I read this article from Sifted.eu recently. It makes some great points about why overlooking the startup industry in Russia, Latvia, Poland, Estonia, and other Eastern European countries is not a good strategy. In brief:
- In these regions, fewer resources are required for the delivery of tech solutions;
- The number of potential unicorns is pretty high;
- Eastern European startups are very good at scaling their business globally (just look at Miro, PandaDoc, Telegram, Flo, etc.);
- Great engineering talents can be easily found in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
For me, all of these advantages are clear, as I have long been engaged in PR for Eastern European tech projects. That’s why I decided to share the list of ten startups, as I believe they are interesting to follow and have great market potential. As the subject of health has now become even more topical, today’s selection will be dedicated to biotechnology.
Developing drugs to target disease-causing proteins
The problem it solves: Difficulties in treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases
How it solves the problem: With TPD technology that degrades and destroys disease-causing proteins
Location: Wroclaw, Basel
Captor Therapeutics was founded in 2017 by Sylvain Cottens, former Global Head at the Center for Proteomic Chemistry at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. The biopharmaceutical company has already received over $45 million in grant money for the enhancement of its technologies targeted at fighting cancer and autoimmune diseases.
Today, Captor Therapeutics covers all aspects of early-stage drug development and continues to work on advancement of its protein degradation platform to deliver the curefor autoimmune and oncological illnesses.
An age-related drug developer
The problem it solves: Ageing, treatment of age-related diseases
How it solves the problem: Analysis of big biomedical datasets through AI and physics of complex dynamic systems via the company’s proprietary platform
Location: Singapore, Moscow
Gero is a Singapore-based startup with Russian origins that’s been headquartered in Singapore since 2015. Its founders are Peter Fedichev — who has a PhD in biophysics, bioinformatics and condensed matter physics, and is the driving force behind the company’s scientific research — and Maxim Kholin, who has strong expertise in business development and intellectual property protection. The startup’s team has more than 15 years of expertise in technology licensing and drug discovery deals, having previously worked for top-20 pharmaceutical companies.
Currently, Gero collaborates with researchers from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Edinburgh, National University of Singapore, and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Its platform is currently used for the development of new therapies, repositioning of existing drugs, forecasting of drugs’ chronic toxicity, and for support with clinical decision-making.
A developer of liquid biopsy technology
The problem it solves: Early oncodiagnostics, BC test systems
How it solves the problem: With tests for early-stage cancer by detecting specific fragments of nucleic acids in plasma
Location: Moscow, San Francisco
ARNA Genomics was founded in 2013 by two childhood friends, IT entrepreneur Egor Melnikov and former managing director George Nikitin. The research projects are run by Anatoly Melnikov, a scientist with more than 42 years of experience working in molecular biology. The startup’s team works in its own laboratory in cooperation with the Skolkovo Institute of Technology and Medical Valley of Bavaria. ARNAalso collaborates with the microbiology legend Dr. Charles R. Cantor.
The startup’s near-term plan is to develop the tests for gastric, pancreatic and ovarian cancers with a price of $100 per test, and to provide hospitals and clinical labs with exclusive rights and licenses using joint ventures set up in Europe, US, China, South Korea, India and CIS. ARNA’s founders see the project becoming a startup unicorn within three years.
A pocket molecular diagnostics laboratory
The problem it solves: Expensive and lengthy diagnostics, errors
How it solves the problem: A smartphone-sized genetic lab, based on optical and contactless heating technology
Genomtec was founded in 2016 by three people: talented scientist Miron Tokarski; electronics engineer and a designer of advanced electronic devices, Henryk Roguszczak; and laboratory diagnostician Dr. Małgorzata Małodobra-Mazur. The company has developed a device that analyses biological material in less than 20 minutes, simply by applying the matter to the reaction card, and running it through their palm-sized analyzer for screening.
In the coming year, Genomtec’s goal is to develop and test commercial prototypes of its analyzers and reaction cards. The company has already gone public this autumn and created a two-genetest that detects SARS-CoV-2 in clinical samples in just 12–20 minutes.
A digital tool for research and R&D acceleration
The problem it solves: Scientific data search complexity
How it solves the problem: With a multicomponent scientific search engine that includes pubmeds, clinical trials, pathways and patents
This next-generation scientific search engine was created by Boyan Dimitrov, Rossen Genchev and Tsvetan Panagonovin 2017. The platform allows users to create mind maps, provides a visual search facility for finding complex topics and studies, and has a messenger optimized for Life Sciences. It also gives users personalized notifications and alerts based on their scientific interests and recent searches.
In the near future, BioSeek plans to allow users to make annotations in PDF files, and will also add environmental factors, enzymes, organisms and chemical reactions data to its database. The company has also developed a marketplace, where users can easily order everything they need for research with a single click.
A clinical trial mediator between patients and scientists
The problem it solves: Lack of data quantity and quality
How it solves the problem: With a network that allows people to find and join clinical trials
Already named the “Google for Clinical Trials,” FindMeCure was founded in 2015 by the healthcare entrepreneurs Ivaylo Yosifov, Miroslav Valchev and Maya Zlatanova. This solution eliminates barriers between stakeholders and makes it possible to engage more people in different clinical trials.
Working on patient support and community engagement, the Techstar London Accelerator’s alumni are striving to raise awareness about clinical trials, to contribute to the discovery of new drugs, and to help in the proactive development of medicine. Their goal is to support the development of up-to-date research in this sphere through organization of new clinical trials, etc.
An AirBnb for medical checkups and insurance products
The problem it solves: Booking medical checkups and choosingthe right kind of insurance
How it solves the problem: Through a comparative AI-based medical checkup booking platform, plus intuitive one-click purchasing of health insurance
The Russian entrepreneur Anastasia Fayzulenova founded Checkme in 2019 to allow people to book medical checkups at convenient locations and affordable prices. The AI-driven comparison platform offers a discount of up to 75% compared to internal clinic prices, the widest coverage in terms of clinics, and flexible appointment options. The project’s mission is to save as many lives as possible, using best practices from all over the world to encourage people throughout Russia and CIS to have regular medical checkups.
The company has already ranked 7th place in the Philips and Skoltech Acceleration Program, and has joined a program in the Moscow Accelerator. Its next goals are to raise Round A in 1.5 years, to become a local CIS checkup leader in B2B and B2C segments, and to expand into the global market.
A digital pathology laboratory
The problem it solves: Long-term oncodiagnostics, errors and lack of experts
How it solves the problem: A digitized, AI-powered platform connecting doctors all over the world
The UNIM startup was founded by Alexey Remez, and started out in 2014 as a SaaS-platform for remote consultations between scientific leaders. In 2017, the company opened its own laboratory, and through digitization — backed by a physical scientific hub — made it possible to reduce the diagnosis time from 14 to 4 days, minimizing errors and attracting experts from all over the world.
The company’s goal is to become the largest digital oncological diagnostic laboratory worldwide, and to introduce its Digital Pathology© System to medical institutions. In 2021, UNIM plans to enter the international markets as a supplier of software for digital laboratories.
A platform for AI-driven cancer therapy selection
The problem it solves: Tumor detection
How it solves the problem: Through sequencing, transcriptome and cell research with the use of AI
Location: California (HQ), Moscow (research base)
Funding: did not raise investments
Founded by Russian biomathematician Dmitry Chebanov, clinician Peter Vershinin, and geneticist Alexander Abramov, OncoUnite enables prediction of disease outcomes and suggests different treatment options. It uses the fusion of genomic data and already existing knowledge in oncology and, empowered by AI and ML algorithms, provides insights for clinicians and researchers.
OncoUnite graduated from the Boston-based accelerator Founder Institute and was selected as the laureate of the global European conference Innovation for Health 2019. Within 5 years, the startup plans to create a digital model of the entire cancer patient, to enable personalized testing of drugs and treatment methods, and to work towards the creation of new individual therapies.
A digital tool for research and R&D acceleration
The problem it solves: Lack of anonymized metadata, difficulties in consent registration and attracting patients and people to clinical research activities
How it solves the problem: A 3-in-1 solution on a digital platform empowered by blockchain
Location: Riga, Hong Kong
Founded in 2017 by Sergey Jakimov and Emil Syundyukov, Longenesis provides modular blockchain solutions for biomedical institutions, patient organizations, research partners and sponsors. The platform provides an ecosystem for collaboration between different stakeholders, a patient consent management tool, and a patient-centric solution for raising awareness about health among patients and medical institutions.
Longenesis already provides its services in South Korea, and has two corporate partners: full-service blockchain technology company Bitfury, and Insilico Medicine, an AI company that uses deep learning for drug discovery and ageing research. The team’s planis to make more information available to researchers who face problems with data quantity and quality.