A Chance Meeting Turns into a Startup on the Global Stage
First, it was a chance meeting.
At a three-day startup event in 2016 – cohosted by the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center – Saam Bozorg, D19, Noah Hill, E21, and Daniel Weinstein, E18, met each other and rallied around an idea that led to the launch of Lura Health. Their venture, then known as UChu Biosensors, is innovating to change the way people monitor their oral and overall health through a sensor that sits around one tooth.
Then, it was a spot this fall on BostInno’s 25 Under 25 that named Daniel as one of the Commonwealth’s “brightest young minds.”
Now, it’s a place for Daniel and Noah on the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 that’s propelling Lura Health to the national and global stage, fueled by the promise and impact their venture can have on preventative healthcare. Despite the team’s busy schedules amid their recent success, we sat down with Daniel and Noah to learn more about the inner workings of Lura Health.
“We were celebrating,” said Daniel, recalling the moment they found out about being named to Forbes 30 Under 30. “It was a huge accomplishment for us. It has been opening the door to other worlds of people who are going through the process or experiencing similar challenges of creating a large company at such a young age. We feel very lucky to be part of those communities and to find other people who are committing their lives to similar missions.”
Lura Health’s first product under development is a sensor that continuously monitors oral health through saliva and its acidity. That information can then be shared with dentists to provide a deeper level of care.
Daniel, who used to be a competitive soccer player, saw the proliferation of wearable devices, like fitness trackers that monitored a person’s outputs including calories burned and heartrate, but nothing on the consumer level that tracked what people were eating and drinking.
“I wanted to make some sort of sensor that you would wear and could automatically track the things that you were eating. I had this idea, and I found a great lab at Tufts to explore the technology,” said Daniel. “I worked with Professor Xiaocheng Jiang and the Biomedical Engineering department. We made early proofs of concepts that were plugged into computers and eventually made wireless versions. Recently, we just made our fully miniaturized embedded product and we’re doing our first clinical testing.”
Their achievements and success to date have been no accident. Daniel, who got his start working in research settings, saw opportunities to maximize the work researchers were doing. Alongside Saam, a Tufts University School of Dental Medicine graduate, and Noah, a computer science student who shared a similar philosophy to Daniel, they went to work. In 2019, Lura Health was accepted to the HAX accelerator in China, which led Noah to continue his studies part-time and commit full time to Lura Health.
“I was a biomedical engineer at Tufts, and I was always really interested in biology and engineering. I didn’t know that I wanted to do entrepreneurship, but the first transition point was in the lab that I was in during high school,” said Daniel. “There were all these amazing scientific breakthroughs with biology and cancer mechanisms in particular which were incredible. But I saw how frustrated sometimes the postdocs and researchers were. After they finished a project, they packed it up and were onto the next thing.”
Daniel continued, “I wanted to use existing knowledge and commercialize it into meaningful and impactful technologies. That’s when I really figured out that I wanted more of the business and commercialization end of technology.”
In less than five years, the team behind Lura Health has taken it from the beginnings of a venture to a disruptor in industry, in part due to the support they received at Tufts.
“The Computer Science department at Tufts was absolutely critical in providing a foundation to pursue my venture. I had never written a single line of code or even read anything about programming before I came to Tufts,” said Noah. He mentioned several courses – including Professor Noah Mendelsohn’s Internet-Scale Distributed Systems Course and Professor Ming Chow’s Cyber Security & Cyber Warfare – have been applicable to his work at Lura Health.
“The Computer Science department really helped cover all my bases for everything I've needed, and most importantly, taught me how to learn new things. Learning to learn is by far the most important thing I've taken away from Tufts, as almost every day I encounter new problems and challenges that typically require nonstandard solutions,” added Noah.
In 2017, the cofounders were also named the winner of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center’s $15,000 Montle Prize and $5,000 Ricci Prize. In addition to leveraging classroom teachings, their advice for Tufts students is simple: Apply to TEC’s competitions and get involved.
“Take as much advantage as possible of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center’s events. There are plenty of prizes up for grabs every year for student innovations. You have a really good chance of getting some serious money,” said Daniel. “More than that, I’d say that starting a company in college is probably the best time to do it. There’s not a lot of risk other than perhaps pulling late nights. There are a lot of other people who are looking for a direction and are super talented, motivated, and smart. You have a pool of faculty and experts who have been brought into this community specifically because they’re conscious of their contributions to their respective fields and who are obviously looking to help people and provide mentorship.”
With a new year ahead of them, the startup is on track to do its first formal clinical study. Looking ahead, they are also looking to doing a formal Institutional Review Board (IRB) study and raise another round of funding before eventually receiving FDA approval.
As they set out to reach their next milestones, their beginnings were simple. “I went to a random TEC event that I didn't really know anything about during my first couple of weeks as a first-year student, and that ultimately launched me to where I am today. If new students want to get involved, I'd recommend taking advantage of any events or networking opportunities they can find,” said Noah.
On what this all means for them, Daniel said, “I hope I can be helpful and make it easier for other young entrepreneurs to tackle big problems in the medical field specifically, for medical devices. I hope that people are empowered to take on their vision, no matter how large and how many barriers there are or what their prior level of experience is.”