Tully reaches the top of the podium at InnoStars Awards 2021

The EIT Health InnoStars Awards Grand Final was true to its fame and showcased the finest of healthcare innovation on October 27. The international jury panel that convened at the BIO-Europe Digital event must have had a hard time selecting the best start-up from the 10 finalists, but the industry experts eventually named Tully, which developed an Intelligent Emotion Management Solution, as the winner. The Romanian start-up shared the podium with Appercell and Nanoker who came in second and third place.

Have you ever wondered how challenging it might be to live with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or commonly known as ADHD? According to recent estimates about 5 per cent of school-age children live with ADHD. Tully aims to help them with a wearable device that can calculate their level of stress and alert them when an emotional flare-up is about to happen. After that, through several relaxing exercises, it can eventually guide the wearer back to a calm state. Meanwhile it collects data which can be used at a therapeutic process. No wonder Tully gained the acknowledgement of the jury of the InnoStars Awards, which is one of EIT Health’s first-class acceleration opportunities. The aim of the programme is to support start-ups from progressing EU regions and help them speed up the time-to-market of their product or service.

„It is very rewarding to see that what started as an idea is becoming a real solution for those who need it the most. We are very grateful for all the EIT Health team who supported us professionally in all imaginable ways and shared their invaluable feedbacks with us. There is a lot of hard-work ahead of us but thanks to the financial and professional support we believe that our product will soon be available for many children. From next year on we will focus on manufacturing preparation, full commercial launch and will start clinical testing” – said Marius Rus, co-founder and CEO of Tully, winner of EIT Health InnoStars Awards 2021. The Romanian start-up is a great success story among the EIT community since it participated at the 2020 EIT Health RIS Innovation Call and was featured in Healthcare Hackers, a podcast series powered by EIT Health InnoStars.

Hungary and Spain among the winners

Appercell from Hungary won the second prize. The start-up aims to fill the gap left behind by animal testing, which is often not conclusive in human research which results in 90% of new drugs failing at the clinical trials. As András Bencsik, Co-founder and Head of Business Development put it simply, they “help pharmaceutical companies fail faster”. Appercell’s solution aims to revolutionise biomedical research and drug development by commercialising a high-throughput microelectrode array system with automated data analysis platform, which enables faster, safer and more efficient drug discovery, while minimising the need for live animal experiments.

Nanoker received the third prize for developing Inperio, an advanced, metal-free dental implant, based on ceramic nanocomposite. The Spanish start-up’s solution could finally allow effective and superior substitution of widespread titanium based dental implants that aggravate peri-implant disease affecting not only oral health and implant survival, but patients’ overall health.

„We are hopeful that with the training, mentoring and insights they received and the professional connections they developed throughout the programme, the teams will be on the right track to successfully commercialise their ideas”said Tamás Békási, RIS Business Creation Manager at EIT Health InnoStars. „It is enough to look at the list of the finalists to see what a competitive programme this was. To be among the top three is an amazing achievement but I would like to congratulate all the teams that have come so far. We could see that the solutions and products aim to treat very different conditions but what they have in common is that they all want to make a real impact on patient’s life. “During the pandemic and even right now we are talking about how mental health is important for each and every of us. Tully’s solution can help us preserve our mental health” – he added, lauding Tully.

There were some countries that did extremely well in terms of representation: Romania, Spain and Hungary were each represented by two teams. The top 10 included start-ups from Poland, Estonia, Italy, and Portugal as well. As for the innovations, they were from all fields of healthcare and medicine, however, we could see more than one non-invasive solution.

Healthcare innovation in a post-pandemic era

As Tamás Békási, co-host of the Grand Final put it: we never ever had more need for solutions in healthcare system than these days, referring to the global pandemic. Covid-19 and its impact on the investment landscape was a hot topic during the panel discussion as well. Members of the jury panel – Filipa Fixe, Executive Board Member at Glintt; Péter Mogyorósi, CEO at Creative Accelerator; Jonathan Tobin, Investment Director at Brandon Capital Partners and Sam Milliken-Smith, Vice President of Optum Ventures – seemed to agree that there is more attention on health technologies than before, there is a feeling that there is more capital, and access to funding is easier. However, as Jonathan Tobin pointed out, the question is whether the money is going to “good quality companies” and whether they will have success.

In this post-pandemic era, Sam Miliken-Smith pointed to the “very exciting” evolution of telemedicine, which has become a very demanded field. However, there is some scepticism among patients, who tend to think that the quality of service is not the same as in the case of in-person consultations. The challenge ahead of companies is to counter this pre-concept and prove the opposite.

Commenting on the overall start-up landscape, Péter Mogyorósi highlighted that it is more mature than before. “Start-ups are much better prepared, they understand what they want and what is expected from them… the whole sector develops, we can see that from the statistics as well” – he said. As a key takeaway for start-ups, Filipa Fixe advised them to “have an open mind, work in partnership, and network a lot!”.

EIT Health InnoStars Awards celebrated its fifth edition in 2021. The semi-finalists – the best 15 teams that had at least a prototype or minimum viable product – received €25 000 smart money and got the chance to participate in the bootcamps series where they had 400 hours of intensive training, mentoring, and networking events. Also, the selected teams have the chance to attract investors and receive professional and financial support. The 10 teams with the best business plans got to the finals. After the pitch contest the winners were announced and received €25 000, €15 000 and €10 000.