Harvard Innovation Labs: 2020 Year in Review
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Harvard Innovation Labs: 2020 Year in Review

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Since the Harvard Innovation Labs opened its doors in 2011, we’ve brought together thousands of students, alumni, and faculty from across disciplines to learn from each other, and work on solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems.

During a year that has been defined by some of the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced, the quantity and quality of ideas coming out of the Harvard Innovation Labs community has been truly inspiring.

Since January, the Harvard Innovation Labs nurtured more than 700 ventures across our three-lab ecosystem: the i-lab for student ventures, Launch Lab X GEO for alumni-led ventures, and the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab for biotech and life science start-ups founded by Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and postdoctoral scholars. Over the last year, we’ve also heard countless stories of former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures having an incredible impact on the world.

Throughout 2020, the Harvard Innovation Labs team has focused on bringing together and supporting these ventures during an extraordinary time in history, and spotlighting their incredible work. In May, we welcomed more than 4,000 people from 87 countries to an interactive virtual celebration of Harvard innovators participating in the 9th Annual Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge, where $510,000 in Bertarelli Foundation prizes were awarded to winning teams. We also launched two interview series, Women Founders Lead the Way at Harvard and Venture Voices, for students and alumni to share their stories. We plan on expanding our venture profiles in the coming year.

Below you can read a selection of accomplishments that current and former Harvard Innovation Labs teams have achieved in 2020.

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Student Venture Updates from the i-lab

The Harvard i-lab Venture Program is the longest-running program for the Harvard i-lab, offered every spring, summer, and fall. Over the course of 10- to 12-weeks, the program combines a supportive community with key resources for students actively turning an idea into a venture.

The Venture Program has grown significantly over the last year. Most recently, we welcomed 394 teams to the Fall Venture Program, making it the largest-ever fall cohort. In the 2020 Spring and Summer Venture Programs, we supported hundreds more ventures through a host of virtual programs. Notable team updates include:

  • AllHere raised $3.5M to reduce chronic student absenteeism for onsite, hybrid, and remote learning settings. AllHere CEO and Founder Joanna Smith was named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30. Learn more.
  • Boston Meats makes alternative meats with the right taste and texture, all at an affordable cost. This year, the company raised $1.3M. Learn more.
  • Change the Tune: The Studio, an organization that provides impactful learning opportunities for young people and innovators, received a $25,000 prize in the 2020 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge.
  • CaribEd is creating and distributing learning materials to students without internet during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their materials were airdropped to remote regions where internet and road travel is hard, but students still need to prepare for national exams. The company has reached more than 1,500 students, and was featured on TODAY. Learn more.
  • Coding It Forward, a nonprofit empowering the next generation of technology leaders to create social change, received one of the $75,000 grand prizes in the 2020 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge, and welcomed 60 young technologists to its 2020 Civic Digital Fellowship. Learn more.
  • ConductScience Founder and ED Physician at Mass General, Dr. Shuhan He, helped build GetUsPPE, a platform to connect people looking to donate PPE and to enable distribution of PPE to healthcare workers in need. The platform also connects those looking to volunteer and help in other ways with sourcing, creating, and distributing PPE both in the U.S. and internationally. Learn more.
  • DreamxAmerica premiered its short-film documentary on PBS, featuring stories of three immigrant, refugee, and first-generation entrepreneurs. Learn more.
  • Hikma Health is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization building a mobile-first digital health platform to stop the spread of COVID-19 in underserved populations. The organization’s software has been used to screen for COVID-19, including for Syrian refugee patients in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Learn more.
  • H2Ok Innovations uses AI and data analytics to empower communities with the knowledge for sustainable access to clean water. The venture was accepted into New England’s first bluetech incubator, BlueSwell, and its co-founders were named on this year’s BostInno 25 Under 25 and Rhode Island Inno 25 Under 25. Learn more.
  • Human Agency launched Community V COVID-19, an initiative empowering everyone in need or looking to give with the ability to get help, give help, and donate money.
  • Juno (formerly LeverEdge) uses group buying power to negotiate better student loan rates. This year, the venture raised $2.5M, and announced that more than 15,000 students had financed $100M in student loans on the platform. Learn more.
  • Kinnos has developed Highlight, a new standard of infection prevention to improve patient and health worker safety. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kinnos has raised $6M and provided several hospitals with Highlight to help them protect their staff. Learn more.
  • Labhya Foundation announced that it has equipped 2.5 million vulnerable children in India with social-emotional skills to cope with poverty and become lifelong learners. Learn more.
  • LedBy Foundation, India’s first incubator focused on helping more Muslim women achieve business leadership roles, graduated their inaugural program of 24 leaders. Learn more.
  • LivelyHood launched its platform for connecting volunteers with elderly and immunocompromised individuals who need help running errands.
  • June Motherhood held a number of online childbirth education classes, and is providing expecting mothers whose in-person classes have been cancelled a free session on the stages of labor and the essentials of preparing for delivery. Learn more.
  • Overjet raised $7.85M for its AI-powered application for dentists that analyzes clinical data to improve profitability and patient care. Learn more.
  • Pionear Technologies is revolutionizing the treatment of ear and hearing disorders with its patent-pending tympanostomy tube technology. This year, the company secured funding from the Allston Venture Fund, and received an Institute Project Funding Award from the Wyss Institute. Learn more.
  • ReThink, an app designed to stop cyberbullying, received $300,000 from the Elevate Prize Foundation. ReThink Founder Trisha Prabhu was named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30. Learn more.
  • SupportYourSpot launched to help people support Boston area restaurants that have lost income from COVID-19.
  • Thrive! helps local governments break cycles of poverty in communities of color with equity audits, antiracist budgeting, and technical assistance to scale proven programs. Thrive! is now working with city governments in Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont. Learn more.
  • Umbulizer commenced manufacturing of their low-cost portable ventilator, helping to address ventilator shortages as well as the high cost associated with typical ventilators. The venture won one of the $75,000 grand prizes in the 2020 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge. Learn more.
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Alumni-Led Venture Updates from the 2020-2021 Launch Lab X GEO Cohort

Started in 2018, Launch Lab X GEO is for Harvard alumni-led founders of for-profit and non-profit ventures across a wide range of industries. The program’s adaptive, milestone-based approach meets connects alumni-led ventures from all over the world, meets each venture where they are, and guides them through de-risking their business models, validating their value propositions, and building strong relationships with global business and innovation communities.

Here is a selection of the accomplishments from ventures working out of the Harvard Life Lab in 2020:

  • Aretian Urban Analytics and Design helps policymakers, real estate developers, and city and infrastructure planners navigate the complexities of urban and economic development through the creation of new urban design and economic strategy tools. In 2020, along with completing projects with the Monterrey Institute of Technology, Boston Logan Airport, and the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, Aretian launched its City Analytics Engine, an online software tool that aims to help communities develop their fullest potential by focusing on innovation, urban sustainability, and economic growth.
  • Docosan is a doctor booking platform providing effortless access to quality care in Vietnam. Launched earlier this year, it has become the country's fastest growing healthcare marketplace and connected hundreds of doctors to tens of thousands of patients. Learn more.
  • koodos is building a creative layer on internet content. This year, they raised funding and have been building their subscriber base.
  • Hyka helps mental health treatment providers better engage patients to increase treatment adoption and improve outcomes. An incredible team of designers and engineers has worked closely with clinicians to release its care management platform in early 2021.
  • Moxie Scrubs closed an over-subscribed pre-seed funding round, and launched pre-sales of patent pending, innovative scrub uniforms for nurses.
  • ProTalento accelerates tech and digital careers by curating bootcamps, giving flexible loans, and matching them with job opportunities. In 2020, 50 young people started their career path and several of them already have job offers. In February 2021, they will recruit 50 more and by the end of 2021, 800 more, with support from partners like Colombian Stock Exchange, Sophos, and Lumni.
  • SurgiBox, which strives to make surgery safer everywhere, has started production of its flagship product and successfully embarked on a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) Phase II/OTA award with the Department of Defense. Additionally, the company is leveraging its expertise in PPE and isolation technology to help evaluate and deploy other, related technologies to areas of critical need.
  • Tint empowers any financial company to embed insurance into its product. In 2020, Tint launched new modules of its end-to-end platform, and grew its revenue by 300%. The company’s clients include leading tech companies such as Outdoorsy and Riders Share.
  • TANG App launched in the Google Play and Apple App stores this year with its first service of phone credit top-up for Filipinos abroad and at home. The team also recently won a MassChallenge Boston Gold Award. Learn more.
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Health and Life Science Updates from the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab

We recently celebrated the four-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. Here is a selection of the accomplishments from ventures working out of the Harvard Life Lab in 2020:

  • Concerto Biosciences is an early-stage startup founded by researchers from MIT and Harvard. Using a patent-pending screening platform, Concerto discovers microbial ensembles, combinations of microbes that heal people, plants, and the planet. This year, two of Concerto’s co-founders were named as Activate Global Fellows, and the team took home prizes from the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge, Allston Venture Fund, and the Hertz Foundation.
  • Holistick Medical had a pre-Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) meeting with the FDA, a critical step in gaining regulatory approval for clinical testing of their interventional cardiology device.
  • i2o Therapeutics is developing an ionic liquid technology that enables the oral delivery of peptides, proteins, and other injection-based drugs. This year, the company raised $4M, co-led by Sanofi Ventures and JDRF T1D Fund. Learn more.
  • Manifold Bio is enabling measurement-driven design for live-saving protein therapeutics. This year, the company raised $5.4M, received funding from the Allston Venture Fund, and rapidly advanced their multiplexed protein quantitation platform. Learn more.
  • Tectonic Therapeutic is a privately held biotechnology company that aims to transform the discovery of novel GPCR-targeted drugs and unlock the therapeutic utility of the most challenging receptors in the class. This year, the company won the $75,000 grand prize in the new Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab Track of the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge. Learn more.

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

With each passing year, the accomplishments of former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures continue to grow at an exponential rate. Below are a few of the hundreds of former venture accomplishments from 2020. We'd also like to give special recognition to two “unicorn” accomplishments from 2020: CarePort Health for its billion-dollar exit, and WHOOP for achieving a billion-dollar valuation, which you can read more about here— Billion-Dollar Valuations and Exits for Harvard-born Startups.

  • Akouos is a precision genetic medicine company focused on developing gene therapies with the potential to restore, improve, and preserve high-acuity physiologic hearing for people worldwide who live with disabling hearing loss. The company raised $105M in March, followed by a $213M IPO in June. Learn more.
  • Aldatu Biosciences developed test kits for COVID-19 detection and provided these kits to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Learn more.
  • ArtLifting, an organization connecting socially conscious companies with talented artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities, announced that ArtLifting artists have collectively earned over $1.3M. Learn more.
  • Buoy Health launched a free symptom checker for COVID-19, which is designed to help people understand whether they should seek care for the virus, and raised $38M. Learn more.
  • CarePort Health, a web-based health care software startup led by cofounder and CEO Lissy Hu (MBA 2014), was acquired for $1.35B. Learn more.
  • Catalog raised $10M to continue building the world’s first DNA-based platform for massive digital data storage and computation. Learn more.
  • Cobu, a company powering genuine community in apartment buildings, announced a series of partnerships with multifamily housing owners across the U.S. and Canada.
  • DoneGood, a one-stop-shop for ethical and sustainable goods, announced Better Days, “the sustainable alternative to Amazon Prime Day.”
  • Flare Jewelry was named one of the TIME 100 Best Inventions of 2020. Learn more.
  • Jamber launched a series of new designs and colors for its award-winning mugs, launched on the Home Shopping Network (HSN), and hit over 1,000 five-star reviews. Learn more.
  • JustFix, a grand prize winner in the 2019 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge, adapted the company’s technology for housing justice to help tenants create court filings online for emergency repairs and lockout disputes. Learn more.
  • Legacy, a male fertility startup, announced it raised $3.5M. Learn more.
  • Lovepop used the company’s design and manufacturing expertise to produce personal protective equipment (PPE). Learn more.
  • MDaaS Global, an organization building diagnostic and primary care facilities in Africa, has been working on a COVID-19 response in Nigeria focused on increasing testing capacity, supporting hospitals with supplies, and ensuring safety of staff and patients. The organization was a runner-up in the 2019 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge.
  • MindMics is revolutionizing healthcare through soundwaves. This year, MindMics CEO and Founder Dr. Anna Barnacka, an astrophysicist and previous NASA Einstein Fellow at Harvard, was awarded the Nicolaus Copernicus Prize in Astrophysics—an honor given once every five years. Learn more.
  • Nurse-1-1 launched a service that lets anyone in the U.S. text with a nurse for free. Learn more.
  • Nilus used the company’s technology for food rescue to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in Puerto Rico. Learn more.
  • Olaris develops in vitro diagnostics that empower patients, providers, and biopharma to pursue the most effective treatments. This year, Olaris CEO Dr. Elizabeth O’Day was named one of the Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, and Olaris was named one of BostInno’s Inno on Fire ventures.
  • PlateletBio, a company pioneering a new class of cell-based therapeutics, received a contract from the Biomedical Superior Analysis and Improvement Authority to “develop cells functioning as platelets for victims of nuclear or radiological assaults.” Learn more.
  • Philo, a streaming TV service, surpassed 800,000 subscribers. Learn more.
  • RapidSOS, a company helping people reach 9-1-1 and first responders faster, raised an additional $21M, and is now sharing life-saving data from more than 350 million connected devices with first responders to save lives. Learn more.
  • Smoodi makes people happier and healthier with on-demand, fresh, and customized smoothies through a proprietary self-cleaning blending unit. The company was named a finalist in the 2020 World Beverage Innovation Awards. Learn more.
  • Sophya believes working better leads to better work. In 2020, the company introduced Sophya World, delightful virtual spaces to help teams connect with each other as humans, and succeed in the hybrid world. Learn more.
  • UrSure has commercialized the world’s first test for PrEP and HIV treatment adherence, which is in use in clinics nationwide. This year, the company was acquired by OraSure Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: OSUR), a leader in point-of-care diagnostic tests, specimen collection devices, and microbiome laboratory and analytical services. Learn more.
  • Vaxess, a biotechnology company developing sustained release smart delivery technologies for medicines and vaccines, announced a partnership with Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corporation to develop a combined COVID-19 and quadrivalent seasonal influenza vaccine (QIV). Learn more.
  • WHOOP was named Fast Company’s Most Innovative Wellness Company of 2020 for “letting the masses monitor their well-being like elite athletes.” In October, the company announced that it has raised $100M at a valuation of more than $1 billion. Learn more.
  • Zubale connects companies with consumers who can be brand ambassadors. This year, consumers completed more than three million brand ambassador jobs on the Zubale platform, and the company expanded into Colombia and Costa Rica.