Bi/ond: Taking the step towards personalized medicine
“Our mission is to create a world where personalized medicine will be made available to everyone. We want to achieve this by merging microelectronics with biology.”
Nikolas Gaio is the CTO of MedTech startup Bi/ond and together with his co-founders Cinzia Silvestri and William F. G. Solano, he is looking to bring innovation to the medical field.
“Microelectronics is being used in a lot of markets but in biology, it has still not been utilized to its full potential,” Nikolas says. “We want to take advantage of that and make a difference.”
FROM A SIMPLE IDEA
The idea behind Bi/ond evolved as a result of years-long Ph.D. research at the TU Delft. The three co-founders were fascinated by the possibilities that personalized medicine had to offer but were struggling with the little progress that was being made in that field. So they took things in their hands.
“At the moment, medicines and pharmaceutical products are developed based on middle-aged white men, so people from other ethnicities and women are rarely taken into consideration during these development processes,” Nikolas says. “The number of genetic differences plays an important role in how medicines affect different ethnicities, age, and sex.”
The reason why there is not enough progress in the field, he believes, is because current technology is not accurate enough to handle the complexity of the differences between people. Bi/ond hopes to change that.
What the startup is working on is a technology for more accurate drug testing and simulations of any tissue type. “We’ve developed a computer chip with a small blood vessel that can nourish, stimulate and monitor cells. For example, it can stimulate cells in the heart to keep it beating or in the lungs to help them keep expanding,” Nikolas says.
Supporting the team along the way has been YES!Delft and their community of mentors and experts. One of the biggest challenges for Nikolas and his co-founders has been turning Bi/ond from a research project into a business.
“We were and still are engineers, so YES!Delft have helped us a lot in improving our technology while also teaching us how to build a company. They took us out of our engineering bubble and showed us what it’s like to run a business,” Nikolas says.
They learned the importance of validating their technology with potential customers and talked to tens of medical professionals to gain insights into their needs and challenges. Currently, Bi/ond is supplying its product to three academic hospitals across Europe and is mostly focusing on its cardiac application.
“Together with our customers, we are now mostly looking into cardiac toxicity,” Nikolas says, “which essentially means that we are trying to find out if a medication is affecting the heart in the wrong way.”
TO A GROWING COMPANY
While the startup does have competitors on the market, Nikolas believes that Bi/ond has a unique advantage. It is the only company currently that combines microelectronics with biology, making it possible to stimulate cells and “bring what is inside the body outside of it,” he adds.
The hospitals that they are currently working with are different in their approach of using Bi/ond’s technology. Some of them are interested in only buying the chips, while others are also happy to work together with the startup and help develop the technology further.
A little bit further down the line, the team will aim to add biotech companies to its customer base, alongside hospitals. “Our goal is to strike partnerships with such companies later on and establish our credibility in the field.”
Today, Bi/ond is a team of seven and they are well equipped to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. So far, they have been financed via local and international grants as well as a first round of funding from UNIIQ, the proof-of-concept fund of South Holland. Going into 2021, they will be looking at a second, bigger investment.
Nikolas and the team have surely gained momentum over the past year and are moving closer to their mission of making medicine more personalized in the future.
- Collaboration with a complementary biotech company for the development of a Heart-on-Chip model;
- Integration of electrodes and sensors inside the Bi/ond’s product to guarantee “more-than-imaging” to our customers;
- Deal with a pharmaceutical company.