Talent growth
Kaunas IN.
2022 10 28
From idea to result: the birth of unique healthcare innovations in Kaunas is coordinated by an ambitious center

Robots that dispense mixtures of biologically active substances, periodontitis treatment that helps prevent surgical intervention, or a regenerated knee cartilage are just a few biomedical innovations born in Kaunas. They are implemented and developed by successful startups together with Lithuanian University of Health Sciences’ (LSMU) research teams. Since November of last year, LSMU’s Health Care Innovation Development Center (SIVC) has been working to ensure the proliferation of such startups and making sure that scientists’ ideas turn into services and products instead of staying on the pages of academic journals.

 

The life sciences industry is a prioritized economic sector in the country and one of the prioritized business sectors in Kaunas. The city’s successful business ecosystem of life sciences is supplemented every year by promising startups and spin-off companies, the origins of which are usually traced to the largest higher education institution of life sciences in Lithuania – the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences.

 

A university with about 8 thousand students, not only trains important biomedical specialists for the whole country, but also greatly promotes cooperation between science and business. In order to focus on this direction even more, Health Care Innovation Development Center was founded almost a year ago. It coordinates the transfer of innovations and technologies, works to ensure that the ideas born during scientific research carried out by LSMU are properly patented, licensed and do not end up in a drawer but are turned into products and services that make real people’s lives easier.

 

“The university often becomes not only a cradle for the development of medical innovations, from which promising startups and spin-off companies grown, but also a partner and helper of life science companies working on new technologies that move their operations to Kaunas. The main goal of our center is to achieve smooth cooperation between science and business in creating, developing and transferring of the scientific results achieved at the university. Before that, these functions were performed by the Development Service of LSMU, but the increasing number of innovators, the attention of the state and the university to the prioritized field of life sciences dictated the need to refine the functions and create an independent unit for the promotion of innovations and their commercialization,” the head of LSMU SIVC, Edmundas Šalna, says.

 

And indeed, as indicated by Invest in Lithuania, the growth of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors in Lithuania had reached 62 percent in 2021. It is one of the fastest growths in the European Union, and the state’s goal is even more ambitious: it aims for the life sciences industry to generate 5 percent of the country’s GDP (currently it accounts for ~2.5 percent of GDP) by 2030.

 

To discover the most promising ones and commercialize them

 

“For the academic knowledge to not remain only a theory, implementable solutions are needed that would really help and contribute to improving the quality of life. The university, as a partner of two hospitals, has a coherent system, both theoretical knowledge and the possibility to test it in laboratories or during clinical trials in the hospital. This innovation development system was always lacking in management that would take care of turning the most promising commercialization research into a product or service, attracting the necessary funds, starting the necessary processes, taking care of prototype production, etc. Therefore, our center becomes a connecting link. If there is an interesting patent, our task is to sell the idea to someone who would be interested in starting further activities based on that patent. We are coordinators of the processes between academic knowledge, testing and sales to the end user,” the head of the center explains its work.

 

The center also works with external service or product developers who need LSMU as a basis for testing or expert evaluation and research services.

 

“For example, if you have developed a device and want to study its effectiveness, check whether your invention meets the expectations of doctors, or maybe test how certain materials work. Our center will coordinate what kind of scientists, or their groups can take on this task. Sometimes teams from several faculties or even several institutions come together for such projects. For example, we have interesting and successful projects with our other colleagues from Kaunas, such as: Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) or Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI). How long do such projects take? It depends. Some we test relatively quickly, provide expert insights on how to improve and change things, others can take months or years to research. After all, working on innovations in the life sciences industry is an extremely time-consuming process. Businesses that apply for expert, laboratory evaluation services are very diverse: from health care services and veterinary medicine to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics,” E. Šalna explains.

 

Innovative products that diagnose, treat, and relieve

 

Among the innovations created in Kaunas, at LSMU, in recent years, are products and services that went from the stage of ideas to technological solutions.

 

One of them is the Voice Screen mobile app, which performs voice analysis and detects pathological acoustic changes in the voice. The goal of its developers is to perform a simple and accurate remote consultation, during which it is possible to ensure early diagnosis of throat diseases. Research teams from LSMU and KTU worked closely together to create this product.

 

Meanwhile, UAB SynHet, a spin-off company established by LSMU works on synthesizing the biologically active substances and their purification, focusing its activities mostly on foreign markets in Europe. Another startup working in the field of research and experiments, together with LSMU, is developing a unique adaptive robotic preparation chromatography system, RoboChrom, which helps to separate various compounds efficiently, simply and quickly, thus eliminating tedious and inefficient manual work.

 

Scientists driven by an ambition to regenerate cartilage work at UAB Kelifarma, which develops advanced therapeutic drugs, using stem cells for joint regeneration.

 

Another innovation – a medical tool created by UAB Ramazottius Lab together with LSMU scientists – born in Kaunas will help people avoid unpleasant surgical procedures. Natural drug for periodontitis called Periozip was created using a natural biologically active substance, a geranium root extract.

 

Exolitus, a biotech company, aims to translate the latest knowledge of cellular interactions into next-generation health solutions by producing exosomes for medical and cosmetic products and exosome researchers worldwide.

 

A lot is expected from Aleksotas Innovation Industrial Park

 

“We not only help this and similar startups to find projects that will help them carry out further research and get the necessary funding. An equally important challenge is finding suitable premises for work, and even better, open access centers where life science innovators could settle near the laboratories they need and develop their project together with other scientists. That’s why we are particularly optimistic about the emerging Aleksotas Innovation Park in Kaunas,” E. Šalna points out.

 

The new Aleksotas Innovation Industrial Park is focused on research and development, with the aim of developing business projects related to research, experimental development and innovation (R&D) activities. The collaboration with Kaunas universities in preparing the park’s feasibility study was intentional. The LSMU proposed an idea that a park could be a basis that would centralize the services provided by different institutions, and the ecosystem created in it would help develop relevant applied research, for example, creating autonomous surgical robots or thread-based diagnostic devices, DNA nanobots, smart lens and glasses solutions, etc.

Source: LSMU.