Successes of SensUs teams after the SensUs competition
In the annual SensUs competition, teams of students strive to make the best possible biosensors and win the SensUs awards. But how are the teams, and their prototypes, doing after the competition? We spoke with six alumni teams who told us about their activities and recognition after the competition.
The international SensUs competition challenges multi-disciplinary teams of students to develop innovative biosensors for real-live applications. The teams consist of students with varying age, education and experience. This results in a wide range of creative ideas that are implemented in their prototypes. The SensUs competition is the start of an innovative journey.
The theme of SensUs 2016 was kidney failure and the teams developed biosensors to detect Creatinine in blood, a biomarker of chronic kidney disease (CKD). KreaSensa, the team form KU Leuven, was the winner of the first edition of SensUs. They won the Analytical Performance award, the Translation Potential award and the Public Inspiration award. KU Leuven filed a patent application on the technology that was part of the KreaSensa prototype. After the competition Francesco Dal Dosso, who was the coach of KreaSensa 2016, and Elena Perez Ruiz enrolled in a training course at the KU Leuven on knowledge and technology transfer and the exploitation of research. In the course they developed a business case based on their SensUs results, and they were the winner in this training course!
KeaSensa wrote a scientific paper on their biosensor, that was published in Analytica Chimica Acta in 2018. Their biosensor has not gone unnoticed; KreaSensa was invited to present their biosensor at three recognized events.
The first event was the annual event of the Dutch Kidney Foundation and the Association for Kidney Patients on the 13th of January 2017 in Hilversum. The second event was at the MicroTas conference in Savannah, USA, where Kreasensa gave a presentation entitled “Self-powered SIMPLE chip for CKD diagnosis and monitoring using the POC Creasensor”. They presented the CreaSensor, a true point-of-care (POC) biosensor for the detection of creatinine in blood plasma. CreaSensor combines SIMPLE technology, a powerful microfluidics tool that requires no external power for activation or liquid manipulation, with a colorimetric read-out and an enzymatic bio-assay.
The third event was a workshop for GPs in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where KreaSensa gave a presentation entitled “SIMPLE, microfluidic devices for POC applications”, by Jolien Breukers and Francesco Dal Dosso.
Francesco kept working on the technology during his PhD after the competition. Currently, the Biosensors group in KU Leuven, led by Prof. Jeroen Lammertyn, is further developing the microfluidic technology. The research group received funding to continue working on the microfluidic platform for many applications. The group is looking into different valorization strategies and has published papers in several journals (of SpringerLink, ScienceDirect and the American Chemical Society).
‘The Biosensors group at KU Leuven is currently exploring all the potential of the SIMPLE technology both in diagnostics and therapeutics applications.’
The theme of SensUs 2017 was heart failure and the teams developed biosensors to detect NT-proBNP in blood, an important biomarker of heart failure. UppSense, the team from Uppsala University, took home the Creativity award. After the competition in 2017, the team received the Swedish Embedded Award at the Annual Scandinavian Embedded Systems Conference. The team won the award for the best newly developed intelligent systems of the year in the student category. They were rewarded with SEK 25000. The Scandinavian Embedded Systems Conference is considered the largest embedded conference of Europe and it attracts a lot of interest from the Swedish industries and academics.
Team T.E.S.T, the team from Eindhoven University of Technology, took home three awards in SensUs 2017; they were the winner of the Analytical Performance Award, the Translational Potential Award and the Public Inspiration Award. In the same year, they won the Student Teams Award in the TU/e Contest, worth 5000 euro.
After the competition four members of team T.E.S.T kept working on the biosensor. They spoke with marketeers, technology experts, medical doctors and with a large healthcare company to further develop their concept. Unfortunately, the students of team T.E.S.T did not have enough time and resources to continue working on the biosensor and stopped. The technology is being further developed in a research group at Eindhoven University of Technology and a related patent has been extended by a large healthcare company.
The theme of SensUs 2018 was “Measuring antibiotics for better healthcare’’ and the teams developed biosensors to detect the antibiotic vancomycin in blood. SenSwiss, the team from EPFL (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) was the winner of SensUs 2018. They won the Analytical Performance Award and were the runner-up of the Creativity Award and the Translational Potential Award. In Switzerland the success of SenSwiss was on the radio. In an interview with radio channel Couleur 3, SenSwiss explained that four team members continued to work on the biosensor. They participated in “START Lausanne”, a competition for startups. They competed with 60 other start-ups and made it till the finals!
Currently, SenSwiss a start-up company and they are in a support program of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne to further develop their biosensor.
Furthermore, SenSwiss has been invited, together with the SensUs Organization, to give a presentation at EuroMedLab 2019, the large European Congress of Clinical Lab Medicine, which takes place in Barcelona in May 2019. This is an honor for SenSwiss as well as for the SensUs Organization.
‘Our SensUs journey was amazing. The opportunity to develop our own prototype was fantastic and even more now that we are still working on it. SensUs was a concrete push into the biosensing field and it opened perspectives that we would not have imagined before the competition. Also, it is a real honour to be invited to EuroMedLab 2019 even though we will not be able to attend it. We are happy that team VanGow has taken the opportunity to speak at the conference.’
DeTectUs was the team from the Technical University of Denmark in SensUs 2018. The university filed a patent application on the technology that was part of the biosensor prototype. The team continues the development of the vancomycin sensor and plans to create a startup company. Recently DeTectUs received their first funding and they are waiting for on a second source of funding.
VanGow, the team from the University of Glasgow, took home two prizes in SensUs 2018: they were the winner of the Creativity Award and the runner-up of the Analytical Performance Award. After the competition, they kept working on their biosensor with the support of their supervisors Dr. Julien Reboud and Dr. Hadi Heidari and the university.
VanGow is collaborating with Multi Dimension Technology (MDT) who provided the team with state-of-the-art TMR sensors worth 6000 dollars and EIT health who support the team financially. Currently, VanGow is connecting with the NHS (The National Health Service) and they have been invited to participate in a creativity event at the University of Glasgow.
VanGow attended a meeting with the Scottish Minister of Trade, Investment and Innovation, Mr Ivan McKee and several secretaries of the Scottish Government. The minister wrote a letter of recognition to VanGow describing how proud Scotland is of the team and offering help towards taking forward VanGow's biosensor and start-up company.
“It was great to receive an invitation to meet with the Scottish Minister and to see the level of support and enthusiasm the Scottish Government has for innovation and healthcare. The importance the Ministry gives to these fields is really praiseworthy!”
In conclusion, the teams that participated in the first three editions of the SensUs competition have received external recognition, technologies have been patented, and several teams remained active in making next steps with their biosensor, including development toward startup companies. This underlines the mission of SensUs to stimulate education as well as innovation in the field of biosensing, for a better quality of life. The innovation journey of SensUs has only just started and we are committed to make it grow to its full potential.