Ireland-UK, EIT Health Ireland-UK

Two Ireland-based start-ups secure places in EIT Health’s Wild Card finals

24th October 2023

Responding to this year’s Wild Card challenge, Haon Life Sciences and Myndgard are working to deliver innovations that address specific issues affecting children’s health. Seven European start-ups will compete in the final in Warsaw on 27th October.

EIT Health Ireland-UK, a Co-location Centre of EIT Health, which is part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, a body of the European Union, today announced that two Ireland-based start-ups, Haon Life Sciences and Myndgard, have been selected as finalists in the pan-European Wild Card competition.  Backed by EIT Health, Europe’s largest health innovation network, Wild Card is an annual open innovation competition which invites health innovators from across Europe to develop solutions to solve pressing health challenges. The 2023 challenge sought to tackle areas of children’s health. 

Children’s health often receives suboptimal healthcare solutions compared to adults. From 2003 to 2017, only 24% of FDA-approved Class III life-saving devices were designed for paediatric use. Together with Sant Joan de Deu Hospital (SJD) Barcelona Children’s Hospital and its innovation hub i4KIDS, EIT Health’s Wild Card programme aims to accelerate children-centric innovations in the areas of chronic conditions, rare diseases, and acute disease management. 

Now in its sixth year, Wild Card pairs early-stage start-ups with mentors to develop a business proposal and pitch. Guidance and support are provided by experts and investors to validate their problem-solution, achieve product-market fit, and secure investment opportunities. To date 195 entrepreneurs have been trained, with 44 projects accelerated, leading to €21.5M in investment attracted by Wild Card start-ups.  

Previous Wild Card winners include Abtrace in 2018, which went on to raise £4.1M in funding and cover 2.7 million patients with their solution, and 2019 winners Intelligent Lab on Fiber (iLoF) which raised $5M investment last year. iLoF was also subsequently ranked a top digital health start-up worldwide by CB Insights, in addition to being named in Forbes’ 30 under 30. 

“Establishing a healthtech or biotech business is an exceptionally hard multi-stakeholder challenge, filled with regulatory complexities. EIT Health’s Wild Card programme offers crucial support to earlier stage start-ups in accelerating the journey. Availing of world-class mentorship, both Haon Life Sciences and Myndgard have the opportunity to develop their business models as a pathway to becoming successful ventures, following in the footsteps of 2022 Irish finalists EpiCapture,” said Marc Butterly, Business Creation Lead at EIT Health Ireland-UK.  

HAON Life Sciences has built a novel cell therapy platform with potential to treat paediatric and adult diseases with high unmet need. The lead candidate is an intranasal treatment for Neonatal Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), a devastating disease in new-borns which is the second leading cause of neonatal deaths worldwide and accounts for up to 30% of cerebral palsy. 

HAON’s lead therapy is seeking to improve outcomes and quality of life for new-born babies affected by Neonatal HIE,” said Dr. Moayed Hamza, MB BCh, Co-Founder of HAON Life Sciences. 

EIT Health’s Wild Card competition has been a rigorous and very helpful programme in assessing the value proposition of the HAON platform. In reaching the final, we are proud to have received the endorsement of EIT Health’s expert panel and mentors,” said Mark O’ Neill, FCA, Co-Founder of HAON Life Sciences. 

Myndgard is a Trinity College Dublin spin-out focusing on providing a solution to the crisis in mental health issues being experienced by young people and University students. Founded by Dr Sean Kelley, Dr Edel Crehan and Pat Flynn in 2021, Myndgard is working with customers conducting Clinical Trials to improve their solution and raising funds to prepare for market expansion. 

Dr Crehan said “We are delighted to be selected to participate the final of the EIT Health Wild Card programme in Warsaw this month and be recognised as providing a solution to improving young people’s mental health outcomes. By working with University Psychological Services and Private Clinics, the Myndgard solution leads to better and faster outcomes for both therapists and their clients.” 

Winning teams are selected based on their business plan, product-market fit and pitch by a panel of paediatric experts and investors. The finals take place on 27th October in Warsaw.

For more information on EIT Health’s open programmes click here.

Read about last year’s finalists EpiCapture.

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