Slush Y Science 2018: Science is the basis for good business

Y Science – an official side event of Slush – herded science enthusiasts and business actors to Messukeskus Helsinki in the grey drizzle of early December. However, the atmosphere at Y Science was everything but grey, as life science startups showcased their exciting ideas and products. The event culminated in a Life Science pitching competition with a cash prize of 30,000 euros.

Dr. Patrick Ennis, Intellectual Ventures

Why Science?  No Science, No Surplus.

“Why should tax payers support basic research?”, Dr. Patrick Ennis (Intellectual Ventures) challenged the Y Science audience. According to Dr. Ennis, the reasons are simple and relatively obvious: results from basic research lay the foundation for virtually all business and are utilized within variable time frames.

Dr. Ennis crystalized the concept of successful entrepreneurship into open innovation, crowd-sourcing and wisdom of the masses, utilization of information tools and global networks, virtual teams, and maximum efficient group size. He also emphasized that size and scale of business does not equal value and impact.

 “Innovators come in all shapes and sizes”
–Dr. Patrick Ennis, Intellectual Ventures 

Dr. Patrick Ennis, Intellectual Ventures

Saving the honeybees, saving the world

Professor Dalial Freitak from Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz revealed the alarming fact that the worldwide insect population has decreased by 70–80%. Loss of pollinators results in habitat loss in agriculture, and the resulting potential malnutrition directly threatens millions of people. Dr. Freitak’s research group is designing oral vaccines against viruses affecting honeybees, rendering honeybees more resistant to environmental treats.

Prof. Dalial Freitak, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

iCAN: Integrating precision cancer medicine and digital health

Digital Precision Cancer Medicine for Discoveries and Improved Treatments (iCAN) harnesses digital precision cancer medicine. The project tackles the increasing cancer incidence in the aging population by means of precision medicine, nation-wide registries and living biobanks, in collaboration with Comprehensive Cancer Center Finland (FICAN).

University of Helsinki academy professor Kari Alitalo leads iCAN, which is a prime example of integrating digital health into precision cancer medicine, and joining the best brains for greatest scientific, educational, societal and economic impact for citizens and patients.

“The patient is empowered and in the center of iCAN”
–Prof. Kari Alitalo, University of Helsinki

Prof. Kari Alitalo, University of Helsinki

Changing Lives with Synthetic Biology

“We can create characteristics that don’t even exist in nature yet”, was claimed enthusiastically by PhD candidate Daniel Bojar from ETH Zürich. According to Bojar, many of the major health threats of our time can be tackled by means of synthetic biology. He presented synthetic biology as a solution for health issues including antibiotic-resistant superbugs (that don’t respect country borders), control of blood sugar level in diabetes, and the treatment of cancer with CAR-T-cells.

“Synthetic biology is ready to revolutionize the way we live”
–Daniel Bojar, ETH Zürich

Daniel Bojar, ETH Zürich

To the Future with the Forest

Aalto University professor Orlando Rojas hyped nanocellulose as a novel solution for various life sciences and medicine applications. His BiCMat research group is working towards applying nanocellulose in global sustainable solutions.

The incredibly long list of potential applications includes sea water purification and heating systems, light management, skin lotions, ice cream, and textiles, and even conducting, magnetic and thermoelectric fibers. Medical applications vary between wooden prosthetic limbs to vessels and multifunctional nanocellulose films.

“We need to learn to recognize materials around us in nature and to utilize them better”
–Prof. Orlando Rojas, Aalto University

Prof. Orlando Rojas, Aalto University

Luminescent Silicon Nanocrystals as Bioimaging Systems

SinBioSys is a Horizon 2020 project that involves developing luminescent silicon nanocrystals for bioimaging systems and is led by professor Paola Ceroni from the University of Bologna. Biocompatible silicon nanocrystals are utilized in light-harvesting antennas. SinBioSys technology can be adapted to light guided surgery, robotic surgery and tumor margin recognition.

Prof. Paola Ceroni, University of Bologna

Life Science Pitching Competition Finals

Eight pre- or early-stage startups showcased their innovations in the Life Science Pitching Competition. MAKNEE won the main prize of 30,000 € for taking their idea further. MAKNEE is a medical startup developing non-invasive and pain-free knee joint evaluation solutions for faster diagnostics and treatment pathways for patients with osteoarthritis and other knee disorders. MAKNEE technology is currently being tested in horses affected by osteoarthritis at University of Helsinki Equine Hospital.

MAKNEE | Life Science Pitching competition, 1st price

Y Science is an official side event of Slush, jointly organized by Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE) and Slush.