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Startups developing next-gen sequencing, novel piston-based thermal engines, innovative cancer diagnosis, and accounting solution for self-employed each win CHF 10,000

Updated: Apr 4

DNAQuraCy, etavalve, IMAI, Magic Heidi win Venture Kick's first stage of financial and entrepreneurial support. Their projects develop quality control of DNA libraries for next-generation sequencing, create a novel category of piston-based thermal engines, redefine cancer diagnosis, and bring freshness to the accounting world.

IMAI: Transforming Cancer Diagnosis

IMAI (former InSight) is on a dedicated mission to redefine cancer diagnosis, addressing the persistent problem of information loss, false negatives, and high healthcare costs resulting from the limitations of 2D histology methods. InSight aims to bring pathology to the 3D digital world.

Their team, led by founders Francesca Catto (biomedicine), Sascha Brun (mechanical engineering), and Robert Axelrod (health science and technology), has developed a fully automated platform. It rapidly processes tissue samples, labels them for cancer detection, and uses innovative software for counting cancer cells, measuring cancer mass, and 3D visualization. Their platform is invaluable for both clinical and research purposes.

To further advance their mission, they intend to use the Venture Kick Stage 1 funds to acquire prototype materials to build their platform for customers. Additionally, they will allocate funds for marketing efforts to expand their reach and impact in the medical community.

DNAQuraCy: Quality Control of DNA libraries for Next-Generation Sequencing

Long-read sequencing revolutionizes genomics, offering deep insights into complex genetic structures. Its applications in research and medicine have grown, but current library prep methods face limitations. Sample characterization and success prediction are challenges, relying heavily on case-by-case expert intervention in genetic facilities. DNAQuraCy develops a nanopore technology for a novel DNA quality control tool for long-read NGS. The tech is quicker, easier to work with, and provides a vast variety of sample characterizations in one go, which helps to save resources by preventing unsuccessful sequencing runs.

DNAQuraCy is the spin-off project from EPFL and UNIL and is led by two co-founders: Dr. Andrey Chernev (CEO) and Dr. Mukeshchand Thakur (CTO). The technology is based on solid-state nanopore DNA identification: while the DNA passes through a nanopore, it creates unique signatures, characterizing the fragment library. The tailored software complements hardware for precise quantification and analysis. Users can then make informed decisions about library quality and study strategy. The market potential is given by the NGS market (projected USD 30 BN  by 2027), where DNAQuraCy’s quality control solution targets the 20% of long-read runs prone to failure, representing a cumulative budget at risk of CHF 300 M per year.

The Venture kick funds will be used for the development of the optimized nanopore prototype, as well as for the search and development of the new use cases.

etavalve: Efficiently Converting Waste Heat to Electric Power

Industries generate waste heat as a byproduct. However, efficiently harnessing it within the temperature range of 550 to 900°C for electricity generation poses economic challenges. In this relatively low-temperature spectrum, traditional turbine-based thermal engines exhibit significant inefficiencies.

Co-founders Wolfgang Schneider and Dr. Andyn Omanovic joined forces to create a novel category of piston-based thermal engines. Within the desired power output range, from a few kilowatts to a few megawatts, a conversion efficiency of 35% to 45% is anticipated. Their variable valve actuation system is the key technology that enables dynamic adaptation to fluctuating heat input or power demand while maintaining efficiency by adjusting the pressure ratio near the thermodynamic optimum—an unmatched control feature not achievable in gas turbines. The global waste heat potential is estimated at approximately 3,400 TWh/year, holding a potential electricity market value exceeding CHF 500 billion.

The funds from the first VK stage will be used to acquire software licenses, mainly required for simulation and design purposes of the machine. Furthermore, with a solid theoretical background established, they will travel to and map industrial plants, which will help identify and analyze their market in greater detail.

Magic Heidi: Modern invoicing & accounting solution for self-employed

Self-employed worldwide, but particularly in Switzerland have been the ugly little duck when it comes to startups building software for them. Everyone focuses on SMEs and so they have had no choice but to use that overly complicated and old software that was not meant for them in the first place. Luckily, over the last few years, the software paradigm has changed and it is now possible to build exquisite software, at a fraction of the cost across all platforms, thanks to modern technology.

Nathan Ganser, a software engineer himself, has been realizing this opportunity over the past years while building software businesses. It is now possible for a tiny team, with minimal funding to outcompete large teams by building better software across more platforms (iPhone, Android, Mac, Web) and charge less than the legacy providers. As an entrepreneur and self-employed, Nathan has been acutely aware of the lack of good solutions in that industry and went ahead to bring freshness to the accounting world. Being only 23 years old himself, he represents the new generation of self-employed who will not settle for mediocre software and expect more. He will do his utmost to serve them.

Having launched in early 2023 and garnered more than a thousand sign-ups so far, the initial Venture Kick grant will be used to continue developing the app and launch marketing campaigns.

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