Contest awards startups poised to transform health care

LOWELL, Mass. – A medical-device startup that aims to improve the health of pregnant women…

Contest awards startups poised to transform health care

LOWELL, Mass. – A medical-device startup that aims to improve the health of pregnant women is the top winner in an annual pitch contest presented by the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2).

Now in its ninth year, the M2D2 $200K Challenge showcases the inventions of early-stage medical device, diagnostic and biotech companies that are poised to revolutionize health care. Entrepreneurs competing in the contest present their innovations before expert judges, venture capitalists, clinicians, researchers, government and industry leaders and the public, vying for a share of $200,000 in sponsored services and seed money to advance their inventions.

The contest is the largest event of numerous programs and services offered by M2D2, a joint venture of UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School in Worcester, which assists entrepreneurs with all aspects of moving new products and technologies from concept to commercialization.

This year’s grand prize winner is Cx Therapeutics, a Boston-based company pioneering a medical device designed to improve the health of pregnant women and prevent premature births. The startup will receive $50,000 in seed funding to advance the invention from Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the event’s top sponsor and founding sponsor of M2D2.

“More than ever, the Life Sciences Center is grateful for the role M2D2 plays as convener and collaborator in supporting our ecosystem’s entrepreneurial community,” said Jennifer Griffin, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center vice president of industry strategy and investments. “The $200K Challenge continues to draw the best and brightest innovations. The center is proud to support Cx Therapeutics as it aligns strategically with a broader, shared goal of providing capital and resources to accelerate women’s health innovations. “

More than 250 entrepreneurs from around the world entered the competition when it began last spring, vying for the chance to present their innovations in the contest’s finals. That event, held virtually for the first time, was hosted by Mintz in Boston on Thursday, Oct. 1.

“M2D2 is proud to offer startups in the competition with exposure and the winners with the resources UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School provide, along with the expertise of partners in our ecosystem. Innovating even amid a pandemic, the pitch contest and awards presentation drew a record, international audience of 1,000 attendees for our most exciting year yet,” said M2D2 Director of Operations Mary Ann Picard. “M2D2 is most appreciative of the corporate support we receive, as it allows us to identify novel medical device and biotech innovations these companies are looking for.”

Nine other finalists were awarded a share of $200,000 in seed funding or in-kind support, including use of research facilities, lab and meeting space, access to engineering and product development assistance and legal, regulatory, clinical and business services from the competition’s sponsors.

Industry Partner Award recipients will receive a share of $200,000 in seed funding from the medical device and pharmaceutical companies that sponsored their prize. The winners are:

  • Prolifagen, for a medication that regenerates heart muscle, sponsored by Amgen;
  • Navigation Sciences, for a GPS-guided device that will help locate and remove tumors, sponsored by Asahi Intecc USA Inc.;
  • AiM Medical Robotics, for a novel platform to assist in brain surgery, sponsored by Boston Scientific;
  • RBI Medical, for a nerve-stimulating device that improves pelvic health conditions, sponsored by Hologic;
  • CranioSense, for a device that measures pressure inside the brain after traumatic injury, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson;
  • ExonanoRNA, for RNA nanotechnology to treat cancer, sponsored by Sarepta.

The contest’s Service Provider Award winners will receive in-kind support from the companies that sponsored their prize. The recipients are:

  • Oriel Research Therapeutics, which is developing a platform for the early detection of diseases, will receive strategy assistance from Argenta Advisors;
  • Navigation Sciences and AiM Medical Robotics will receive guidance with product development from MPR Associates;
  • Navigation Sciences and RBI Medical, along with Hyalex Orthopaedics, a company that has developed synthetic cartilage and implants, and Savran Technologies, which has invented a way to capture rare cells from blood, will receive legal assistance from Mintz.

Other sponsors of the competition include the Deshpande Foundation, Healthcare Technology Innovation Centre, Omni, RQMIS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (DRIVe).


Since it was founded in 2007, M2D2 has worked with more than 100 client companies, which in turn have secured more than $50 million in external funding for their ventures.

About M2D2

M2D2, the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, is a joint initiative of the Lowell and Worcester campuses of the UMass system. Its aim is to help new biotech and medical device entrepreneurs develop products every step of the way, from proof-of-concept to commercialization. Affiliated faculty and staff have assisted more than 100 start-up companies and entrepreneurs since the program kicked off in the spring of 2007.

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