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Throwback to Upgraded Life Festival 2017

Throwback to Upgraded Life Festival 2017

A bit over a month has passed since Upgraded Life Festival (ULF) 2017. Two days of powerful talks and opinion sharing on the latest trends in the healthtech industry. The Finnish startup scene is strong, but what is it like at the biggest health startup event in the Nordics? It is all about the unique and motivational atmosphere, right people, and inspirational stories. Here are a few highlights from ULF 2017!

#1 Girl Power and Tech

One of the highlights this year was the Women & Healthtech track. In health, femtech is definitely one of the hot topics at the moment. Angela Maragna, from One HealthTech UK, was one of the speakers in the track. One HealthTech is a network that champions and promotes the unheard voices in health innovation to build an inclusive healthcare system.  

Angela Maragna from One HealthTech UK

“I came to Helsinki with the goal to expand the One HealthTech network and learn more about the healthtech industry in Finland. The startup communities both in Finland and England seem to share a similar vibe, but here at ULF, I have noticed that you have included more holistic types of presentations and topics in your agenda such as corporate wellness which creates a balanced approach.”, says Angela.

She points out, there is a fine line between “women in tech” and “tech for women”. “It is equally important to encourage women to participate and have a voice in the industry as well as to make the most of the technical and modern advances to develop smart female products.”

In Angela’s opinion, one of the current trends in femtech is period tracking apps. Indeed, no taboos should be present in female health. The panel discussion on femtech gathered professionals to bring awareness about developing products for women. Together with One Health Tech UK, companies such as Lunette and Clue have taken an active part in breaking the stigmas, that still, unfortunately, partially surround femtech.

#2 University Setting as a Startup Driving Force

Another strong theme at ULF this year was the journey from research professionals to entrepreneurs. Nightingale is an inspiring example of how a research-based idea has transformed into a growing company. It is a new blood analysis invention that is currently taking a unique position in the market, with hardly any competitors. First it was made only for research and science: from university to university, and in 2013 it got commercialised. Nightingale blood test tool can help solve the problem of chronic diseases and that is why it is important for them to establish partnerships with hospitals, clinics, and biobanks to run clinical tests. Nightingale has already successfully passed this defining stage and turned into a successful company from an university based idea. 

Nightingale at Upgraded Life Festival. Photo by Matilda Vaulasvirta.

Besides bringing together healthcare professionals, ULF also attracts young and ambitious researchers. Members of iGEM Aalto-Helsinki Universities research team is now preparing to be the only representants from Finland in the international synthetic biology community in Boston. They shared that it was important for them to attend Upgraded Life Festival this year to understand the focus of potential customers and users. “Our project will likely have potential to be developed into a product in the near future. We have a plan to build a biosensor that can measure the concentration of a certain molecule and respond to it. Therefore there is a very strong connection to the health tech startup scene. ULF was an excellent place to approach companies, learn about their way to market, as well as look for potential collaborations.”, says Ushanandini Mohanraj. The sessions at ULF gave her the opportunity to discuss MedEd, AI, and health monitoring topics in detail and get some insights into the role of technology in health and research, as well as, to receive valuable feedback.  

Ushanandini Mohanraj and Oona Kinnunen from iGEM Aalto-Helsinki Universities research team. Photo by Matilda Vaulasvirta

#3 Personalised Healthcare and Digital Services

Another big trend in health at the moment is personalised healthcare and digital services. On the first day at ULF we heard a panel discussion on personalized healthcare and population health management. One of the bigger challenges in this area is preventive healthcare; identifying personal risk factors and affecting peoples’ personal lifestyle choices to prevent the development of diseases.

Two startups working in this sector is Wellmo and Abomics, who are playing different roles in the ecosystem. Wellmo is a health app that is aiming at creating an individually tailored platform. The platform doesn’t have any health content or programs. It lets the service provider use the best services and apps on the market to build an own service set. It is a great example of how health, UX and mobile technologies broadens the medical industry and creates a unified and secure experience to the user.

Abomics works on the other side of the ecosystem by identifying personal genetic traits in order to make medication safer and more efficient. Abomics is an expert company in the healthtech industry that runs genetic test analysis. Its mission is to bring personalised medicine into reality. “The whole medtech field is relatively young, and events like ULF helps to follow latest news and learn about emerging competitors.”, says Petteri Saarinen. In comparison to other events, ULF attracts “very diverse audience”,  and that  is one of the strongest assets of the festival.

After having talked to a number of different companies at ULF, the big themes in healthcare can be united under three pillars that will determine future tendencies of the industry: personalised medicine, preventive analytical tools for diagnostics, and femtech. The era of digitalisation is, undoubtedly, transforming the healthcare system.

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