Munich, October 2023
machineMD is a Swiss company that was established by a diverse team united by a common vision: to create a world where patients are promptly and precisely diagnosed with brain disorders. Their outstanding innovation, titled ‘A Look at the Future of Eye Exams,’ secured them the win at the WT Innovation World Cup® during the Wearable Technologies Conference.
To gain further insights into the groundbreaking idea of the machineMD team, let’s engage in a conversation with them.
- INTRODUCE YOURSELF – HOW DID IT ALL START?
The idea for machineMD came directly from the clinic, specifically in the University Hospital of Bern, Inselspital. Professor Mathias Abegg knew the great potential of eye movements as a window to brain function, yet was acutely aware of the subjective and time-consuming manual exams that doctors regularly perform. Hence, machineMD was born with the idea to build a machine that replicated this diagnostic expertise of a highly-trained Medical Doctor, with the goal to make the skills available where they are most needed: in primary and secondary care.
The founding team brought together a variety of necessary expertise, including serial entrepreneur Dominic Senn as CEO, clinical trial expert Pia Massatsch, experienced medtech innovator Samuel Schenk, and biomedical engineer Dominik Brügger, who had completed his Master’s thesis and PhD on this topic of eye tracking and oculomotor function.
- WHAT ARE THE KEY MILESTONES YOU HAVE REACHED SO FAR?
Our innovation pipeline was propelled forward in the second half of 2021 when we secured funding for the development of our prototype from Innosuisse – the Swiss Innovation Agency. This grant enabled us to establish key partnerships including technical research with CSEM, technical development with Helbling Technik, and continued clinical research with the University Hospital of Bern.
The grant funding gave confidence to early investors, who committed the same amount in pre-seed funding at the same time. More investors joined the seed round, which closed towards the end of 2022, bringing the total dilutive and non-dilutive funding to EUR 6m. Overseeing this is a new board, chaired by experienced medtech entrepreneur Dr. Carsten Laue.
The growing team benefited from network and location of the Swiss Institute for Translational and Entrepreneurial Medicine (SITEM) and their MedTech Startup Hub in Bern. Now 15 people are in the machineMD team, giving real power to the development progress and looking ahead to market launch.
- WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED?
In 2021 we assumed we would need to build our own setup of screens to display visual stimuli and eye tracking cameras to record eye responses. Fortunately, we discovered innovative Finnish company, Varjo, maker of the world’s most advanced VR/XR headsets. This partnership relieved the machineMD team from significant hardware development, allowing them to focus on software development and being confident in the ability to scale at the right rate.
This is a key learning that many MedTech startups can take: consider if you really need to build new hardware, or if existing solutions can be used as a basis and greater value added through smart software integrations. This also enabled us to be very customer-centric in our innovation, focusing our development efforts on aspects that deliver the greatest clinical value to providers and patients.
- WHAT IS COMING IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
2023 is an exciting year for machineMD as we will launch our first device, neos™, in selected markets. This device will provide automated and quantified measurements of eye and pupil responses, simplifying the manual examinations that are performed by ophthalmologists, optometrists, neurologists, and orthoptists today.
Beyond this exciting initial launch, we will keep working towards our vision for a world where patients receive an accurate and early diagnosis of brain disorders. On that journey, we are actively seeking strategic partnerships with life science companies who have neuroscience pipelines and can benefit from more accurate diagnosis and monitoring of these digital biomarkers.
- DESCRIBE YOUR EXPIRIENCE IN THE WT INNOVATION WORLD CUP® AND BEING THE TOP INNOVATOR
The 43rd Wearable Technologies Conference brought together an inspiring group of techpreneurs in digital health, ophthalmology, and virtual/augmented reality. There was a real sense of patient-centric and customer-centric innovation during presentations and panel discussions, particularly conscious of overcoming barriers to adoption for solutions to scale.
All startups who pitched in the final of the WT Innovation World Cup would have been worthy winners as innovation leaders in their respective domains. The breadth of experience in the jury was evident in how quickly they understood the essence of each pitch and focused in on the journey from prototype to clinical benefit.
- YOUR THREE TIPS FOR UP-COMING START-UPS
First, keep your focus on your critical path to establishing product-market fit. This may be through early adopters, clinical evidence, or any other key metric of traction. Your presentation is only meaningful if the audience is convinced of uptake outside of the conference!
Second, tell the story of your startup from the perspective of a customer. This enables you to really focus on the value of your solution; particularly how value is delivered and how that value is captured.
Third, don’t take yourself too seriously! Among fellow techpreneurs, it’s important to celebrate all our achievements and failures, and be mindful that innovators often have an atypical career path as they knit together various skills and ideas.
We appreciate the intriguing insights you’ve shared, and we eagerly anticipate observing your future milestones and achievements!
Visit machineMD‘ website to further explore their revolutionary advancements in the measurement of brain function.
Submit your solution and join us at the 16th Healthcare Innovation World Cup. The next generation of smart health devices, medical wearables, digital biomarkers, electroceuticals, intelligent patches, and more. HealthTech and MedTech innovators worldwide are invited to take part in free of charge and take your chance to disrupt the 10th MEDICA CONNECTED HEALTHCARE FORUM