Merck Accelerator hits new peak of applications

MerckMerck, a leading science and technology company, announced today the new startups participating in its Accelerator programs in Darmstadt, Germany and Nairobi, Kenya. The two program locations accept startups from different fields within Merck's core specialisms: Darmstadt takes startups from the fields of healthcare, life sciences and performance materials, while Nairobi works exclusively on innovations in digital healthcare. Overall, the number of applications increased by 82%; applications were received from 72 countries worldwide. In the latest startup barometer from Ernst & Young, the “Health” category already stood out as one of the growing startup industries. Within the health sector, Venture Capital investments in life science has also increased considerably.

In Darmstadt, the newly selected teams are working on low-cost, highly sensitive sample carriers, an interactive game for pediatric oncology patients and hydrogels for preclinical drug discovery. Another startup for Darmstadt is in the field of performance materials; Inuru are developing inks and technologies for regular printers in order to reduce the costs for the production of OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes). OLEDs can be used to create super-thin light displays, which have applications in areas such as printed advertising.

The three startups in Nairobi are all dedicated to healthcare problems; however, their use-cases differ from fighting drug counterfeiting with AI, to a software platform that uses medical records to predict and detect diseases early, and a program for data management of global health supply chains.

Michael Gamber, Head of the Innovation Center in Darmstadt commented on the selection of the startups: “We were impressed by the high number of good-quality applications we received for the fourth round of our program in Darmstadt and the third round in Nairobi, and are happy to see the worldwide proliferation of promising startups in our three main fields - healthcare, life science and performance materials. The increasing demand for capital support for startups in the health sector is also reflected in our Accelerator applications.”

For the first time since its inception, this round of the Merck Accelerator sees projects coming from the Merck Hackathons – Peach, a cloud-based medical records system which will be taking up its Accelerator place in Nairobi, was initially developed during the Merck Health + Innovation Hackathon Accra, while TOMMI, an interactive game and companion for children in cancer care which will be developed in Darmstadt, has its roots in the H-ACK Merck for Health Hackathon Rome.

For further information about Merck Accelerator, please visit:
https://accelerator.merckgroup.com

The following fact sheet introduces all of the current startups from the Merck Accelerator in Darmstadt and Nairobi.

The startups from the Accelerator in Darmstadt

ATR Elements

This startup from Munich, Germany, makes infrared spectroscopy - which is used for blood testing - much cheaper and more efficient. The team, headed Alex Geißler, Lorenz Sykora and Anja Müller, has developed the core component that is needed for IR spectroscopy, a sample carrier, from low-cost highly sensitive silicon crystal. ATR Elements’ crystal will make blood & biofluid analysis, not only cheaper but also more hygienic and precise. The ATR crystal is more sensitive than current solutions, and works also with small sample volumes.

Ectica Technologies

The team around Dr. Benjamin Simona and Dr. Vincent Milleret from Zurich, Switzerland develops hydrogel-based laboratory products, such as the 3DProSeed plate that enables pharma companies, CROs (Contract Research Organizations) and academic labs to carry out preclinical drug discovery on a new level. Drug research at the moment is mostly based on 2D cell culture experiments, but those are different from human tissues and could therefore give distorted results. However, the hydrogel-based consumable products by Ectica Technologies allow researchers to create a 3D cell culture for cell-based assays that are very similar to the normal conditions of cell cultures in the human body.

INURU GmbH

Inuru is a startup operating in the field of performance materials from Berlin, Germany. The co-founders Marcin Ratajczak and Patrick Barkowski developed an ink for regular printers in order to print OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes). OLEDs are a recent innovation, which allows the creation of thin and flexible light-emitting displays that can be used, for example, for printed advertising. Using the ink from INURU, the high cost and complex production of OLEDs will not be an issue anymore. In the future, OLEDs will be used more and more to increase the efficiency of printed advertising.

TOMMI

TOMMI is a product developed at the Merck for Health Hackathon Rome 2016 - an interactive, experience-based therapeutic game for children in cancer care and their caregivers. The game is designed to act as a constructive outlet for loneliness, stress, and rage in hospitalized children and foster cooperation and sharing between the patient and caregiver outside of a directly clinical context. To this end, the game is structured in immersive levels using the latest technologies, such as virtual reality, and caregiver input is crucial to complete some tasks. Additionally, the game can be used as a patient-friendly way of administering tests and monitoring the patient.

The startups from the Accelerator in Nairobi

Peach Health Technologies

Peach - a product of the Merck Health & Innovation Hackathon in Accra, Ghana - developed a mobile, cloud-based electronic medical records system for hospitals and healthcare providers in developing countries. Medical records are often hardly transportable to other places. Important patient medical records get lost easily, and can result in missing the detection or prediction of diseases. The team, headed up by Cobby Amoah, Qwame Akpalu, Oteng Kwame Appiah Nti and Charles Kunene, are developing a cloud-based and scalable software platform to collect, store and access the healthcare information of patients. Community health officers will be able to find all the information they need to detect complications in time, anywhere, at any time.

RxAll

RxAll, from New Haven, US, addresses the proliferation of counterfeit drugs which results in about 100 000 deaths in Africa every year. Pharmacists often don’t have the means to test whether a medicine is fake or not. The RxAll team, led by Adebayo Alonge, is developing an AI platform that aims to solve this problem. Pharmacies will be able to authenticate medicines through the platform, which uses deep learning to improve spectrometer readings in the field, providing real-time feedback about changes in drugs. In addition, the pharmacies can order the medicines directly through a digital procurement platform from the manufacturers

Secure Data Kit

Secure Data Kit (SDK) is a powerful data platform that helps global health providers relieve suffering. SDK is led by Jared Malan and is focused on making data collection, data storage, and data sharing simple. SDK enables donor programs to capture disparate datasources and manage the complexity of a global supply chain. Donors are able to view the effectiveness of their programs in realtime through customizable metrics, reports, and workflow diagrams. Secure Data Kit is used by leading Global Health organizations and pharmaceutical companies. SDK comes to Nairobi, Kenya from Atlanta, GA, USA.

About the Merck Accelerator
The Merck Accelerator program supports young companies in their seed-phase with a focus on the fields of healthcare, life science and performance materials. For the program in Nairobi there is a special focus on projects in the field of digital health. The first step is the selection of digital business models, from the above fields, into the program. The chosen firms for the program in Darmstadt receive office space at the Merck Innovation Center. Those in Nairobi have the opportunity to use office spaces in the Nairobi Metta. Besides workspaces, both programs are receiving mentoring and coaching, on a regular basis, from a pool consisting of more than 50,000 experts from 66 countries. Furthermore, the teams get financial support of up to € 50,000.

About Merck
Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2016, Merck generated sales of € 15.0 billion in 66 countries.

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world's oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck, Darmstadt, Germany holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials.

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