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Two-shelled protective face shield and an application focuses on mental health. Medical startups are experiencing a boom in the Czech Republic

CzechInvest can help them with business development

Two-shelled protective face shield and an application focuses on mental health. Medical startups are experiencing a boom in the Czech Republic Source: VOS

Healthcare is dependent on the development of modern technologies. Innovations in this field can save lives, time and money. The level of medical care has an impact on the population’s quality of life and it would be difficult to imagine another area that has such an influence on whether one has a healthy and satisfying life. CzechInvest, which supports innovative companies through its programmes, is aware of the importance of healthcare. The agency’s portfolio contains several startups in the healthcare and social-care sectors, which it assists with introducing prototypes to the market, formulating appropriate business strategies and establishing branches abroad.

Innovation and digitalisation have been important issues for the healthcare sector since before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which accelerated their introduction. We see this in, for example, the area of telemedicine, i.e. remote transmission of medical information via telecommunications and information technologies such as e-mail and videoconferencing. We can also encounter the healthtech and medtech sectors, which involve the use of various technologies developed for healthcare with the aim of improving patient care and the effective use of medical care. Such technologies are also interesting from the perspective of investors. According to data from McKinsey, venture financing in these sectors reached record levels in the first half of 2020. However, investing in healthtech and medtech did not come to prominence only last year; investors have long been wagering on them, as they consider healthcare to be resistant to crises. According to Deloitte, the number of investors in these sectors increased five-fold between 2011 and 2020. 

Successful Czech projects in the area of healthcare
Within the Startup Support project, CzechInvest supports young companies through its programmes for startups that are considering expansion abroad, namely the three-month CzechAccelerator programme, the one-week CzechMatch programme and the CzechDemo programme, which arranges participation in international trade fairs. In addition to that, CzechInvest’s portfolio also includes the CzechStarter programme, which offers assistance with business development and mentoring in areas such as human resources, law, marketing and finance, as well as assistance with protection of intellectual property and obtaining patents. Startups in the area of healthtech and medtech have benefited from CzechInvest’s support.

Technology for better care
For example, UROLOG-ONLINE.cz, which is focused on prevention of urological disorders, combines technology and innovation with medical practice in its MODERN UROPREVENCE project. The aim of the project is to offer clients preventive urological care designed to alleviate their concerns associated with urological examinations and to encourage them to take an interest in their current health condition and thus prevent potentially serious illnesses. Therefore, the specialists at UROLOG-ONLINE developed a screening device (the UROSCREEN smart urinal) that enables automatic detection and evaluation of the urine stream directly in the toilet and thus assesses the current condition of the prostate. UROSCREEN can be installed not only at specialised clinics, but also in toilets at restaurants, companies and petrol stations. The device provides a painless and contactless examination whose result is immediately available on the screen at the urinal. UROLOG-ONLINE uses support provided within the CzechStarter programme to gain the necessary know-how from mentors for developing its business.

Unlock with your heart
Fingerprints, voice and the iris of the eye are common elements of biometrics that are known to at least everyone who unlocks their telephone screen with facial recognition or has used a biometric passport at the airport. CARDOID has come up with a new generation of biometrics. Simply stated, the traditional model offers only information on whether the right key is turning in the lock. CARDOID’s solution adds information about the physical entity that is turning the key. This enables guaranteed 100% accurate user authentication by means of EKG using a smartwatch. Each individual’s unique heartbeat pattern is one of the most secure and robust items of biometric data currently available. CARDOID is also participating in the CzechStarter programme, in which it wants to work on its financial plan, marketing strategy, development of its PR activities and, of no less importance, protection of its intellectual property.

The Riocath group is another example of a healthtech/medtech company. In cooperation with experts from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB) of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Riocath developed a self-sampling swab kit for COVID-19 testing. This sampling kit is designed in such a way that it can be used by laypeople, while also reducing the risk of sample contamination and minimising subsequent handling. Medical personnel are thus also protected. In addition to that, specialists have also developed a disposable two-shelled protective face shield specifically intended to protect the face from direct contact with the virus.

However, the collaboration between Riocath Global and the IOCB did not arise only during the pandemic. Its roots go deeper. In collaboration with the IOCB, the Riocath team developed and patented a globally unique technology that is usable in the area of tubular medical devices such as catheters, incubation tubes and drains. And it was with these devices that representatives of Riocath joined CzechInvest’s CzechMatch programme, which helped them to gain contacts on the East Coast of the United States.

The pandemic contributed to the deterioration of people’s mental health
Luvelu, developer of the VOS application, focuses on mental health. The current pandemic situation and the restrictive measures associated with it have had a negative impact on many people’s mental health. The risk of depression and suicide has risen, as has the risk of alcohol abuse, for example. Therefore, it is not surprising that demand for mental-health services is skyrocketing. The VOS application was created in cooperation with psychologists and therapists. It is basically a digital diary in which users can record their own entries and which can be connected with health-oriented applications such as Apple Health and Google Fit. The VOS application combines the trend of using applications and artificial intelligence, thanks to which it can advise users on how to work on themselves and to recognise what is affecting their health.

With the support of a private investor, the founders of Luvelu also decided to collaborate with CzechInvest, which is helping them to develop the business side of the project within the CzechStarter programme. This is an excellent example of cooperation between a private entity that provides financing and the state sphere, which supplies know-how and a fast track for business development. With CzechInvest, Luvelu is also preparing for a three-month stay in San Francisco, where it wants to find investors for the next investment round.

Further support for innovations in healthcare in the Czech Republic
Innovative companies focused on artificial intelligence, analytics and the healthcare system are flourishing in the Czech Republic. This is evidenced by the Hack the Crisis hackathon, which sought out such companies. The hackathon, which brought together state organisations, regions, universities, associations and private companies, was organised by CzechInvest in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The purpose of the hackathon was to accelerate the implementation of selected projects that reflect the country’s priorities in the fight against the coronavirus while mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on various areas of our lives. The winning projects included, among others, VirtualLab’s virtual ICU, ground-breaking PCR saliva tests from Diana Biotechnologies, and Kaleido’s use of virtual reality in senior care.

CzechInvest’s ecosystem comprises not only hundreds of startups, but also top experts at home and abroad. Thanks to this, CzechInvest is able to fulfil its mission, which is to support exceptional Czech projects on their path to success and thus contribute to our country’s overall development and growth.