Medtech exVal wins NovaUCD 2023 Student Enterprise Competition

Early-stage medtech exVal focuses on early detection of childhood pneumonia.

exVal, an early stage medtech venture, has been named the overall winner of the 2023 NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition and a €5,000 cash prize.

exVal is focused on addressing the issue of early detection of childhood pneumonia as it continues to be a leading cause of death in children under the age of five, especially in the developing world.

“Pneumonia is responsible for a child’s death every 43 seconds according to UNICEF”

exVal was declared overall winner of the competition following final pitches to an external judging panel. Two other participating ventures, AceCell and PromiseWatch, were announced as second and third place winners and receive €3,000 and €2,000 cash prizes respectively.

Preventing childhood pneumonia deaths

exVal’s solution is a portable, modular device for fast and early detection of pneumonia using an electrochemical sensor that detects relevant biomarker proteins in exhaled breath condensate.

The non-invasive solution only requires an infant to breathe normally into the device via a mouthpiece and provides results based on breath condensate biomarker analysis.

The three members of the exVal team, all students in the UCD College of Engineering and Architecture are; Sarthak Jain, a postgraduate Biomedical Engineering student along with Simon Peter and Nathan Hens, both undergraduate engineering students.

“Pneumonia is responsible for a child’s death every 43 seconds according to UNICEF,” said Simon Peter, exVal team member. “Although simple interventions and appropriate treatment can prevent childhood pneumonia deaths if the disease is diagnosed by x-rays and blood tests in its early stages. 

“However pneumonia often goes undiagnosed and untreated in the community, especially in developing countries where access to x-rays and blood tests can be an issue, until the child is critically ill. Our novel solution is a simple and accurate inline screening for children via a modified electrochemical sensor and offers fast results based on breath condensate biomarker analysis.”

Sarthak Jain, exVal team member, said: “We are delighted to have been named the overall winner of the 2023 NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition, especially as the quality of this year’s entrants was very high, with many fantastic early stage student start-ups taking part.”

 “The next steps for exVal are focused on iterating the prototype to achieve higher functionality. This will help us to engage with subject matter experts and research labs to further collect preclinical data as part of our IP strategy. We shall also explore the screening potential for other paediatric respiratory diseases, such as tuberculosis, based on insights garnered during the comprehensive customer discovery process undertaken during the NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition.”

The NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition is an intensive 4-week mentoring programme for student entrepreneurs. The programme now in its 9th year, is run by NovaUCD, the start-up hub at University College Dublin (UCD), as a framework to support undergraduate and postgraduate students who want to work together to develop and grow start-up companies.

Ones to watch

The aim of the NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition is to assist the participating students in refining their start-up ideas through a series of structured workshops, including taught content from industry experts, interactive workshops, regular pitching sessions and mentoring.

Nine early-stage student ventures and 18 participants took part in year’s competition. Over 70 early-stage ventures and some 170 students have now completed the NovaUCD Student Enterprise Competition over the last 9 years.

AceCell is developing a platform to allow exams to be delivered securely, through a Microsoft Excel add-in, replacing pen and paper, MCQ and alternative spreadsheet exams. The initial focus of AceCell will be examinations delivered by universities and corporate training firms.

PromiseWatch is focused on developing a platform to allow voters, especially young voters, easily find and access information on their local politicians, to track the promises they make to enable voters hold politicians accountable to these promises, thus promoting civic engagement.

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