Student project turned into start-up idea

2023-04-24

Portrait
With their start-up project Merit diagnostics, the Master’s students Ivana Suchankova and
Chiara Dalla Santa aim to create a unique diagnostic device that could save lives of patients
with sepsis. Photo: Merit diagnostics.

Hello Ivana Suchankova and Chiara Dalla Santa. You are Master’s students from Uppsala University competing with your start-up idea in the Venture Cup Startup regional final in May 2023. 

What is your start-up idea?
Ivana:
We are developing a device that could facilitate the detection of sepsis. In sepsis, every minute matters. Our aim is to create a diagnostic device that enables a more rapid quantitative detection of some of the biomarkers in blood plasma that increase in concentration as sepsis develops. By detecting early biomarkers, the device could help diagnose sepsis more quickly and allow for prompt treatment, potentially improving patient outcomes.

Ivana Suchankova is pursuing an MSc in Infectious Biology and is currently conducting her thesis in Oxford about sepsis biomarkers. Chiara Dalla Santa is completing an MSc in Bioinformatics and is carrying out her thesis within the field of medical diagnostics and machine learning.

There is an interesting back-story to your idea. What can you tell us about it?
Chiara:
The idea for our device came about during the SensUs competition in 2022 where we were part of a multidisciplinary team of 15 Master’s students from Uppsala University. SensUs is an annual international student competition on sensors for health. The 2022 topic was sepsis so all student teams around the globe were set out to develop a biosensor, a device that would be able to detect sepsis on time.

Ivana: It was a truly unique experience to work on this student-driven, goal-oriented project over a period of 10 months. Moreover, we managed to develop a technology that was awarded in the competition!

Quite immediately after the SensUs competition, you decided to push the project further and create a spinoff. Why?
Ivana:
As our prototype device performed well in the SensUs competition, we thought – why not try to make a real product out of it even though much work remains. After all, there is a great need for a more rapid diagnostic routine for a life-threatening condition like sepsis. On a more personal note, for me this is super adventurous. Our goal is clear but the route is not. 

Chiara: I want to see my knowledge put into use, to see its impact, helping people to better health.

Venture Cup Startup is an annual competition for aspiring entrepreneurs and you are among the finalists in the East Region. What lies ahead?
Ivana:
On the 11 May, we will present our project to a jury of investors and get their feedback. Before then we will join weekly workshops on different topics that will help prepare us to meet the jury. The winners will be announced at a festive ceremony in Stockholm on May 24. We are competing for prize money and a spot in the Swedish final in October.

What do you hope to gain from participating?
Chiara:
I think the key thing is to get to know the people involved in Venture Cup, such as investors. Getting to present our idea to the right people is a huge opportunity for us to attract interest to our project.

Ivana: In the end, we want to bring our initial prototype a step forward. We will need to conduct a series of experiments and rigorous testing to evaluate the feasibility of our device. This requires funding.

Text: Sara Gredemark


Learn more about SensUs and Venture Cup

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Last modified: 2023-12-01