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Harvard Innovation Labs 2018 Year in Review

By Jodi Goldstein, Executive Director, Harvard Innovation Labs
12/17/2018

Creating a new way for small businesses in Africa to evaluate the health of their companies. Using blockchain to reduce the costs of personal genome sequencing. Empowering immigrant entrepreneurs across the U.S. through documentary filmmaking.

These are just a few of the hundreds of products and services that members of the Harvard community worked on in 2018 with the support of the Harvard Innovation Labs.

When you take a step back and consider everything that students and alumni have explored over the last year, the sheer quantity and creativity of ideas is astounding. In 2018, the Harvard Innovation Labs supported well over 200 ventures, founded by students and alumni from all 12 Harvard schools. These ventures explored creating solutions to problems in dozens of industries, including apparel, arts, bio-tech, education, enterprise technology, food & beverage, manufacturing, publishing, social services, and many more.

While the commercial success of our ventures is incredible to witness, it’s important to remember that commercialization is only a byproduct of our core mission: Helping to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship in any industry, and at any stage, across the entire Harvard community. Some come to the Harvard Innovation Labs to learn more about innovation, while others decide to turn their idea into a reality and build a business.

For me, the most critical success metric is how many people in the Harvard community are coming to the Harvard Innovation Labs, and I’m thrilled to say that this year, more than 8,000 students from the Harvard community walked through our doors—well over 1 in 3 Harvard students. Our hope is that all of them have learned a little more about the process of exploring novel solutions to the world’s most challenging problems, and will apply their learnings to their future work.

With that, below is a small selection of accomplishments that current and former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures achieved in 2018. As you’ll see, these ventures are focused on solving incredibly challenging problems across industries, with an eye towards making a significant impact on the world.

Student-led Venture Updates from the i-lab

The i-lab is focused on supporting Harvard students in exploring innovation and entrepreneurship. Over the last year, students from all 12 Harvard schools showed an ever-increasing interest in exploring innovation and entrepreneurship. For example, the President’s Innovation Challenge saw a record 460 teams enter the competition—more than double the previous year. We also saw more students walk through our doors this year than ever before.

Here are a few accomplishments from student-led ventures:

  • Abridge News received one of the Microsoft Scholarships for Civic Innovation for the company’s focus on getting people out of their news eco chambers and helping them engage with a broad spectrum of opinions on current events. Learn more
  • Coding It Forward, a nonprofit empowering computer science, data science, and design students to create social change, sponsored 36 “civic digital fellowships” this summer across six federal agencies. Learn more
  • DreamxAmerica is creating a new movement that joins storytelling and impact investing to support immigrant entrepreneurs across America, with plans to launch in 2019. The company’s co-founder Andrew Leon also won the Financial Times Bracken-Bower Prize for his writing about the rise of refugee-entrepreneurs around the world. Learn more
  • Evisort Co-founders Amine Anoun, Jerry Ting, and Jake Sussan were named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Law & Policy. The company is using AI to change how companies interact with their contracts and legal documents. Learn more
  • Kalea commercialized a new material for creating the world’s best scrubs for the every-day medical professional, and the best compression socks for travelers, expecting moms, or workers who stand on their feet all day. Learn more
  • LeverEdge is decreasing student loan rates by negotiating on behalf of large groups of potential borrowers. The company launched in 2018, and negotiated its first loan for hundreds of students in the 2018-2019 academic year.
  • STEMgem won the top President’s Innovation Challenge Prize in the Open Track for its wearable smart device kit that empowers grade school students to make real, useful, and innovative tech.
  • OZÉ was named one of the finalists in Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial inclusion for its mobile app that helps small businesses in emerging markets improve their performance. The company also won the top President’s Innovation Challenge Prize in Social Impact. Learn more
  • PionEar was a named MassChallenge 2018 Gold Winner, and received the President’s Innovation Challenge top prize in Health and Sciences for revolutionizing the treatment of ear infections with minimally invasive drug delivery ear tube implants. Learn more

Alumni-led Venture Updates from Launch Lab X

In 2018, the Harvard Innovation Labs introduced Launch Lab X, an accelerator designed from the ground up to help grow high-potential Harvard alumni-led ventures from seed-stage startups to sustainable, disruptive businesses with real-world impact. More than 260 ventures from 36 countries applied to Launch Lab X, and 13 were chosen for the nine-month accelerator that kicked off in September.

Notable updates include:

  • Legacy, a company addressing this issue of declining male fertility with a new technology to make the process of freezing sperm as straightforward as possible, just won TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield, and was also named one of BostInno’s 50 on Fire. Learn more
  • MakerFleet launched its online 3D printer farm, which offers the cheapest and fastest way for people to build prototypes using 3D printers. Learn more
  • Nebula Genomics, which uses blockchain to give people complete control over their DNA sequencing, began offering free genome sequencing. Dennis Grishin and Kamal Obbad were also named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 2019 in healthcare. Read the NPR feature about the company’s launch
  • Too many people rely on Google searches for health questions, which can result in unreliable information. Nurse-1-1 launched its product to let people privately chat with a health expert for immediate health information and answers. Read more in TechCrunch

Health and Life Science Updates from the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab

We recently celebrated the two year anniversary of the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab, a wet laboratory with co-working space for early-stage, high-potential biotech and life science start-ups founded by Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and postdoctoral scholars. Life Lab founders come from 9 Harvard schools, 45% of the ventures have a female founder, and 70% have international co-founders.

The Life Lab has received significant recognitions over the last year for its state-of-the-art facilities, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Innovation Awards for “Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence,” as well as the AIA’s Education Facility Design Awards.

Life Lab ventures’ achievements include:

  • Accure Health is building a digital biosensing platform to make disease diagnosis cheaper, better and faster. The company’s platform has been clinically validated in several disease areas including oncology, organ transplantation and food allergen detection. They recently 3D-printed a miniaturized, fully-automated diagnostic “robot” right here at the Harvard Innovation Labs.
  • AirCrew Technologiesis developing a new process for the creation of durable and efficient nanostructured catalysts with reduced loading of expensive and rare metals. The company received a Catalyst Award from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for bringing this advanced technology from the lab bench to real-world applications. Learn more 
  • Aldatu Biosciences, a biotech startup developing tests for infectious disease and committed to addressing challenges in global health, raised $3.3M in non-dilutive federal grant and contract funding to apply its proprietary genotyping platform (PANDAA) to test development for both drug-resistant HIV and a second application, Lassa hemorrhagic fever.
  • Day Zero Diagnosticsis using genome sequencing and machine learning to modernize infectious disease diagnosis and treatment. In 2018, the company was named one of the Top 10 Hottest Medtech Startups, a Finalist for Xconomy’s Big Ideas Award, and one of TedMed’s Class of 2018 Hive Innovators. Dr. Miriam Huntley, Day Zero’s CTO, was also named a MedTech Boston’s 40 under 40. In addition to this recognition, Day Zero introduced its first commercial offering for Hospital Acquired Infections, and closed a Series A round of financing. Learn more
  • DeepBiome Therapeuticsis building the next generation drug discovery platform at the intersections of synthetic biology, microbiome research, and AI. As a scalable and automatable platform, the team of ten pushed four pipelines simultaneously and within ten months, yielded two candidates testing on animal models. Multiple big pharmaceuticals have aligned interests with partnerships on multiple indications.
  • Elevianis currently a Top 10 finalist in the Extreme Tech Challenge, the world’s largest startup competition. A spinout from three Harvard labs that’s recognized as a “top breakthrough” by Science, Elevian is developing therapeutics that promote healthy aging. Learn more
  • Octagon Therapeutics, a drug discovery company focused on the metabolic drivers of pathological cell growth, closed additional financing to support programs in bacterial infection and autoimmune disease, and was invited to present data at prestigious conferences including SMi Superbugs and Superdrugs.

Where Are They Now? Updates from Former Harvard Innovation Labs Ventures

Everywhere you turn, you see a product or service that’s come out of the Harvard Innovation Labs over the last seven years, from LovePop’s greeting cards, to Philo’s internet TV service, and Handy’s platform for connecting people to top-quality service professionals.

Over the last year, we’ve greatly enjoyed seeing former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures grow and evolve. Highlights include:

  • Analytical Space, a company that is launching a nanosatellite network to provide secure, reliable, high-speed data connection for Earth observation satellites, launched a satellite from the International Space Station this year. The company also received a number of awards, from co-founder Daniel Nevius being named Forbes 30 Under 30 in the Science category to BostInno’s 50 On Fire. Learn more
  • Buoy Health has created an online symptom and cure checker that uses an intelligent algorithm backed by medical data to diagnose patients. This year, the company announced partnerships with Children’s Hospital and CVS, and was named one of CNBC’s 15 Hot Healthcare Startups. Buoy Health Co-founders Nathanael Ren and Eddie Reyes were also named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Healthcare.
  • Climacell, a company focused on providing more accurate weather predictions using cellular networks, announced an additional $45 million in funding, bringing its total venture capital to more than $65 million. The company also announced JetBlue as a customer in 2018. Learn more
  • Cobu’s app helps apartment residents engage with each other and build community. The company’s software is now used in more than 3,000 apartments in Massachusetts, and Cobu CEO and founder Ben Pleat was named one of BostInno’s 25 Under 25.
  • Handy, an online marketplace for home service professionals, was acquired by ANGI Homeservices. Learn more
  • Julia Computing has created an open source computing language that delivers dramatic improvements in the simplicity, speed, and capacity to solve massive computational problems. The company now has more than 700 active open-source contributors, and its co-founder Ken Fishcer was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in Enterprise Technology. Learn more
  • Lumos’s illuminated bike helmet was named one of TIME magazine’s Best Inventions of 2018, and Oprah’s Favorite Things of 2018. Learn more
  • RapidSOS’s technology for helping people reach 9-1-1 and first responders faster was integrated into Apple’s iOS 12. The company also received an additional $30 million in funding. Learn more
  • SurgiBox, a company that’s created an ultraportable surgical environment for bringing access to safe surgery anywhere in the world, won both the 2018 MassChallenge Platinum prize of $75,000 and the London Design Museum’s people’s choice award for Design of the Year. Learn more
  • The Read Read is empowering children with visual impairments to learn how to read braille independently. The company piloted its product with Perkins School for the Blind, and this year the company’s founder, Alex Tavares, took home the MassChallenge Rhode Island prize of $25,000. Learn more

The 30 companies described above are a small selection of hundreds of incredible ideas that the Harvard Innovation Labs helped nurture in 2018, and only a handful of the many success stories of former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures. We truly believe that the Harvard Innovation Labs’ approach to nurturing ideas—an approach that focuses on resourcing innovators across all industries and stages—has had an incredible impact on the world. When you create an environment that encourages experimentation, promotes cross-disciplinary collaboration, and fosters community, great things happen.

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