have been developing virus detection kits, which can be roughly categorized into two groups: the first type of tests uses polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) technology to directly detect virus genome from clinical samples such as nasal swabs. This group includes ID NOW COVID-19 assay, cobas SARS-CoV-2 test, and also a reliable CE-marked rapid COVID-19 test from Ender Diagnostics5, a newly incorporated Swiss diagnostics company. The other group is the serological assay for COVID-19 antibodies in bloodstream, indicating whether an individual developed possible immunity to the virus.  

In spite of the round-the-clock effort, effective vaccines and antiviral drugs still would take months, if not years, to be developed. So far, the most practical and effective ways to combat COVID-19 are washing hands, maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask (when social distancing is not feasible), and strengthening our health systems.

Most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

1. What is the ratio of asymptomatic patients?

Recent research suggests a significant amount (25% to 80%) of COVID-19 infected patients are mild and asymptomatic6. These patients may even not be aware that they were infected. Thus, large scale antibody testing is crucial to inform about the actual infection rates.

2. Am I protected from the COVID-19 if I already have the antibody?

The antibody test is useful in determining whether you have contracted the virus in the past. It seems likely that contracting the virus can result in immunity as seen with other viruses. Nevertheless, it remains unknown how long the protective antibody lasts with this particular coronavirus. Currently, there is no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected from a second infection. In addition, patients who have not fully recovered could still be contagious, hence spreading the virus to people that they interact closely with, such as their families. 

3. Why do some children develop severe symptoms?

COVID-19-associated cases in children show multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) which features are similar to Kawasaki disease. Unfortunately, it is not known what causes MIS-C and how it affects children. There is no vigorous evidence showing how MIS-C affects children who have underlying conditions. Children with MIS-C may develop a rash, stomach/muscle pain, fever (less common in children), bloodshot eyes, exhaustion, diarrhea, or vomiting. If a child shows any of these signs and symptoms, one should seek emergency care immediately. In a report7, about 23% of COVID-19-confirmed children have underlying conditions, such as chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and immunosuppression. By 10 June 2020, children (under 20) account for about 3.5% of total COVID-19 cases in Switzerland8. In general, children with COVID-19 do not have severe symptoms. Nonetheless, parents should keep monitoring their children if they show the symptoms mentioned above. The best way to fight against COVID-19 is still to prevent contracting the disease, by washing hands and maintaining social distancing.

4. Is Remdesivir effective in the treatment of COVID-19?

There are no specific drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19 patients. Gilead, a company producing the antiviral drug Remdesivir, is conducting two phase-3 clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the drug in patients with severe and moderate symptoms, respectively.9 One of their recent reports10 suggests that patients who are treated with Remdesivir showed significantly shortened time to recovery, about 11 days on average, comparing to 15 days in the placebo group. The primary conclusion from this study is that Remdesivir is superior to placebo in treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, shedding a light on its potential to expand the number of severe cases who could benefit from it. Similar results have been reported in another clinical trial in US.

5. Is there a vaccine for the coronavirus disease? How long does it take to develop a vaccine?

Currently there is no vaccine available for SARS-CoV-2. Typically, vaccine development can take several years. With current technology using egg- and cell-based platforms and working together with regulators, it can take five to six months to become available in the best scenario of H1N1 influenza-vaccine11. Currently, multiple platforms and technologies are under development for SARS-CoV-212, targeting the S-protein of the virus or the whole virion. However, the current novel pipeline and technologies for SARS-CoV-2 have not been thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy. The SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is under its way, calling for more patience.

References:

1. https://www.who.int/csr/don/05-january-2020-pneumonia-of-unkown-cause-china/en/
2. Forster et al., 2020. PNAS. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2004999117
3. Ou et al., 2020. bioRxiv. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.15.991844v4
4. Tai et al., 2020. Cellular & Molecular Immunology https://www.nature.com/articles/s41423-020-0400-4
5. https://enderdiagnostics.com/
6. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/50-percent-of-people-with-covid19-not-aware-have-virus
7. CDC COVID-19 Response Team: Stephanie Bialek et al., 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32271728/
8. https://covid-19-schweiz.bagapps.ch/fr-1.html
9. https://www.gilead.com/purpose/advancing-global-health/covid-19/remdesivir-clinical-trials
10. Beigel et al., 2020. The New England Journal of Medicine.https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2007764
11. https://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/notes/h1n1_vaccine_20090806/en/
12. Fatima Amanat and Florian Krammer, 2020. Cell. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32259480/

HEMEX supports the ender diagnostics team with clinical, regulatory and marketing services. HEMEX’s regulatory experts will support with the CE-certification of the test as an in vitro diagnostic medical device under the European In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation (IVDR). 

More Info: Dr. Xiao Yu

Swiss TPH Receives Grant from BRCCH To Combat COVID-19 with Support of the M4IVD Association

Swiss TPH in Basel submitted one of eleven projects that will receive funding from the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH) and Fondation Botnar. This Fast Track Call for Acute Global Health Challenges (FTC) is a new initiative that supports research in three areas to respond to the global COVID-19 crisis.

Swiss TPH (Tropical and Public Health Insitute) is a world-leading institute in global health focusing on infectious and non-communicable diseases, environment, health systems and interventions.

HEMEX, a founding member of the M4IVD association, is proud to have contributed to this success, together with other M4IVD members University of Basel, ETH Zurich, CSEM (Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique), FHNW (Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz), BioInitials AG and Effectum Medical AG.

BRCCH_Press Release_May 2020_Successful FTC_CONFIDENTIAL DRAFT

Scailyte announces its new advisory board composed of world leading clinicians and scientists

Hand showing brain render

Scailyte™ is an ETH Zürich Spin-off and Top100 Swiss Startup applying artificial intelligence to discover novel and ultra-sensitive biomarkers from single-cell data.Over the past 3 years, we have established ScaiVision™, a proprietary data analytics platform for clinical research, which enables us to achieve groundbreaking discoveries in multiple disease areas. We have validated our approach by discovering our first single-cell biomarker for the detection of skin T-cell lymphoma, which we are currently translating into an in vitro diagnostics application that will radically improve the diagnosis and survival chances for thousands of patients suffering from this disease. We are scaling up our efforts by applying our biomarker discovery approach for multiple indications in oncology and women’s health. In order to strengthen Scailyte’s discovery potential and provide strategic guidance, we have appointed a scientific advisory board consisting of world leading clinicians and scientists. The scientific advisory board is being led by Scailyte’s co-founder, Professor Dr. Manfred Claasen.

“Scailyte’s mission is to provide better healthcare and transform diagnostics, with particular focus on diseases with high unmet diagnostic need. With the rise of novel single-cell technologies, we are now in the unique position to leverage the potential of high dimensional single-cell data and Scailyte is at the forefront of turning this potential into clinical applications.” says Prof. Claassen.

Prof. Dr. Manfred Claassen has been recently appointed as full professor in Clinical Bioinformatics at the University Hospital of Tübingen with focus on machine learning for single-cell biology and precision medicine. Prof. Claassen is an alumnus of University of Tubingen and obtained his PhD from ETH Zürich. He did postdoctoral studies at Stanford University, where he pioneered research in single-cell data analysis and subsequently started his independent research group at ETH Zurich. This activity resulted in the key developments of an algorithm that paved the way for Scailyte’s innovative implementation of deep learning approaches for cell identity biomarker discovery.

Prof. Dr. Emmanuella Guenova is a dermatologist, specialist in cutaneous lymphoma and laboratory diagnostics of skin diseases, and appointed professor at the Faculty of Biology and Medicine of the University of Lausanne. She is a senior physician-scientist, leading the specialized cutaneous lymphoma clinic at the Department of Dermatology of the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). Prof. Guenova is supporting Scailyte as a clinical advisor and principal investigator in our clinical development program for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Prof. Dr. Michael Mueller is a renowned gynaecologist and gynecological oncologist and managing director of the Women’s Health Clinic at the University Hospital of Bern (Inselspital). Prof. Mueller is supporting Scailyte as a clinical advisor and expert in endometriosis and women’s health.

Prof. Dr. Tomas Kalina is a physician and a cytometry expert currently leading a research group focused on disorders of adaptive immunity at the Charles University in Prague. Professor Kalina is supporting Scailyte as a clinical diagnostic advisor with his expertise in cytometry standardization.

Prof. Dr. Petter Brodin is a pioneer in single-cell analysis and, advising Scailyte in immunology and the application of single-cell technologies for clinical research. Prof. Brodin is based at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and heads a research group that focuses on systems level analyses of the human immune system. Prof. Brodin is a consultant pediatrician working at the Karolinska University Hospital

Dr. Michael Stadler received training in immunology and bioinformatics from the Universities of Lausanne and Geneva. He is a scientific advisor supporting Scailyte’s with the development of our data analytics platform. After postdoctoral studies in Bern and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he joined the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) Basel, where he is a staff scientist and leads the computational biology group.

ABOUT SCAILYTE: Scailyte AG is a data-driven biomarker discovery company, founded in Luzern, Switzerland in 2017. The ETH Spin-off is using cutting edge technologies within the single-cell space and a proprietary biomarker discovery platform to develop clinical diagnostic applications in oncology and women’s health. Scailyte is ranked among the Top100 Swiss Startups since 2019 and has won the MassChallenge Switzerland in 2018.

ABOUT HEMEX: Hemex AG is a privately-owned swiss investment and consulting company headquartered close to the Basel global life sciences hub, with its main focus to bring innovative drugs, medical devices and in vitro diagnostics to the market. HEMEX specializes in supporting early-stage start-ups, offering tailored solutions to accelerate the project into a successful and sustainable business. Additionally, HEMEX helps start-ups in their efforts to find non-dilutive and dilutive funding.