The four finalists for the inaugural Janssen Health and Technology Challenge (HaTCH) have been named, with one of the judges saying Melbourne, in particular, is close to developing “a critical mass of ideas”.
Each of the four finalists receives $10,000 to go towards the further development of their concepts. They will further workshop their ideas with the judges in a full-day session on October 30, before pitching their ideas to the independent judging panel on December 2 for a chance to win $100,000 to commercialise their idea.
The judging panel includes World Medical Association council chair Mukesh Haikerwal and former General Practice Registrar Australia chief executive Amit Vohra. They are joined by Strativity Group Australia and New Zealand partner Cyrus Allen, Janssen Australia/New Zealand managing director Chris Hourigan and Muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas.
Vohra told Private Media health tech and biotech sectors have the potential to create a long-term home in Australia, but warned it’s still early days for the sector.
“For the first time, Australia is creating an ecosystem around health startups. A lot of innovative stuff comes out of Silicon Valley because you have a lot of startups in a small area,” Vohra says.
“As with most entrepreneurial activity, it needs a critical mass of ideas and Melbourne for the first time is starting to experience this.”
Vohra explains Australia has never been a natural hub for robotics because it never had a strong local robotics industry, and that much of the early use of devices such as Google Glass for therapeutic purposes has been in Silicon Valley.
Instead, he says the key strengths of the local health tech and biotechnology sector centre around data systems, data analysis, information sharing, wearables and nanotechnology.
“There’s a whole space around consumer wearables that kicked off in the past two years. Before that, there was the app revolution, and now we’re in the next phase of that, with wearables that log that information,” Vohra says.
“The next phase gets more sophisticated, where the information gets sent back to your medical practitioner, rather than just collected for lifestyle purposes.”
Vohra says another area Australian health tech startups are strong in is information sharing systems, which allow a patient’s electronics records to be stored in a single repository.
“Another area, and not just in Australia, is around information exchange. There’s a huge amount of fragmentation in information sharing across the health system,” he says.
“Your local general practitioner has a raft of information. But if you go somewhere else for a procedure, that information is sitting in a different silo.”
Storing information in a single repository allows for better quality of care at a lower cost, according to Vohra. This is because each intervention, whether it is delivered through a general practitioner, a hospital or a nursing home, will be logged in a single system, allowing medical professionals access to more accurate and complete data about a patient’s health.
The four 2014 HaTCH finalists, chosen from 40 entrants, are as follows:
1. Footprints: Falls in the elderly are often result to a deterioration of gait. The Footprint sensor will improve monitoring of gait levels and thereby allow intervening before a fall happens.
2. Life Picture: Chronic diseases involve changes to the molecular pathways of individuals. The Life Picture health monitoring system uses biomarkers and smartphone technology to improve early disease detection.
3. Respiro Flu Test: Seasonal influenza kills more Australians than car accidents. The Respiro Flu Test is the first non-invasive ultra-sensitive test for influenza infection in children and adults. It takes less than 20 minutes and detects all strains of human influenza including H1N1 and bird flu.
4. Track Active: Exercise is considered to be the single most important treatment modality for addressing chronic health and musculoskeletal problems. Track Active is a cloud based platform for health and medical professionals to efficiently prescribe customized, evidence-based exercise programs to assist patients in recovery.