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First Look: New MSIM Innovation Sprints and Ventures

From a potential treatment for Tay-Sachs disease to improvements in physical therapy, MSIM Innovation Sprints are tapping into a wide array of areas with significant impacts for people across the world.

Whether it’s redefining the standard of care or finding new solutions to everyday tasks, MS in Innovation and Management students are creating impacts for people across the world through their Innovation Sprints, which are fast-paced, intense team projects that simulate the experience of launching a startup over the course of a semester. 

With half of their first semester completed, MSIM students presented their progress and research to a panel of industry-expert judges who provided feedback and advice for developing the ventures. Here’s a first look at this cohort’s fall Innovation Sprints.

 

AdvenChair

Team members: Nadya Ganem, Jennifer Nutter, Mark Panetta, Henry Yan

AdvenChair is developing an all-terrain, ergonomic, and versatile wheelchair for children that incorporates advanced technology, making it easier to play outside and navigate different environments.

“Our basic package is going to be a class two FDA-approved device,” mentioned the group. The team plans to work with insurance companies and parents to ensure accessibility of their product. 

As a starting point, the group plans to work closely with children who have cerebral palsy. In response to a question from the panel of judges, the group said, “Each person is very different from one another. So, the user will always be the center of our focus, and we will build our chairs around them.”

 

Cerobex

Team members: Kayla Fisher, Mina Karamercan, Darian Matini, Ben Webb

Working with Qiaobing Xu – Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and researcher at Tufts University’s School of Medicine – Cerobex is innovating a solution that could help to treat Tay-Sachs disease. 

According to the group, Tay-Sachs disease is a rare, currently untreatable and terminal genetic condition caused by a mutation on Chromosome 15, which results in partial or total inhibition of the HEXA gene. Children who have Tay-Sachs disease experience slowed development from birth because it’s genetically inherited. The developmental progression rate is a result of neurons being unable to break down fat molecules.

“We believe that our technology can solve this problem … working with Qiaobing Xu, who has developed lipid nanoparticles, which you can think of like an empty box, we can take HEXA or other medications and put them inside this patented box. Then, applying neurotransmitter-derived lipid particles, which you can think of like a patented shipping label, [it] will get this package across the blood-brain barrier,” said Ben.

The group believes that, if successful, they can look towards other applications like treating Alzheimer’s, ALS, and brain cancers. 

“We want to give hope to patients with currently untreatable brain diseases,” said Kayla.

In terms of timeline, the group says they would need to validate their hypothesis by testing animal models with Tay-Sachs before entering phase one of clinical trials and then progressing to the point of obtaining FDA approval to enter the market.


homére 

Team members: Nawar Alqabandi, Sujin Jung, Christian North, Grant Tilson

Leveraging storytelling and online shopping, homére is tapping into the luxury apparel market with a focus on Generation Z customers. Citing findings that suggest 30 percent of the luxury market will be online by 2025, the group offers customized apparel offerings depending on user responses to a storyline.

“We are creating an interactive storytelling experience for luxury Generation Z customers,” said the group. “We do this by combining our interactive online storytelling platform with high-quality voting.”

Sujin added, “There’s a storyline that asks you to make a decision based on who you are … At the end, you’re provided with the option to buy merchandise that includes the design that relates to you the most.”

 

Otterly-Eco

Team members: Lia Aftandilian, Ethan Frisch, Victor Kao

As the fast food and casual dining industry increasingly adopts sustainable to-go packaging, Otterly-Eco sees an opportunity to further increase sustainability when it comes to beverage lids. 

“It’s become clear in recent years there’s a huge issue in our world with plastics. The majority of these plastics that are entering the environment are single-use plastics, so things that you use for drinks, disposable food packaging, etc.,” said Lia. “But only seven percent of these plastics are actually recycled, which is a very startling number.”

Lia continued, “We have developed an innovative and new cold beverage lid that will be composed of biodegradable vinasse or bamboo, which are sustainably sourced materials, and a water-resistant coating as well to set it apart from the competition.

Otterly-Eco, which plans to operate on a B2B model, positions itself as a sustainably sourced option for beverage lids and believes it has the potential to make a significant impact on the environment.

“What a lot of people are currently doing in the reusable, biodegradable industry is that they’re sourcing their products from trees or corn, which is an issue because we are trying to save trees in our environment,” said Ethan. “So, for us, we’re looking at using bamboo, which is grown in a very short amount of time, or vinasse, which is a byproduct of sugar.”

 

SmallUp

Team members: Jack Donohue, Nathan Niemiec, Ajay Parthasarathy, Noor Semaan, Kan Zhou

SmallUp is a reward-based crowdfunding platform that helps foster the growth and scalability of micro and small businesses.

With the impact created by the pandemic, small businesses are facing increased challenges as they maintain financial solvency. The group, which conducted interviews with local area businesses, said, “We were really touched by hearing the stories of some of the small businesses nearby, and [their continued success] is something we hope to see.”

Recognizing the pivotal role small businesses play in communities of all sizes, Nathan said, “We are introducing our platform, SmallUp, to foster community, not competition between small businesses.” 

 

Smart Therapy

Team members: Faris Alquaddoomi, Spencer Langdon, Megan Morrissey, Su Hnin Pwint

Leveraging research by Sameer Sonkusale – Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University – Smart Therapy is developing a two-pronged solution to make physical therapy more effective. 

Consisting of wearable tech and a mobile application, Smart Therapy assists individuals undergoing physical therapy by enabling users with the ability to track their progress and compliance with prescribed treatments.

“Our support system makes physical therapy as effective as possible by ensuring that patients use proper form and remember their exercises,” said Spencer.

Spencer added, “Patients will be able to put on this smart tag, and it will measure their range of motion and muscle tension during exercises … We will then send this data over to the second part of our solution, which is an app on the patient side. In real-time, they will be able to see this objective data.”