Connect with us

Technology

Circle of life sciences: Ireland’s medtech start-up ecosystem

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Enterprise Ireland’s Alan Hobbs explains how Ireland’s indigenous life sciences start-ups grew from a wealth of multinational experience.

Read more life sciences stories

What’s the recipe for a thriving life sciences start-up ecosystem? It starts with a sizeable portion of the major multinational players in the industry converging in one space. Like a good sourdough starter, this combination activates and grows under the right conditions. It swells with experience and talent, spawning serial innovators backed by a wealth of experience. At least, that’s the traditional Irish recipe.

According to Alan Hobbs, the life sciences industry in Ireland is so active that exact figures change almost daily. When I spoke to the Enterprise Ireland lead for high-potential life sciences start-ups earlier this month, he estimated that there are about 180 domestic life sciences companies in Ireland employing in excess of 25,000 people and generating sales above $6bn per year. These indigenous life sciences companies span pharma, biotech, diagnostics and therapeutics, but the lion’s share are medical device businesses.

“Before the large multinationals were here, a lot of our medical-based device talent was going overseas for opportunities. But these companies allowed them to come back and build their careers in Ireland,” said Hobbs.

‘The more experienced entrepreneurs in medical devices are on their third and fourth company’
– ALAN HOBBS

Discussions around the life sciences industry in Ireland often centre on the fact that the majority of the world’s biggest pharma, biotech and medtech companies have operations here. Less attention has been paid to how being such a crucial node in this global network has generated a thriving indigenous industry.

Experienced professionals working in life sciences multinationals may have innovative ideas of their own that don’t fit the R&D roadmap of their employer, Hobbs explained. “So they’re encouraged and facilitated to go off and spin out their own start-up. And in some cases they’re supported financially,” he said.

This cycle of larger companies spawning new entities is particularly advantageous in an industry as complex as medtech. These emerging entrepreneurs come with deep domain expertise, experience of building a product and established industry contacts. And this cycle has already produced a number of serial entrepreneurs.

“If you look at the more experienced entrepreneurs in medical devices now, they’re on their third and fourth company. So they’ve got a ready-made network, ready-made management teams. They know the process, they know how it works. The regulatory process, the clinical trials – all of that skillset is here,” said Hobbs.

The next stage for these serial entrepreneurs, then, is angel investment, furthering the cycle that generates more local life sciences entrepreneurship. “Look at the west of Ireland in particular. It has been well documented. We’re very fortunate there,” said Hobbs. “There is a series of high net-worth angel investors that are spawning start-ups and they’re acting as non-executive directors, advisers, mentors, chairpersons and funders.”

The baseline of industry experience that underpins life sciences entrepreneurship also supports the investment side, as these angels are capable of identifying the long-term opportunities. In some cases, Hobbs explained, these angel investors leverage their global connections. “We have some start-ups over the last couple of years where the initial IP came in from the US. For example, the Mayo Clinic and other big institutes were prepared to license basic IP into an Irish entity because they knew of the ecosystem here that could help exploit it and develop products and a company out of it,” he said.

‘When you start up a medical device company, it’s a very expensive journey you’re going on’
– ALAN HOBBS

Early-stage funding is crucial for any start-up but in medtech in particular, it’s a necessary lifeline. “When you start up a medical device company, it’s a very expensive journey you’re going on and it takes quite some time,” said Hobbs.

Bringing a medical device to market can take years of design, trials and validation, not to mention the regulatory requirements. “The more non-dilutive money you can raise early in the process, the more value you can build in your company before you take on VCs. And that means you preserve as much equity as you can,” advised Hobbs.

Enterprise Ireland recently launched its supports for non-dilutive funding from EU programmes such as the European Innovation Council and Horizon Europe. The agency has established a dedicated website, HorizonEurope.ie, where potential applicants can find out more about the programme and explore past Irish success stories, of which there have been many. Irish research and innovation secured more than €1bn in support from Horizon 2020, the pre-cursor to Horizon Europe, and Hobbs expects to see continued success under the new programme.

Life sciences companies can also avail of non-dilutive funding from the Irish Government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund. Just last week, healthcare solutions in areas such as cancer treatments and chronic knee osteoarthritis were among the 29 projects awarded in the latest €95m funding round.

Funds such as these help to somewhat offset the challenge of securing early-stage funding, and for that there’s also Enterprise Ireland and the aforementioned angels. With the latter, Hobbs has noticed a trend of investors going in earlier with much larger sums to support life sciences companies. This can be a risky move but the depth of native life sciences knowledge makes these bets look more promising.

“You have a serial entrepreneur, somebody who has gone again, so they’ve already gone through a start-up in life science and med device. They’ve a fairly good idea about what works and how it works,” said Hobbs. The process will still take a lot of time and money, but investors can take a lower risk on a safe bet.

Another way in which Ireland is producing promising investments is through BioInnovate, the flagship programme within Enterprise Ireland’s life sciences division. This clinical immersion programme gives its selected fellows nine months to just observe clinical environments and see where opportunities may lie.

The ideal opportunity will identify a substantial addressable market with an unmet clinical need that, if addressed, can improve patient outcomes. These three key ingredients make for a highly attractive investment proposition. Add in the ability to decrease associated costs and Hobbs said, “It’s a slam dunk.”

‘Remote diagnostics monitoring has really been accelerated because of Covid’
– ALAN HOBBS

When it comes to emerging opportunities in life sciences investment, Hobbs cited, “AI, machine learning, diagnostics, imaging and electroporation [the use of an electric pulse to introduce DNA or drugs into cells].” And, of course, the biggest trend of 2020: remote healthcare.

Hobbs said that a number of Enterprise Ireland client companies “exploded growth-wise” over the last year as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Remote diagnostics monitoring has really been accelerated because of Covid, and it has actually helped us because it has opened the HSE and other health systems around the world to adopting technology earlier.”

Hobbs praised Prof Martin Curley, the HSE’s director of digital transformation, and his team in particular for what has been achieved in Irish healthcare in the past year. “Credit to them. They’ve opened the doors and they’ve been very, very helpful,” said Hobbs.

Irish companies such as Wellola, which supports remote GP consultations, and PatientmPower, which has a device that enables remote monitoring of respiratory conditions, have directly supported Ireland’s Covid-19 response. Others such as BlueDrop Medical, whose medical device allows diabetes patients to check for signs of a developing foot ulcer at home, are perfectly poised to succeed in a connected health future.

The digital transformation of healthcare has taken a leap forward under Covid-19, accelerating what has long been the future plan for the HSE. Sláintecare, the Government’s roadmap for the future of Irish healthcare is all about moving more and more medical interventions away from the hospital, and Irish medtech companies have already begun laying the foundations to make this possible.

And it all begins with that recipe to feed life sciences innovation. “It’s a combination of the experience we have, the people that are there, the multinationals that are there, our repeat entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, then the funding that’s available,” said Hobbs.

Source link

Technology

Pushing Buttons: Happy 50th birthday to Atari, whose simple games gave us so much | Games

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Welcome to Pushing Buttons, the Guardian’s gaming newsletter. If you’d like to receive it in your inbox every week, just pop your email in below – and check your inbox (and spam) for the confirmation email.

Sign up for Pushing Buttons, our weekly guide to what’s going on in video games.

This week marks a truly important video game anniversary: it is 50 years since Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney incorporated Atari Inc, the company that laid the foundations for the video games industry. There have been many appraisals of the company and its landmark achievements in the games press over the past few days – from the arrival of a Pong machine in Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California, in 1972, through classic titles such as Breakout, Asteroids and Missile Commands, to the iconic home consoles. So many moments of creative genius, so many genres, concepts and conventions bursting into existence at the hands of scruffy engineers and designers such as Ed Logg, Larry Kaplan and Dona Bailey.

But one element that often gets overlooked in these nostalgic reveries is the way in which Atari taught the first generation of electronic gamers how to think symbolically. With two rectangles and a square, Pong invited us to visualise tennis, while Night Driver’s series of moving rectangles convinced us we were driving a car. Some will point to the 1972 console the Magnavox Odyssey as the originator of these concepts, but it was Atari putting them in arcade machines – and later consoles –all over the world.

It was also Atari that generated a whole universe around its simple games. Through beautiful cabinet designs, expert use of iconography and graphic design, and the gorgeous illustrations on its Atari VCS cartridges, the company sought to simulate the imagination of players before they even held the controller. The boxes for titles such as Berzerk and Defender, all highly abstract and visually simple games, were alive with drama; they showed human characters, explosions and colours that were impossible to achieve on screen at the time, quietly providing players with the imaginative tools they needed to become immersed. Would we have cared so much about the fate of the lifeless rock at the base of the screen in Missile Command if it hadn’t been for George Opperman’s package art? The tense commander at his desk, the explosions, the missiles seemingly scorching out of the box itself …

It was George Opperman who also designed Atari’s now legendary logo, consisting of three simple lines, the two exterior shafts curving inwards toward the peak. Over the years Opperman claimed many influences for his design – Mount Fuji, Japanese alphabet symbols, Pong itself – personally, I’ve always viewed it as a spaceship. But it’s how the image seems to sum up the excitement and futuristic promise of the company that really matters. When we see the logo flash briefly on the screen in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, it’s a quick visual signifier that this is a highly technological landscape. It fits in perfectly with a world of androids and flying cars.

Nolan Bushnell saw how video games could naturally bleed from the screen into real space, meat space. During the 1970s, the industry started in pubs and taverns, then moved into arcades and eventually the home, and they had effects on all of them: they changed behaviours and got written into our lives in subtle ways. His introduction of the Chuck E Cheese pizza restaurant chain, which combined family eating with a video game arcade, brilliantly monetised the ways that games, although graphically simple, had worked their way from the TV screen to dinner table conversation. We laugh about how the original VCS console had wood panelling, but this was a deliberate attempt to ape the aesthetics of the 1970s living room, with its wooden furniture, TV and stereo cabinets. Atari understood that assimilation would be a vital element of success.

Even now, in this age of near photorealism, video games rely on the kind of abstractions that Atari perfected. The heart symbols to denote the number of lives we have left; the heavy use of icons and exterior narratives; the endless references to familiar cinema tropes. We saw Atari being played on TV shows and films, we saw Atari in comics. While its games were still being drawn with two sprites each a single byte in size, the iconography of Atari was out there in the world. It’s something Nintendo would learn from, and later Sony, with its cultural melting pot of a console: the PlayStation. Atari was a myth maker too: from the Easter egg hidden in Adventure to the buried copies of E.T. in the California desert, the company itself became a source of digital folklore that took on meanings beyond anything portrayed on your TV.

50 years ago, Atari began to show us that games exist in a strange liminal space between the screen and the brain, and they are constantly able to escape. The dots on the screen are only ever part of the picture, and the picture never stops moving.

What to play

This week we recommend the knockout Capcom Fighting Collection.
This week we recommend the knockout Capcom Fighting Collection. Photograph: Capcom

While we’re in a nostalgic mood, I’m really enjoying Capcom Fighting Collection. You’d probably expect a dozen famous titles from the Street Fighter series, but that’s already been covered by Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection. Instead, we get five games from the spooky, goth-infused Darkstalkers series, the mid-1990s fantasy-themed Red Earth and a bunch of offbeat Street Fighter dalliances including the ridiculously compelling Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, which brilliantly combined fighting game dynamics with … Tetris. The games are filled with blistering attacks and truly imaginative character designs, all lovingly updated for the modern era.

Available on: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Approximate playtime: As long as you want

What to read

  • Eurogamer is running a whole series of features for Pride, including this piece talking to Captain Fluke about being the first openly trans esports commentator and this one on the joy of gay fan faction and mods. Elsewhere, IGN has listed its favourite ever LGBT+ characters in video games.

  • Verge has a really interesting piece on a group of creatives making branded worlds for big companies in Fortnite. Everyone talks about Facebook when referencing the coming era of the metaverse, but I’m pretty sure Fortnite is going to be just as important as an explorable shared space for interconnected worlds – and the advertising potential therein.

  • We also found out this week that Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creative genius behind Dark Souls and Elden Ring, is almost finished on his next project. This is good news for me as, after 225 hours, I’m nearing the end of Elden Ring and would be very happy to slide straight into his next game if possible.

  • If I’ve got you interested in Atari’s design and illustration philosophy, The Art of Atari by Tim Lapetino is a gorgeous book. For a more technical analysis of the company, try Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost.

What to click

‘A little bit addictive and the right amount hard’: new video game is based on poems of Emily Dickinson

Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest review – lovable gamers on mission to break record

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review – wild battles liven up a familiar anime franchise

Melbourne startup raises $9m for mental wellness game based on tending houseplants

Question block

This week’s question comes from Tim and his daughter Caitlin, and is answered by Keza:

“We got really into Hades over lockdown, loving the ‘it’s the same each time but really different too’ concept as well as the lore and the artwork. Can you recommend a similar game that we could play together?”

Hades is what’s known as a roguelike – one of those games where you have to start again from the beginning each time, but each playthrough throws different challenges at you – and, happily for you both, this genre has been having a moment over the past few years. Hades is a contender for the very best game in this genre, so it’s hard to rival, but here are some others to try.

Dead Cells is a kind of cyberpunk-fantasy action game where you gradually explore a shapeshifting castle; Spelunky 2 has you delving down below the Earth through caves full of amusing hazards, and has a great sense of humour (you can also play co-op); Into the Breach is something a little different, a strategy game where you have to defend the world from hostile invaders, travelling back in time after each failed attempt. And for a story and art style as good as that of Hades with a different gameplay feel, try developer Supergiant’s previous games Pyre, Transistor and Bastion, if you haven’t already.

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

China says it has photographed all of Mars from orbit • The Register

Voice Of EU

Published

on

China is claiming that as of Wednesday, its Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter has officially photographed the entire Red Planet. And it’s shown off new photos of the southern polar cap and a volcano to prove it.

“It has acquired the medium-resolution image data covering the whole globe of Mars, with all of its scientific payloads realizing a global survey,” state-sponsored media quoted the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announcing.

Among the images are one of Mount Askra with its crater, shots of the South Pole whose ice sheet is believed to consist of solid carbon dioxide and ice, the seven-kilometer deep Valles Marineris canyon, and the geomorphological characteristics of the rim of the Mund crater.

Mount Askela

Mount Askela. Click to enlarge

Mars South Pole

Mars South Pole. Click to enlarge

Valles Marineris

Valles Marineris. Click to enlarge

Geomorphology of the rim of the Mund Crater

Mund crater. Click to enlarge

Tianwen-1 had been in orbit around Mars for 706 days. The orbiter circled Mars 1,344 times, as of an announcement from CNSA. The space org said Tianwen-1 has completed its scheduled missions.

In conjunction with its rover Zhurong, Tianwen-1 amassed 1,040 gigabytes of raw scientific data through 13 onboard scientific payloads.

The mission has allowed CNSA to observe solar occultation and solar wind together with international observatories – including those in Russia, Germany, Italy, Australia and South Africa – to improve the accuracy of space weather forecasts. Good news for Matt Damon.

CNSA said it will share more scientific data with the international community in due course.

In December, Zhurong and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft performed an in-orbit relay communication test to demonstrate it was possible to relay data from Zhurong back to Earth via Mars Express. The demonstration was successful, if a bit complicated – Mars Express had to “listen” for Zhurong since the rover was unable to communicate directly because the frequencies used don’t match.

Even though the mission is officially over, the orbiter and rover are still in working order. The orbiter will stay in orbit and continue its remote sensing and data relay activities while Zhurong will hibernate until weather conditions improve – likely in December. ®

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

Collisons join A-list backers of Entrepreneur First’s $158m Series C

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Founded in 2011, Entrepreneur First’s portfolio has grown to more than 500 companies, which together are worth more than $10bn.

London-based scale-up investor Entrepreneur First has raised $158m in a Series C funding round, with backing from some of the world’s biggest tech founders.

The funding round included participation from Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison. They were joined by Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus (who also launched a new VC fund this week), LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, Monzo co-founder Tom Blomfield, Nested co-founder and CEO Matt Robinson, and many others.

There was also investment from longstanding institutional backers such as Transpose Platform, Vitruvian Partners, Encore Capital and Isomer Capital.

“It feels right that this round of funding comes from the most successful technology founders of today,” Entrepreneur First CEO Matt Clifford said. “Their support will build their counterparts of tomorrow.”

Founded in 2011, Entrepreneur First describes itself as “the best place in the world to meet your co-founder”. It says the best companies come from co-founding partnerships, but that finding the right person can be hugely challenging.

Entrepreneur First invests in early-stage founder talent. It works to bring people together from all walks of life to help meet potential co-founders, while giving them access to advisers in a three-month programme.

The company currently has 120 employees with offices in London, Toronto, Paris, Berlin, Bangalore and Singapore.

Its portfolio now includes more than 500 companies, which together exceed $10bn in value. These companies include computer vision unicorn Tractable, employment platform Omnipresent and advertising infrastructure platform Permutive.

“We built a way for the world’s most talented people, from all walks of life, to come together to find co-founders and build from scratch,” Clifford said. “Now, that fix has introduced co-founders who wouldn’t have otherwise met, to build companies that wouldn’t have been built.”

Entrepreneur First aims to see the value of companies built from its platform cross $100bn and beyond in the years to come.

“What we do may no longer seem crazy, as it did 10 years ago,” Clifford added. “But we’re just as committed to keep innovating to serve entrepreneurs better – and be the best place in the world to find a co-founder.”

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!