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MEDICA INNOVATION FORUM for the Healthcare Innovations of the Future

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 30 May 2024
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Image: The MEDICA START-UP PARK is the meeting place for networking for and with the creative start-up scene (Photo courtesy of Constanze Tillmann/Messe Düsseldorf)
Image: The MEDICA START-UP PARK is the meeting place for networking for and with the creative start-up scene (Photo courtesy of Constanze Tillmann/Messe Düsseldorf)

By always offering innovations and updating existing program formats, the internationally leading medical trade fair MEDICA in Düsseldorf has been successful for over half a century and always gives its professional visitors from all over the world a good overview of all the relevant trends and innovations in the healthcare sector. The best example of this is the MEDICA INNOVATION FORUM, the successor event to the MEDICA CONNECTED HEALTHCARE FORUM, which is being held right at the center of the MEDICA world of experience “Digital Health” this year.

“This is where we discuss the most important topics for the future, from the Internet of Things to robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and digital twins as well as mobile health and medical wearables, 3D printing, and solutions for the hospital of the future,” explained Christian Grosser, Director of MEDICA at Messe Düsseldorf. “Because digital innovations are not limited to optimized connections between all healthcare players, the forum will focus on the digital transformation of the healthcare industry in its entirety. After all, start-up presentations recently already clearly reflected this wider scope of content. The popular pitch competitions will remain a fundamental part of the program.”

Renowned experts will give inspiring talks at the MEDICA INNOVATION FORUM (dates for MEDICA 2024: 11–14 November) to initiate professional discussion among the over 8,000 forum participants expected to attend. One of them is Prof. Stephen Gilbert of the Dresden University of Technology. He recently called for LLM-based generative chat tools such as ChatGPT and MedPaLM to be approved as medical devices. Robotics experts Lorenzo Masia, Heidelberg, and André Brauers, Global Head of Immersive and Digital Education Solutions at Siemens Healthineers, will also contribute subjects for discussion.

“The degree of innovation is the decisive factor for us when selecting the program and speakers,” said Dr. Sonja Sulzmaier, a Managing Partner at Navispace, who is one of the organizers of the MEDICA INNOVATION FORUM and is also the Chairwoman for Start-Ups and Enterprise Formation of the German Association for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (BVMW).

The degree of innovation is also an important criterion when evaluating submissions for the 13th MEDICA START-UP COMPETITION and the 16th HEALTHCARE INNOVATION WORLD CUP. The 13th MEDICA START-UP COMPETITION features a range of categories such as “AI in medicine”, “robotics”, “health apps”, “lab diagnostics” and “other”. The top 12 medical start-ups of 2024 will present their solutions at the pitch final (on 12 November) at the MEDICA INNOVATION FORUM. The first award for 2023 was awarded to “MeMed BV”, the first diagnostic test to be approved by the FDA and receive a CE label which can use serum or venous blood to differentiate between bacterial and viral infections in just 15 minutes.

“Our product helps clinics all over the world to make better decisions about antibiotic treatments,” said Yossi Horesh, Director of the US-Israeli company. MeMed has already established a strong position in the USA, Israel, and Italy. Now, the young company is also expanding to Asia, the Middle East, and other parts of Europe. “Our participation in the competition kicked off a lot of productive discussions,” added Horesh, looking back at their success during the start-up competition at MEDICA 2023. “For instance, we analyzed the economic advantages of our system, particularly its capacity for reducing the use of antibiotics. We also engaged with the critical issue of treating patients with sepsis and predicting possible deterioration in a patient’s condition. Our next product, MeMed Universal Severity, will address these issues. It is designed to help clinicians better assess the risk if an infection is suspected.”

With the first ultrasound robot to bear a CE label, the Danish company Ropca took third place at last year’s MEDICA START-UP COMPETITION. Ropca has automated the process of ultrasound imaging and image analysis: The “ARTHUR” platform, a robot arm, and the artificial intelligence product “DIANA” help to overcome the growing challenge posed by increasing numbers of patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis, hospital treatment costs and the shortage of specialists. The system is primarily intended for large medical centers such as university hospitals and has the potential to reduce waiting times for rheumatology appointments. In Germany, the company plans to test screening with Ropca in several cities, and the list of appropriate indications could also be expanded.

Johannes Schäeferhoff, CEO of Ropca, reports that the company had good experiences with MEDICA even before applying to the competition. In 2022, the company (founded in 2019) won the KUKA award for medical innovation and attracted particular attention from the trade fair audience. After the big on-stage pitch final as part of MEDICA 2023, Schäeferhoff can now report a recent successful round of investor funding and its outcome. “We are all about internationalization now. We will be approved for osteoarthritis in the near future,” said Schäeferhoff.

The HEALTHCARE INNOVATION WORLD CUP shines a spotlight on the next generation of smart health devices, medical wearables, digital biomarkers, electroceuticals, smart plasters, and more. First place at the MEDICA pitch 2023 went to DiaMonTech with a blood glucose measurement system that does away with needles completely. Instead of a needle, a beam of light is directed onto the skin. This light heats the glucose molecules in the skin almost exclusively. The increase in heat is so minimal that it cannot be felt, but it is certainly measurable. Based on this heat development, the device calculates the blood glucose value. “As of today, there is no other device that performs this measurement with an equal level of precision,” said Thorsten Lubinski, CEO of the Berlin start-up.

After their win at the HEALTHCARE INNOVATION WORLD CUP 2023, Lubinski expressed how pleased he was: “This has exceeded our expectations.” There have been several meetings with investors. After their win in Düsseldorf, the company saw further success, concluding a round of funding amounting to millions of euros. The funds raised will be used to further refine the prototype of the D-Pocket handheld device, to conduct important clinical trials, and accelerate market entry in the US and EU. The product is not yet available for purchase, unlike the Seismofit system.

Ventrject, the second-place winner at the HEALTHCARE INNOVATION WORLD CUP 2023, is already offering the latter on markets in Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland. The system records cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), measured as VO2-max. “And it does this more accurately than any fitness tracker can and is in the gold standard range,” said Mikkel Kristiansen, CEO of the Danish company. The actual gold standard, according to Kristiansen, are 15-minute tests, either cycling on an ergometer or running on a treadmill. By contrast, a test with Seismofit takes less than three minutes and involves no physical activity. It measures the vibrations caused by heartbeats and transferred to the ribcage. A cloud-based algorithm analyses the signal. According to Kristiansen, participating in the start-up competition at MEDICA 2023 was well worth it: “We want this test to be purchasable for a large majority of people and our plan was to present the device on stage to customers and possible partners from all over the world. After winning second place, we really did strike up conversations with many potential resellers from all over the world. That exceeded our expectations.” Next, Kristiansen wants to tap into new markets with his company. Applications for (free) participation in this year’s MEDICA START-UP COMPETITION and HEALTHCARE INNOVATION WORLD CUP are now open.

At MEDICA, the stage isn’t the only place one can find start-ups and scale-ups presenting exciting digital innovations. Every year, several hundreds of recently founded companies participate, making MEDICA the world’s leading event for health start-ups. For example, the MEDICA START-UP PARK is recommended again this year as a central venue for networking with the digitally-based start-up scene. The special exhibition’s shared floor space will feature more than 50 participants providing information on their creative ideas and practical solutions for modern healthcare. More than 6,000 exhibitors from around 70 countries are expected to attend MEDICA 2024 and COMPAMED, the supplier trade fair held in parallel. Last year, both events recorded 83,000 visiting professionals from more than 160 countries.

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