University spinoffs play a significant role in transferring knowledge to society, with more than 10,000 companies having been formed this way. Each year 100s more are founded, so we decided to pick out 20 of the most exciting that have been formed over the past two years. Our selection was based on filtering for companies developing products and services that address significant market problems and are well positioned to make a positive impact in the coming years.
The companies span a broad range of disciplines, including drug development, medical devices, online cloud services, COVID-19 testing, indoor farming, bio-materials, battery storage, network analytics, machine vision, and trustworthy AI.
You can find out more about the companies below.
Asalyxa Bio (USA, 2020) is a spinout from the University of Michigan, focused on the rapid development of a new neutrophil-targeting drug platform. Neutrophils are immune cells that are involved in the systemic response to infection and injury. Asalyxa’s proprietary platform allows for the direct delivery of microparticles into neutrophils, making the platform suitable for a variety of diseases where treatments are limited or do not exist. The company is initially focused on ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome), with possible follow on indications including acute kidney injury (AKI) and acute liver failure (ALF).
You can also read about Asalyxa Bio on our analysts’ blog Startups.Bio.
GaitQ (UK, 2020) is a spinout from the University of Oxford that is commercialising a medical device to treat gait freeze, a condition that renders spontaneous walking all but impossible in about 45% of all Parkinson’s patients. The company has completed a successful clinical investigation to test a prototype with support from the Wellcome Trust and Oxford University Hospital Foundation Trust. The company hopes to launch the GaitThaw technology in 2021.
Exotanium (USA, 2019) is cloud-optimization company that originates from Cornell University. The company’s patented technology allows business to optimize the cost of renting servers in the cloud – paid to cloud providers such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon – which can consume as much as 50% of businesses’ revenue according to Exotanium. The company’s research shows that its method could save these businesses up to 90% on cloud application server fees, giving Exotanium considerable potential in a market estimated to be worth $26 billion by 2024.
Macomics (UK, 2018) is focused on the development of novel, first-in-class immunotherapies designed to modulate macrophages, increasing the body’s immune defence against tumours. Macomics’ approach is based on leading academic research around macrophage biology, particularly in cancer, from the laboratory of Professor Jeffrey Pollard, Director of the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, working with co-founder Dr Luca Cassetta. Cancer cells are known to be able to evade destruction by the immune system and tumour associated macrophages (TAMs) are a key component of this immuno-suppressive and pro-tumoral ecosystem. The company says that modulating TAMs will alter the tumour microenvironment enhancing the body’s ability to fight cancer. Using its proprietary technology, Macomics has identified novel targets that are highly upregulated in TAMs compared to other cell types, providing an opportunity to selectively target the tumours.
You can also read more about Macomics on our analysts’ blog Startups.Bio.
Artiria Medical (Switzerland, 2019), a spinoff from Lausanne Technical University (EPFL), is developing products for endovascular surgeons to help reduce mortality and morbidity after a stroke. Treatment for strokes include endovascular radio-guided surgery in which a guidewire is essential for navigating in arteries. However, it is not easy to properly direct and manage the guidewire, requiring surgeons to remove it and reshape the tip by hand. Artiria is developing an innovative guidewire that contains a remotely-shapeable tip that allows the surgeon to change the shape of the instrument’s head while navigating through brain arteries. The device is compatible with existing endovascular instruments and could significantly reduce surgery time and costs.
Rover Diagnostics (USA, 2018) is a Columbia University spin-off developing a low-cost, simple-to-use, ultrafast point-of-care test for COVID-19. The company says its platform provides reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) results in just eight minutes, faster than any other test of its kind. In addition to COVID-19, Rover’s platform is designed to test for a broad range of infectious diseases, including flu, strep, and other time-sensitive viruses.
Veltion Therapeutics (USA, 2019) originates from University of Pennsylvania and is focused on developing novel approaches for cancer treatment by targeting the Integrated Stress Response (ISR) and its role in tumor as well as stroma adaptation to stress. The company is developing novel, potent and specific inhibitors of the ISR pathway with a focus on inhibiting the activity of the protein ATF4. These are being developed as anti-tumor agents, specifically lymphoma, lung cancer, and fibrosarcoma.
Adaviv (USA, 2018) is an MIT spin-off developing hardware-enabled, predictive-analytics for indoor farming. The company has developed systems to capture plant-level information and translate it into actionable insights for growers to prevent losses and continually improve the growth of each plant. For example, the company’s high-resolution machine vision and sensors continually search and detect plant stress, disease and vigor invisible to the human eye. The company’s software can then convert this type of plant-level data into useful key performance indicators (KPIs) and root-cause analyses.
Xampla (UK, 2018) is a University of Cambridge spin-off that has created a plant protein material for a range of commercial uses. The company’s material performs like synthetic polymers, but decomposes naturally and fully, without harming the environment. The company wants to replace everyday single-use plastics like bags, sachets and flexible packaging films as well as less obvious plastics, such as microplastics within liquids and lotions. Xampla’s launch products are microcapsules, a hidden plastic application in many homecare and personal care products.
STABL Energy (Germany, 2019) is a spin-off from the Technical University of Munich developing innovative inverter technology for large-scale battery storage systems. With applications across commercial-, industrial-, and utility-scale battery systems the company says that systems equipped with its inverters perform better, are more reliable, and are easier to handle than conventional battery systems.
BeFC (France, 2020) is developing eco-friendly paper-based bioenzymatic fuel cells for sustainable energy generation. These have the potential to replace button or coin cell power sources used in disposable medical and wearable medical devices which can be difficult to recycle, toxic or dangerous to the environment. Beyond the replacement of batteries for existing applications, the company also anticipates new opportunities for low-power ultra-thin health monitoring, logistics / transportation monitoring, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. The company originates from the Université Grenoble Alpes.
Breathonix (Singapore, 2019) is a spin-off from the National University of Singapore, developing simple breath tests for disease detection using a proprietary breath sampling technique and data analysis algorithms. The product comprises a high-precision breath sampling device, software with patented biomarkers and proprietary machine learning algorithms. Breathonix has identified two initial applications for the product, a non-invasive test for early-stage lung cancer screening and a rapid breath test for COVID-19 mass screening.
Lino Biotech (Switzerland, 2020) is a start-up commercializing a biosensor platform developed by Roche & ETH Zurich. The company says it is the world’s only provider of Focal Molography – a novel label-free biosensor platform for direct imaging of biomolecular interactions in living cells. Molography enables customer from the pharma industry to measure binding and dissociation rates of molecular interactions in a robust and sensitive way while offering unique information such as linking extracellular binding information to internal cell responses. The company’s initial focus is providing the technology to the drug discovery market.
You can also read more about Lino Biotech on our analysts’ blog Startups.Bio.
Canopus Networks (Australia, 2018) is a software company that offers deep visibility into network flows and enables data-driven decision making. The company’s patented FlowPulse technology delivers network insights in real time, enabling Internet Service Providers and Network Operators to plan network capacity, optimise bandwidth use, enhance customer experience, and reduce subscriber churn. The company says the technology is scalable, handling up to 400 Gbps of throughput, utilises “off-the-shelf” hardware, is encryption proof and easy to deploy across any organisation’s network infrastructure. Canopus Networks is based on technology researched and developed over many years at the University Of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney.
ResQ Biotech (Greece, 2019) is a spin-off from the National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF) in Greece. The company’s technology enables the rapid production and screening of vast molecular libraries for identifying drug leads against various protein misfolding diseases. The company aims to develop therapeutic molecules against these types of diseases, which include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
InProTher (Denmark, 2018) is an immunotherapy company developing an adaptive immune therapy capable of targeting immunosuppressive genes of ancient retroviruses that normally are dormant in the human genome. The retroviral genes are reactivated in cancer and essential for tumor development. InProTher’s proprietary combination of novel technologies is designed to break tolerance to this unique antigen family, thus providing broad anti-cancer efficacy. InProTher is a spin-out from the University of Copenhagen.
Vita Therapeutics (USA, 2019) is a cell engineering company spun out from Johns Hopkins University. The company’s novel regenerative therapy VTA-110 is a potential first-in-class allogenic iPSC-based therapy that has shown the ability to repair and regenerate healthy muscle in preclinical studies and has the potential to benefit patients with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). The company plans to continue to progress this treatment towards clinical trials and plans to bring it forward for other congenital muscular dystrophy diseases as well.
Living Optics (UK, 2020), a spin-off from the University of Oxford’s Physics Department, has developed a fast, low-cost and compact camera system based on cutting-edge breakthroughs in hardware design and software processing. The company says the technology has the potential to revolutionise the global imaging market, extending its adoption into mainstream markets, such as consumer products, manufacturing and medical devices. For example it can enable the next generation of computer vision to identify greenhouse gases, quantify water content, identify plant diseases, verify drug contents, measure blood oxygenation, and more.
Councyl (Netherlands, 2020) is developing trustworthy AI, with the aim of automating human domain expert choices at scale. The company is based on behavioural artificial intelligence technology developed by Professor Caspar Chorus at the Delft University of Technology. According to the company its approach is easy to setup, accurate and understandable and has applications in a range of areas including healthcare and company recruitment processes.
CERT Systems (Canada, 2019) is a spin out from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. CERT utilizes membrane electrode assembly (MEA) electrochemical cells to reduce CO2 into a renewable source of fuels and materials. CERT’s technology can convert CO2 into carbon-based fuels such as ethanol, or other commercially valuable chemicals like ethylene, which is used in everything from antifreeze to lawn furniture.
Coming from the leading research hubs around the world, these university spin-offs 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.