Dragon's Den – much appreciated final of the program

New skills for better communication with financial partners. Possibility to get support and feedback. An excellent opportunity to showcase the work. This is what some of the participants thought of the Dragon's Den Pitch Competition. 

The KI Innovation's deep-tech incubator DRIVE supports start-up companies in life science. Business coaching, training, development, and contact facilitation between entrepreneurs, experts, investors and researchers are included in the incubator process.   

Catalyzer is an introductory business development program providing knowledge and skills necessary to develop the strategic, organisational, networking and financial basis. The last module includes an internal Dragons’ Den, where the startups get to pitch to investors. No real money is invested, but the startups receive feedback, and a winner is chosen. In the jury were Ann-Charlotte Beckman (LifeScienceInvest), Teodora Andonova (Sciety), Gustav Notander (Almi Invest), and Daniel Zand (Avesina Group Holdings).

Here are some of the startups that was part of the Dragon’s Den at the end of January. To read more, click on the company's name. 

  • JoinCells presented by Mukesh Varshney. Hematopoietic stem cell expansion technology outside the body is used to treat haematological and rare blood disorders.  
  • Mim Neurosciences presented by Pete Williams. Develops novel therapies for neurodegenerative disease based on NAD biology. 
  • ToxoTech presented by Geoffrey Masuyer. Develops novel toxin-based biologics for the treatment of neuromuscular and neurological diseases.  
  • TrueDose presented by Ana Catarina Silva. Paves the way for a breakthrough in therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) by facilitating accurate and personalized medication dosing from the comfort of home. 


Logotyp Joincells

Joincells is pioneering a significant breakthrough in regenerative medicine by tackling the critical challenge of donor scarcity in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Every year, nearly 200,000 patients require HSCT to treat life-threatening hematologic disorders, yet approximately 30-40% of these patients cannot find a compatible donor. This gap significantly affects patient outcomes, extending suffering and reducing survival chances.

Our innovative solution introduces off-the-shelf, immune-compatible hematopoietic stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood, utilizing proprietary technology for ex vivo expansion. This method transforms a single cord blood unit into a potential treatment for scores of patients, significantly alleviating the donor scarcity issue. Joincells's approach not only makes HSCT more accessible but also aims to decrease waiting times, reduce treatment costs, and simplify the overall procedure.

Our endeavour marks a stride towards a future where the full therapeutic potential of hematopoietic stem cell therapy is realized, benefiting patients worldwide.

Foto av MuheshMukesh Varshney is vice President at JoinCells.

Road ahead at JoinCells

As we move forward, our focus is on technology consolidation, IP portfolio expansion, clinical translation, regulatory approvals and forging strategic alliances in the next two years. By revolutionizing access to stem cell transplants, Joincells aims to set a new standard for treating hematologic disorders globally, ensuring that effective, life-saving treatments are within reach for those in need.

How was DRIVE and Dragon’s Den?

"We are invigorated by the training we received from coaches and experts in multiple domains Life Science innovation as well as support and recognition from the life science community. This journey has not only been about showcasing our innovation but also about learning and connecting with like-minded individuals and entities committed to transforming healthcare. The insights gained and the relationships forged during this program have been invaluable, steering us closer to our goal of making HSCT a universally accessible treatment." says Mukesh Varshney.

Website of JoinCells >>

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Logotyp Mim Neuro

Glaucoma is an incurable, irreversible optic neuropathy affecting ~80 million patients worldwide. It is characterised by progressive dysfunction and loss of retinal ganglion cells (the output neuron of the retina whose axons make up the optic nerve). There are three primary risk factors: advancing age (majority of patients), genetics (glaucoma is highly heritable but polygenic), and high intraocular pressure (~60% of patients). All current glaucoma therapies aim at lowering intraocular pressure, the only treatable risk factor. However, many patients are refractory to pressure-lowering treatment or progress to blindness despite low pressures. No treatments target the underlying neurodegenerative mechanisms that result in blindness, the progressive degeneration of retinal ganglion cells and the optic nerve. 

NMNAT2 is a neuron-specific enzyme that generates NAD, an essential metabolite for neuronal health which protects from neurodegeneration. The degeneration of axons is initiated by low NAD and has been demonstrated in glaucoma, as well as in other neurodegenerative diseases. Mim Neuro has developed series of novel NMNAT2 targeted low molecular weight compounds that increase NAD production specifically in neurons. Our initial academic proof-of-concept demonstrates robust neuroprotection in animal models of glaucoma. Treatments that arrest neurodegeneration are the Holy Grail of all neurodegenerative disease therapy. Mim Neuro’s compounds are likely to have the potential to be used also as a treatment for several neurodegenerative diseases. This would vastly increase the potential and value of our portfolio. 

Foto av Pete WilliamsPete Williams is inventor, founder, owner, and principal scientist at Mim Neurosciences: 

Road ahead at Mim Neurosciences 

Scientific focus: Characterising and optimizing ADMET (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, toxicity) properties of novel compounds in vitro and in vivo. Establishing proof of direct target engagement of novel compounds. Obtaining proof of concept in an animal model of disease. Drafting preclinical and clinical development plans. 

Business focus: Continue to apply for rights protection of novel compounds. Attract additional funding (academia, pharma, and VC). Developing team and board. Building relationships with future investors/partners to secure necessary resources (to lead to a potential licensing or partnership agreement). 

How was DRIVE and Dragon’s Den?

"DRIVE has been a fantastic opportunity to have dedicated time to actively engage in the business component of our inventions (as we have come from a university academic background). DRIVE has been full of top-quality courses and workshops covering a large gamut of business practicalities, IP, and fundraising (to name a few) and culminated with the Dragon’s Den in which Mim Neuro took home first prize for the most amount of money raised. The Dragon’s Den was an excellent opportunity for all the companies to showcase their work (and seeing how much everyone’s pitch has improved during the Catalyzer course) and a perfect opportunity for some networking and to get some important feedback from the Dragon’s on how to build our investment pitches. A personal highlight for me has been the interaction and networking between the different companies in DRIVE." says Pete Williams.

Website of Mim Neuroscience >>

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Logotyp toxotech

ToxoTech is a research development biopharmaceutical company that uses expert knowledge in structural biology to design and develop novel botulinum toxin-based biological products to treat neuromuscular and neurological disorders. 

The botulinum neurotoxin was first commercialised over 30 years ago. Beyond its famous aesthetic utility, the botulinum neurotoxin is clinically used in over 100 therapeutic applications, ranging from movement disorders such as spasticity to other chronic issues including overactive bladder, migraine and neuropathic pain. 

All current products on the market consist of active compounds manufactured from natural bacterial strains which are not patent protected. Although new products have recently reached the market, these compounds only differ from their production processes, which rely on similar technologies, and variations in their formulation. There is, therefore, a need for innovative compounds that are patentable and produced using modern, sustainable technologies. 

Since the toxin is used as a long-term treatment for chronic disorders, a compound that offers enhanced potency and duration of action compared to the natural and current products is highly desirable. We are engineering novel botulinum neurotoxins to recognize additional neuronal receptors compared to the natural molecules. This means that our modified products bind to their target neurons more efficiently, leading to better clinical efficacy. This is illustrated by higher potency, longer duration of action and limited spread away from the treatment site. Our structural biology background and experience of studying the toxins in atomic details give us a unique perspective on developing new toxin-based therapeutics. 

 Foto av GeoffreyGeoffrey Masuyer is CEO and co-Founder of ToxoTech:

Road ahead at ToxoTech 

In the next year we will be busy confirming our concept in pre-clinical efficacy studies and will start reaching out to potential commercial partners to help us develop our technology further. 

How was DRIVE and Dragon’s Den? 

"The DRIVE program has been extremely valuable to us. Although we have previous experience in the biotech field, it was important to get the right advice and support for our business development from the brilliant KI Innovation team. It has also been a unique opportunity to build our network within the Stockholm biotech scene and be part of that stimulating community. The Dragon’s Den session was an excellent first test in talking to investors, so we learnt a lot and we will be able to build from it when it comes to better communicate with financial partners." says Geoffrey Masuyer.

Website of ToxoTech >> 

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Logotyp Truedose

TrueDose is pioneering a breakthrough in therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) by facilitating precise and personalised medication dosing from the comfort of home. Our innovative blood testing kit is designed to seamlessly integrate into daily life, enabling individuals to accurately monitor medication levels, ensuring optimal medication dosing and improving therapeutic outcomes. 

Studies show that only 45% of cancer patients receive an optimal dose. The rest are either over or under-treated: 

  • Overtreatment leads to toxicities and interruption of effective cancer treatment, decreasing the patient outcome, health status, and quality of life. 
  • Undertreatment leads to less efficacy and increased risk for disease progression.  

Our product is simpler, more affordable, and more reliable than traditional blood sampling, and it also offers unique capabilities that set us apart in the market. While most home-based kits limit themselves to measuring proteins and hormones, our kit goes further by measuring the concentration of any medication in the blood. One of the most innovative features of our kit is that it doesn't require temperature control. This simplifies transportation logistics and reduces costs. No longer is there a need for special packaging or courier services – the patient can simply mail the sample back to us in the prepaid box provided. 

This feature opens up a new world of possibilities, particularly for patients managing chronic conditions or multiple medications. They can now monitor their medication levels from the comfort of their home and adjust dosages for optimal therapeutic effects. By offering these additional insights, our product is contributing significantly to the evolution of personalized medicine. 

Foto av Ana Catarina Silva
Ana Catarina Silva is interim CEO and Head of Product at TrueDose: 

Road ahead at TrueDose 

In 2024, TrueDose will prepare our first product portfolio within breast cancer, ready to be commercialized. This primarily involves our participation in relevant TDM clinical studies and the development of product CE mark certification. 

How was DRIVE and Dragon’s Den? 

"TrueDose found the Catalyzer-DRIVE to be an invaluable business development program. The opportunity to learn from field experts and peers in a supportive environment was particularly beneficial. Participating in the Dragon's Den Pitch Competition was a highlight of the program. It provided a platform to put our newfound knowledge to test and showcase our startup's potential. The event was well-organized, and TrueDose team are grateful for the support and valuable feedback provided by the jury and team of KI Innovations AB." says Ana Catarina Silva.

Website of TrueDose >> 

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More about DRIVE and Catalyzer

More about DRIVE and Catalyzer on the KI Innovations webpage >>

Advice and feedback from the Dragon's Den on KI Innovations LinkedIn page >>