December 9, 2020
How to move a Eureka moment to the real world
Technologies developed at international research institutions like IST Austria can revolutionize whole industries.
Publishing groundbreaking research alone does not guarantee that discoveries turn into usable products or advancements for society. Sometimes, funding for further testing or validation is not available, and quite often, a discovery’s potential is just not entirely clear at an early stage. IST Austria recognizes the complications of transitioning research from academia into industry and has built a team of experts around this important activity. In the Technology Transfer Office (TWIST), seasoned professionals with backgrounds in business, science, intellectual property, and industry offer training, advice, and evaluation of the commercial potential of IST innovations. Moreover, IST Austria co-founded IST Cube, an early-stage venture capital fund investing in academic startup companies; the current portfolio, which is steadily growing, can be explored here: https://ist-cube.com/portfolio/
To further foster societal and commercial impact, IST Researchers interested in exploring the possibility of starting a company based on their research can apply for a TWIST Fellowship. This funded one-year program allows researchers to fully concentrate on assessing and developing a scientific discovery’s commercial potential. Through the TWIST Fellowship program, and by participating in the entrepreneurship course “e-Lab” run by the Technology Transfer Office, scientists get entirely new insights into the world of business, leading them to develop their careers further through their own startup or in other jobs in the industry.
Here, AutoMold and Neurolentech, two planned IST startups, are highlighted to show how science can revolutionize the industry.
Revolution in small series production – AutoMold
Manufacturing products in small batches is not straightforward – 3D printing is often too time-consuming or cannot use the required materials, and mold-making is very expensive. This is where the future startup company AutoMold from Thomas Auzinger and Ruslan Guseinov of the Bickel Group comes in. AutoMold will rely on software developed at IST Austria to design molds for efficient manufacturing. For only several hundred euros, and within a single day, AutoMold can produce a mold that would normally cost thousands of euros and require several weeks to design and manufacture.
With this new method, designers, artists, or engineers can use high-quality molds at low cost to create individualized products or prototypes. AutoMold has already won several honors; most recently, the lower Austrian riz up Genius award for “Ingenious Research & Development.”
“We have used methods from computer science to develop a design tool that has the potential to revolutionize small series production by injection molding,” says Thomas Auzinger, the founder of AutoMold.
The project is currently looking for cooperation partners in mold-construction so that Automold can further develop the research prototype into a market-ready software solution, which will then be marketed worldwide in a startup.
Fighting neurological disorders patient by patient – Neurolentech
Brain developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder and epilepsy affect more than 230 million people worldwide. In addition to the underlying disease, those affected often suffer from other neurological disorders, depression, or ADHD. When patients contacted Professor Gaia Novarino, she was shocked at how difficult it is to get help with diagnosis and treatment. Each patient with these neurodevelopmental disorders has a different genetic profile, which can only be analyzed using sophisticated bioinformatics methods. Extracting and analyzing brain cells from living patients is clearly not an option, so for most patients, their specific disorder’s cause remains unexplained. This is not only disappointing for patients, but it also prevents efficient, personalized treatment. Drug trials are often stopped too early or not started due to the costs and difficulties involved in identifying patients with the appropriate genetic makeup to participate.
Gaia Novarino and her colleague Carsten Pfeffer decided to take on the challenge of tackling these problems by starting Neurolentech, an IST spin-off company. In their startup, they are developing a more efficient examination method for patients with brain development disorders. They take blood or skin cells from patients from which they generate stem cells and produce brain cells for detailed examination. “With our data and disorder cell models, scientists can develop new drugs and biological theories and finally help the patients,” explains Carsten Pfeffer, one of the co-founders of Neurolentech.
Currently, the IST Austria spin-off is in the startup phase and is looking for collaboration partners. In Austria, Neurolentech will also be part of an autism network of excellence. The Neurolentech team was awarded second prize in the riz up Genius awards 2020.