Health Innovation Prize winners: Where are they now?

Health Innovation Prize winning team holding their trophy
Photo by Owen Billcliffe

A decade ago, Imperial medical student John Chetwood darted from his Varsity hockey match to try his hand at another competition, with a different prize at stake. It was the inaugural IGHI Health Innovation Prize, giving UK university students the opportunity to win cash towards their global health idea.

John was one of five finalists to face our panel of judges at the Dragon’s Den-style final, and took home the top prize of £2,000 towards his new diagnostic tool for an aggressive type of bile duct cancer.

Since then, teams from all across the country have competed in our annual competition, now in its 10th year and growing, with £10,000 up for grabs for the top team. Prize-winning ideas have ranged from a smart handheld instrument to make microsurgery more precise, to a mobile-phone-based test for tuberculosis and an intelligent mattress topper for preventing bedsores.

As we launch this year’s event, a decade after it all began as the ‘Student Challenges Competition’, we caught up with some of our winners to find out their journeys since taking home the prize. If you want the chance to win £10,000 towards your global health idea, click here to find out more and apply now.

Spreading SMILE across the world

Kitty and Abellona, 2017 winners

“Our innovation, the SMILE (SMart-last mILE) vaccine cooling system, is the only last-mile solution that reduces human error and vaccination spoilage. It’s patented, low-tech (freeze-free) and fail-proof. SMILE can last for three to six days without power while monitoring and displaying the remaining cool-life of temperature-sensitive products, like vaccines.

“We have made a tremendous amount of progress since we won the IGHI competition. SMILE has been iterated, lab tested and field-proven. We conducted a successful field trial in remote villages in Madagascar at the end of 2019. We are entering the manufacturing and commercialisation stage. We are also working on an upgrade for a second version with extended features.

“SMILE’s help is not limited to developing countries. It will also help in biomedical research and cold-chain applications in the developed world. We are looking for trial partners in the UK and are keen to work with institutions to improve their work efficiency with SMILE.

“Winning IGHI has helped with running our IDEABATIC platform and helped raise awareness of the last-mile cold-chain challenges. After winning the competition, we won funding from the Expo 2020 Dubai, Royal Academy of Engineering and InnovateUK which also helped in this journey. We were also selected as finalists for the MIT-Solve global challenges.

“We encourage everyone who has a passion to solve important issues to take part. Make sure you tell people the story behind the innovation and share your passion with them. Good luck!”

Getting smart with parasitic worms

Laura and Kai, 2019 winners

Capta is a smart, low-cost tool to accurately and rapidly diagnose parasitic worm infections, which are responsible for soil-

Laura and Kai

transmitted helminth infections and diseases such as schistosomiasis. Compared to current labour-intensive testing, their handheld microscope uses machine learning and automatic imaging to analyse samples. The device also records data to provide real-time statistics on global disease burden. Team Capta hope that their tool will allow for faster diagnosis of these infections, and help target treatment to areas that need it the most.

“Winning the IGHI student challenge competition provided a huge opportunity for Capta. Shortly after the competition we expanded our team and used the funding to prototype the diagnostic tool. This was crucial to demonstrate to future partners and investors that we do have the capability and expertise to develop this tool. We have recently won a grant that will support our data collection in sub-Saharan Africa, and are excited to make progress following a break throughout lockdown.

“We couldn’t recommend the IGHI competition highly enough – it is a friendly pitching competition that provides a fantastic opportunity to network and meet fellow health-tech start-ups.”

Third Eye Intelligence: Buying time for people with organ failure

Sam Tukra, 2020 winner

Third Eye Intelligence is an artificial intelligence-driven platform that brings together a vast array of patient data to predicts their risk of organ failure, acting as an early warning system for doctors working in intensive care.

The platform design

“Ever since we won the Health Innovation Prize our development speed increased significantly. Following the award, we were able to hire bright engineers from Imperial College who were hungry to grow and implement their machine learning skills in a real clinical problem case. To wit, we completed our prototype of our early warning system for organ failure software to a presentable state. Using this new developed system we were able to present to 2 hospital partners whom we will be collaborating with for a clinical trial of our system in an intensive care unit.

“Currently, we are in the process of raising our seed round to fund this multi-centre trial to continue our development for market entry with product v1. Hence, the initial winnings from the health innovation prize really helped us to accelerate our growth not only from the technology development perspective but also from the commercial perspective. Additionally, the network effects from the pitching event, lead to attracting bright minds that joined our team and helped us grow Third Eye organically.

“My advice to student innovators would be, that Imperial is full of resources to accelerate their commercial journey that goes beyond R&D. Hence, just go out there and utilise all resources at your disposal, this includes competitions, events and more importantly people, that share your mission and can join your team to help you grow and reach the next stage.”

Could you be the next Health Innovation Prize winner?

Our annual student competition is open for applications, open to students at any UK university. Click here to find out more and apply for your chance to win £10,000 towards your global health idea.

Former winner Nate Macabuag presenting his project to the 2018 judging panel.

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