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Early Stage MedTech venture exVal wins NovaUCD’s 2023 Student Enterprise Competition

Posted 28 June, 2023

A MedTech start-up which developed a solution to detect the early stages of childhood pneumonia has been named overall winner of the 2023 NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition.

exVal has created a portable non-invasive device that only requires an infant to breathe normally into a mouthpiece to screen for the serious condition.

The use of an electrochemical sensor allows for a biomarker analysis of the exhaled breath condensate to detect the presence of the relevant proteins associated with pneumonia - the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide.

The three members of the exVal team, all students in the UCD College of Engineering and Architecture are Sarthak Jain, a postgraduate Biomedical Engineering student, Simon Peter and Nathan Hens, undergraduate engineering students.

“Pneumonia is responsible for a child’s death every 43 seconds according to UNICEF,” said Simon.

“Although simple interventions and appropriate treatment can prevent childhood pneumonia deaths if the disease is diagnosed by x-rays and blood tests in its early stages. 

“However pneumonia often goes undiagnosed and untreated in the community, especially in developing countries where access to x-rays and blood tests can be an issue, until the child is critically ill. Our novel solution is a simple and accurate inline screening for children via a modified electrochemical sensor and offers fast results based on breath condensate biomarker analysis.”

Sarthak added: “We are delighted to have been named the overall winner of the 2023 NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition, especially as the quality of this year’s entrants was very high, with many fantastic early stage student start-ups taking part.

“The next steps for exVal are focused on iterating the prototype to achieve higher functionality. This will help us to engage with subject matter experts and research labs to further collect preclinical data as part of our IP strategy.

“We shall also explore the screening potential for other paediatric respiratory diseases, such as tuberculosis, based on insights garnered during the comprehensive customer discovery process undertaken during the NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition.”

The NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition is an intensive 4-week mentoring programme for student entrepreneurs.

The programme now in its 9th year, is run by NovaUCD, the start-up hub at University College Dublin, as a framework to support undergraduate and postgraduate students who want to work together to develop and grow start-up companies.

The aim of the competition is to assist the participating students in refining their start-up ideas through a series of structured workshops, including taught content from industry experts, interactive workshops, regular pitching sessions and mentoring.

Nine early-stage student ventures and 18 participants took part in year’s competition.

exVal received €5,000 as the overall winner of the competition following final pitches to an external judging panel.

Two other participating ventures, AceCell and PromiseWatch, were announced as second and third place winners and receive €3,000 and €2,000 cash prizes respectively.

Over 70 early-stage ventures and some 170 students have now completed the NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition since it began.

“Congratulations to all the students who took part in this year’s NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition over the last 4-weeks to refine their start-up ideas,” said Tom Flanagan, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation.

“I would especially like to congratulate the exVal team, the overall winner of this year’s competition. We look forward to seeing exVal and the other early-stage student ventures move forward and develop further and in due course successfully launch on the market.”

AceCell is developing a platform to allow exams to be delivered securely, through a Microsoft Excel add-in, replacing pen and paper, MCQ and alternative spreadsheet exams.

Its team members include Ryan McGlynn, an undergraduate at the UCD Lochlann Quinn School of Business, and Tom Carpenter, a Biochemistry undergraduate student in the UCD College of Science.

PromiseWatch is focused on developing a platform to allow voters to hold politicians accountable to their promises and to combat misinformation.

Its team members are Amit Wasnik and Sonam Bajpai, MSc Information Systems graduates from the UCD School of Information and Communication Studies.

The members of the judging panel were; Emilie Audran, Community and Ecosystem Programme Manager, Dogpatch Lab; Chris Burge, Co-founder and CEO, Spark Crowdfunding; Niall Diffley, Development Advisor, ICT HPSU, Enterprise Ireland; Orla Reynolds, New Frontiers Programme Manager, IADT and Simon Factor, Senior Manager, New Ventures, NovaUCD (Chair).

The 4-week mentoring programme, which used the Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas approach, included a series of structured and interactive workshops and interactive workshops led by Raomal Perera and Caitlin Hafer of Lean Disruptor.

The sponsors of the 2023 NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition are; AIB, AMD, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Ericsson and Goodbody.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations (with materials from Micéal Whelan, UCD Research and Innovation)

To contact the UCD News & Content Team, email: newsdesk@ucd.ie