In late February 2023, UC Berkeley School of Public Health welcomed the third cohort of its Health Innovation Accelerator (formerly the Taiwan-Berkeley Health Innovation Accelerator). Five medical technology startups were selected to participate in the program as part of an ongoing partnership with the National Development Council in Taiwan.
The Health Innovation Accelerator will connect the teams with health systems leaders, executives at life sciences companies, experts in regulatory and reimbursement strategies, successful entrepreneurs, life science investors, and other resources to promote the teams’ long-term success.
Company executives will remain in the Bay Area through late May, with the 10 participants attending workshops on such topics as the structure of the U.S. healthcare system, the regulatory landscape, intellectual property in the life sciences, and entrepreneurship. The group will also take in some local culture at a Giants baseball game.
Engagement with Berkeley students also provides new sources of ideas while granting undergraduates the chance to learn firsthand about entrepreneurial grit. The startups also have access to a specialized suite of courses covering topics including biomedical innovation policy, regulatory science, healthcare financing, clinical trials, diagnostics, venture capital, and more offered through Berkeley Law and the Online MPH Program at Berkeley Public Health.
“Berkeley Public Health’s health innovation accelerator connects academia and industry to support the development of new ideas and technology that improve people’s lives,” said Jared Mazzanti, director of strategic initiatives at Berkeley Public Health. “Taiwan’s world-class healthcare system, dynamic health tech sector, and thriving startup ecosystem make it an ideal partner in pursuit of this goal.”
This year’s startup teams focus on a wide range of medical technology, from the development of an ultrasonic device to treat pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis to AI-powered dentistry to high-tech solutions for tricky procedures in orthopedic surgery.
Dr. Woeichyn Chu, co-founder of WeMED Bio-tech, professor at National Yangming Chiaotung University in Taiwan. and a participant in the program, says that he was attracted to the accelerator because “it is run by a prestigious institute with ample experience and prominent results.”
His company is working on two products that will help orthopedic surgeons better treat their patients. One will aid trauma surgeons better locate screw holes during surgeries to repair long bone fractures. The other is a bone cement injection system for use on fractured vertebrae. “Reduced cement leakage rates directly lowers the potential risks of serious complications, such as urinary incontinence, pulmonary embolism, paraplegia, or death,” said Dr. Chu. The injection system is currently undergoing human trials prior to submission to the FDA. The main market for both devices will be the U.S.
Thus far, Chu says his team—which includes his colleague Shiao-Han Yuan—has been able to connect with American orthopedic surgeons as well as professionals in the medical device field and in venture capital.
“We are looking for collaborators and connections to trauma surgeons, manufacturers/distributors of interlocking nails [used in orthopedic surgery] in the States, and venture capitalists before we return to Taiwan,” Chu says.
Other participating startup companies included in the current cohort are Heroic-Faith Medical Science, MedFluid, SoundJet Medical, and Preteeth AI. Previous teams in the health innovation accelerator have gone on to win competitions including SelectUSA, run by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Meet the Drapers—an entrepreneur-focused television show—and have built partnerships with Berkeley Public Health faculty to address public health challenges like tuberculosis detection.
The fourth cohort will arrive in Berkeley in 2024.