Maculopathy, or age-related macular degeneration, is the leading cause of blindness among the over-50s: revolutionizing the therapeutic approach toward this retinal disease is the mission of MgShell, a startup that won a 50,000 euro grant as the winner of the seventh Call for Ideas of Gobeyond 2023, Sisal’s responsible innovation platform.
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Gobeyond call for ideas 2023: the numbers
A record-breaking 2023 edition: there were 456 applications from startups from high social impact sectors, such as healthcare, IT, clean technology, food and beverage, fashion, education and lifestyle, 29 percent more than in 2022. Of these, 40 percent already have a product or service ready to go to market, while 35 percent are female-led, bucking the 13.6 percent general Italian trend.
“Numbers that tell how GoBeyond, which also consists of an Academy and a Community, in recent years has confirmed itself as a real platform for innovation,” said Camilla Folladori, Chief Strategy Officer of Sisal. “More than 1,500 startups have registered for the various editions of the Call for Ideas, and more than 1,000 innovators and startuppers have participated in Academy courses and Community meetings to strengthen the culture and tools of responsible innovation.”
Awards and special prizes at Gobeyond event
Seventeen in total were awarded this year. In addition to the winning startup, the other five finalists – Bufaga, Relicta, Justep, GenoGra, Suncubes – were awarded advisory paths made available by GoBeyond partners, who will be able to accompany development and growth of activities.
Then, for the first year, in collaboration with online incubator Startup Geeks, a special prize was recognized for concept only startups, entrepreneurial realities not yet established and without a tested product or service: winning free access to the Startup Builder, Startup Geeks’ online incubation pathway, were Mo.tum, My Mentor AI and Green Power plus.
And again: the Mamacrowd mention (crowdfunding campaign on Mamacrowd) went to Deentra, while the SheTech mention (2 membership fees for shortlisted startups with female leadership) was awarded to Revalue, Argo, Familyverse, Aida (with the Kipy product), Worth in waste, Helios domotics (with the lit product), AgreeNet.
Social impact startups
“The selection process was long and articulated, with two external committees and one internal to Sisal. What emerged was the exceptional quality of the finalists, but in general of all the participants,” stressed Davide Orfanelli, Social Innovation Discipline Leader at Sisal.
What most of the projects have in common, especially if we compare with the past, is the desire to find solutions to problems that affect the community: “The increasingly widespread goal is to integrate social impact into pitches and business models, so we too want to encourage the development of business ideas with a positive implication for society, favoring technological innovation that in the long run contributes to the construction of a greener, digital and inclusive future. With this in mind, the first prize was awarded to MgShell because it will have a significant impact in the medtech field.”
The history of MgShell
Founded in 2019, the Milan-based startup that won this seventh edition offers an intraocular and biodegradable drug-eluting device that can replicate current clinical practice without the need for surgical procedures: thus increasing patient adherence to treatment, decreasing healthcare costs and generating business opportunities for pharmaceutical companies.
“The system is able to drastically reduce the number of intravitreal injections by releasing preloaded doses of drug at predetermined times,” explained Marco Ferroni, CEO & Co-founder of MgShell. “In this way, it is possible to alleviate all the inconveniences associated with clinical practice and also offer relief to caregivers, who have to accompany patients to take the injections and assist them in the following days.”
A journey that began in 2015 within a research project of the Milan Polytechnic that involved the 4 co-founders: in addition to Ferroni, Francesco De Gaetano, CTO, Federica Boschetti, Politecnico professor and Scientific Advisor, and Matteo Cereda, specialist and retinal surgeon and Clinical Advisor. This is how MgShell was born: “Mg is the symbol for magnesium, the basic element of the device, while the English word shell well describes its concentric shell configuration, which releases the drug over time in a manner similar to what would happen by giving a series of injections, which are, however, quite invasive.”
Grown up in the community of PoliHub, the accelerator of the Politecnico di Milano, the startup, after an initial phase of preclinical in vitro testing, is now conducting tests on animal models. “We expect to be able to do the first human trials in 2026: as we know, the development of medical devices, molecules or drugs has a very long time to market. Today we have an operational team of 6 people, as well as numerous collaborations with other startups, research institutions and SMEs. Our goal is to maximize the social impact of this technology, which can also be applied to other diseases in the ophthalmic field and beyond. For the future, for example, we are already thinking about the oncology field.”
SisalTalk: debates on innovation
The awards ceremony of the seventh Gobeyond Call for Ideas was preceded by the third round of SisalTalks. During the debate, dedicated to the ecosystem of innovation and social impact startups in Italy, Cristian Fracassi, CEO of the startup Isinnova, told how during the pandemic the emergency C-PAP mask for oxygen delivery was born, made from an ordinary snorkeling mask: “An idea that proved to be fundamental in saving the lives of 186,000 people around the world and that allowed us to win the Nobel Prize for Social Impact 2020.”
A clear demonstration, too, of what it means to be an impact startup: “An innovative company that aspires to significant growth in terms of profit, but also in terms of social and environmental impact,” explained Paolo Landoni, Social Innovation Monitor (SIM) at the Politecnico di Torino.
“2023 was a year of contraction for investments in hitech startups, which saw a 39 percent drop compared to 2022,” concluded Annamaria Tartaglia, founder and CEO of TheBrandSitter. “Although the slowdown does not only affect Italy, it is time for our country to reflect on the importance of creating a national ecosystem that can support and boost responsible innovation projects.”
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First published in StartupItalia. A third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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