Universities around the world present fertile grounds for research and development. Every year, academic efforts result in thousands of new patents and innovations. With these vast intellectual resources, it’s no wonder that university campuses have produced more than 10,000 spin-offs globally.
Many institutions are well aware of this potential and work hard to support the entrepreneurial projects of their researchers. With the help of these initiatives, hundreds of new ventures are formed every year. To highlight the depth and breadth of innovations being commercialised globally we decided to pick the top spin-offs founded since 2017 that we think could have the biggest commercial impact.
You can find out more about the companies below.
Sherlock Biosciences (USA, 2019), was granted a worldwide license by Harvard University to develop and commercialize technology from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering to create a highly sensitive, nucleic acid-based diagnostic platform. This platform aims to rapidly deliver accurate and inexpensive results, transforming diagnostic testing and global public health, be it in hospitals, industrial settings, low-resource settings, or at home.
FenX (Switzerland, 2019) is a spin-off of ETH Zurich, tackling the world’s energy and greenhouse gas challenges. Through an innovative technique, the company produces high-performance insulation foams made from abandoned waste materials such as fly ash from coal power stations. Not only is the final product efficient, but it is also fully recyclable, emits low CO2 emissions, and is economically competitive.
PolyProx Therapeutics (UK, 2019) is built upon research from the Department of Pharmacology at Cambridge University. It’s a biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of a new class of drugs. Polyproxin™, has great potential to treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Its molecules are biopharmaceuticals that selectively target disease-causing proteins and use natural cellular pathways to degrade or remove these proteins.
EndoPil (Singapore, 2019) offers a self-inflating weight-control pill that overcomes the limitations associated with endoscopically administered intragastric balloons. Designed by a team led by Prof Louis Phee, Dean of Engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Prof Lawrence Ho, a clinician-innovator at National University Health System (NUHS), EndoPil provides a non-invasive alternative to tackling obesity.
SpeQtral (Singapore, 2019) is building space-based quantum communication systems rooted in advanced technologies developed at the Centre for Quantum Technologies, a Research Centre of Excellence hosted by the National University of Singapore. This quantum technology is desgined to offer unprecedented security from eavesdropping and enable the next generation of secure communication networks.
Nagi Bioscience (Switzerland, 2019) is an EPFL spin-off that has developed a device that allows rapid toxicology testing of new chemicals. It offers whole organism tests without falling under the animal test ban. The model organisms, the 1mm worm C. elegans is introduced into the device on microfluidic chips; the device is then able to measure different parameters for a large number of tests that run in parallel using an easy and effective setup with applicability in the agrochemical, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries.
DeepCure (USA, 2018) was founded by a team of researchers from the MIT Media Lab. It develops artificial intelligence to revolutionize pharmaceutical development. Deep learning, cloud computing, and a proprietary database of one trillion chemistries is to enable the discovery of highly effective drugs which would be extremely unlikely to be discovered by any existing drug discovery pipeline.
Echopoint Medical (UK, 2018) is a medical device company focused on transforming precision diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Sparked by research at University College London, the company translates breakthroughs in fiber optic sensor technology to develop, manufacture and commercialize cutting-edge cardiovascular devices that provide unprecedented sensing and imaging capabilities in minimally invasive procedures.
HIT Nano (USA, 2018) develops next-generation, low cost and high-performance Li-Ion batteries and energy storage systems by using novel high-temperature nanotechnologies, such as MACHT (Micro-Aerosol Controlled High-Temperature processing). Founded by Princeton University scientists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, the company designs both high energy electrical vehicle cathodes and anodes materials and architecture, as well as materials for thermal chemical energy storage, optical imaging, and chemical synthesis.
PQShield (UK, 2018) was fuelled by the University of Oxford research on the post-quantum cybersecurity era when fully functioning quantum computers become available. Quantum computers can carry out some types of computational tasks much faster than classical computers. But they can also be used to decrypt any ciphertext that contains confidential data and forge any (current) digital signature scheme. PQShield aims to fight against this challenge.
BiomeSense (USA, 2018) leveraged research from the University of Chicago to develop an at-home biosensor to produce continuous gut microbiome data and a cloud-based analytics platform to provide actionable clinic insights. The company provides this solution to scientists studying the microbiome, delivering dramatically more data over the course of a trial than currently available.
Canopus Networks (Australia, 2018) is based on research carried out at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. It commercializes artificial intelligence to optimize the use of bandwidth in data networks. It has developed software that enables operators and providers to identify the class of data, such as video streaming, web page, or download, in real-time across all traffic through a network node, so they can dynamically modify the bandwidth allocated to each class of traffic.
TWAICE (Germany, 2018) is a spin-off from the Technical University of Munich supporting enterprises across industries with digital twin-based predictive battery analytics software. The company allows its customers to develop and use battery systems more efficiently and sustainably while making them more reliable and durable. For example, precise predictions of battery conditions and aging significantly optimize battery development and use, while the exact determination of current condition allows certification of batteries for reuse.
AgroSustain (Switzerland, 2018) is a spin-off from the University of Lausanne. It develops natural solutions to stop and prevent the development of molds on agronomically important crops pre- and post-harvest. AgroSustain’s first product, called AgroShelf+, extends the shelf life of vegetables and fruits infected with common molds.
Versatope Therapeutics (USA, 2017) is a platform licensed from Cornell University. It uses exosomes derived from genetically engineered probiotics as a technology platform for targeted delivery of large molecules used in vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. By genetically engineering the surface display of antibodies, receptors and antigens, the company aims at exquisitely targeting specific diseases. Such tailored exosomes can also be used with a time-release formulation that enables targeted long-acting dosing. The company has constructed a universal influenza vaccine candidate that has performed well against multiple influenza strains in preclinical studies.
Avisi Technologies (USA, 2017) is a medical device startup spun out of the University of Pennsylvania. It investigates the use of a nanoscale ocular implant to stop blindness in Open Angle Glaucoma patients, the second leading cause of blindness in the world that has no available cure currently.
Cybrexa Therapeutics (USA, 2017) stems from Yale University research and focuses on developing an entirely new class of cancer therapies using its alphalex™ platform to deliver anti-cancer agents directly into tumor cells. By using technology that allows small molecule anti-cancer agents to penetrate cell membranes only at low pH, alphalex can selectively release drug molecules directly within tumor cells while limiting toxicity to healthy tissue.
Fifth Eye (USA, 2017), a spin-off from the University of Michigan, is a medical device software company building clinical early warning systems for hospitals. It’s on a mission to improve the quality and cost of care with intuitive real-time early warning systems using continuous physiological waveforms. This way, clinicians are granted access to a better detection system for unexpected patient deterioration caused by hemorrhage or postoperative bleeding, sepsis caused by infections, acute brain injuries, respiratory difficulties, and others.
Coming from the leading research hubs around the world, university spin-offs are certainly attention-worthy. But it’s not just their strong academic foundations: these companies are creating practical solutions to real-life problems. Whether it’s in the US, Switzerland or Singapore, these companies could impact all of our lives. We’re looking forward to watching how they progress.