Our Journey from MedLab 1.0 to MedLab 2.0

Celebrating the journey of our founders who were part of MedLab, Cicada Innovations’ inaugural medtech accelerator

Our Origin Story

In spite of — or perhaps because of — Cicada Innovations’ long and deep history with medtech in Australia, we at Cicada MedLab believe that we have only just scratched the surface of our potential to bring out the best in early-stage medtech founders in this country.

Australia has a proven track record of leading by innovation in the field of medicine: giants like ResMed and Cochlear attest to this. But it is common knowledge that getting to this stage — for medtech companies in particular — is a long, complicated and expensive journey pockmarked with pitfalls along the way. Getting the right support and expertise from the very start can make all the difference.

So we gave ourselves a challenge and a mission: how do we best support the next generation of early-stage medtech business builders to be more successful? From here, the concept for a medtech accelerator was born.

MedLab bridges the gap between our long running Medical Device Commercialisation Training Program (MDCTP) which we run in partnership with NSW Health and our Incubator which over 70 deep tech startups call home. It’s aimed at early stage medtech companies whose founders have made the commitment to work on their startup full-time, and come along armed with intellectual property and a prototype.

The timing was ideal: in early 2018, one of our portfolio companies Elastagen was acquired by medical giant Allergan for nine figures. As one of the earliest investors, the proceeds from our share allowed us to fund MedLab.

MedLab 1.0: The sprint

After running info sessions in many of the capital cities across Australia, we invited six startups to join MedLab’s inaugural cohort in October 2018:

  • Beyond 700 is developing an infrared camera technology to visualise the tear film of the eye for the first time, helping clinicians to diagnose and monitor eye conditions affecting over 580M people globally.
  • Loop+ is bringing to market a sensor mat to assist wheelchair users and their care teams to proactively manage and prevent debilitating health conditions such as pressure injuries that cost the Australian healthcare system over $1B annually.
  • Renature Labs’ is transforming insulin into an indigestible tablet, using their technology aimed at protecting fragile and therefore injectable-only medicines in the stomach.
  • SDIP Innovations is the only bioresorbable implant that degrades harmlessly into water and carbon dioxide in the body, reducing the need for unnecessary implant-removal surgeries, and aiding post-surgery patient recovery.
  • Doclink’s proprietary AI algorithms detects and diagnoses lung cancer with a single scan, helping clinicians to diagnose the disease earlier than before and be proactive in their treatment plans.
  • Neuromersiv is providing brain injury patients with faster and more effective rehabilitation outcomes using their VR and haptic glove combination which simulates real life and adventure scenarios instead of the mundane and repetitive movements currently used.

Over the next 16 weeks, our mission was to accelerate these six companies; articulating and setting goals, encouraging experimentation and curiosity, and challenging the norms that each founder brought. An unashamed focus on team, leadership and culture was a huge part; regardless of the validity and promise of a technology, success is integrally set by this.

A distinguishing attribute of the accelerators run at Cicada is that they are Mentor-driven. Through our personal networks, we brought together what we think are the best mentors and industry experts for medtech startups in this country handsdown. If our founders are our superheroes, our mentors are the superpowers that help in so many ways:

  • Holding court with regular office hours for advice and mentoring
  • Giving talks and Ask-Me-Anything sessions on topics ranging from regulatory pathways and health economics, to how to raise capital and business fundamentals like financial modelling
  • Opening up their rolodexes and created some crucial connections between their contacts and the companies
  • Mock VC sessions were particularly valuable in giving founders real world experience in understanding what investors looked for

The 16 weeks were never easy. Getting out to talk to customers, figuring out the complex pathways to market, solving for team roles and responsibilities, and preparing to speak to investors were just a few hurdles to leap. A huge shout out to the six companies for pushing through and growing so much; from scientists and technologists became storytellers with solid and exciting plans to reach ambitious goals.

MedLab culminated in its Demo Day on February 28 and being the largest event in Cicada’s 20 year history. Over 400 from the medtech industry and startup ecosystem saw six amazing founders pitch their version of the future. Each startup is currently in conversations with investors, and one has already sold their first product to a major clinic in Europe. We are also gearing up the cohort for a US medtech visit to San Francisco and Medical Alley in Minneapolis to meet business partners, healthcare players and investors.

For the cohort, the MedLab journey still isn’t over. Staying on at Cicada until October this year, we’ll keep supporting them as they raise capital and build out their teams. It’s going to be exciting to see their stories unfold in the months and years to come.

MedLab 2.0: the journey begins…

When one chapter ends, another one begins. That is certainly true of MedLab 2.0 which we have already started planning.

We launched an initiative called Founder Matching which is aimed at bringing together great technological and commercial minds passionate about solving the world’s biggest problems in healthcare. Who knows: that shared passion and the opportunity to meet a like-minded entrepreneur with complementary skills may just lead to the creation of the next future medtech startup unicorn! On the heels of the success of our first Founder Matching event, we will be keeping our inboxes free for further expressions of interest and hope to continue this as a rolling exercise over the course of the year.

We’ve got many exciting ideas in the works for MedLab 2.0 and look forward to sharing them with you in the weeks and months to come.

If you’re interested in finding out more about MedLab 2, or becoming a Mentor or Domain Expert, please reach out to us at medlab@cicadainnovations.com. Here are some other ways to keep up to date with what we’re up to: sign up to our newsletter, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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The Cicada and MedLab community received unexpected and very sad news just over a fortnight ago: Dr. Alistair Laos, founder of our cohort company, Renature Labs, passed away on Tuesday April 2 2019 due to complications related to a long-standing illness.

Alistair was not only an outstanding scientist and committed founder, but a true friend and uplifting spirit to our MedLab family and the Cicada Innovations community. Our thoughts are with his family and friends and we will never forget his spirit and the brilliance of his vision and work.

Vale Alistair.