The Montreal based pharmaceutical-tech company In Vivo AI took home Startupfest’s biggest prize on Friday. The announcement was made by Phil Telio, Founder of Startupfest.
Daniel Cohen and Therence Bois, Co-Founders at InVivo AI accepted the award. “It’s super exciting! This $100,000 will allow us to begin to build out our research team and initiate our pilot studies so that we can push towards hitting our next milestones” said Cohen, who just completed a masters degree in computational neuroscience at McGill
“It’s surreal. We’ve been working on this project for the past 6 months, thinking about it for even longer. But now we’ve decided to focus on the business and just having this validation from Startupfest, the best festival for startups in Canada… it’s awesome” added Bois, a PhD student in molecular medicine at Université de Montreal.
InVivo AI plans to use machine learning to develop pharmaceutical drugs. Their goal is to help big pharma to bring drugs to patients faster. Today, it can take 10 or even 15 years to bring a drug to market in Canada, and it can cost as much as $2.5 billion in development. The plan is to both save time and reduce costs by reducing the trial and error that currently plagues so much pharmaceutical research. As a start, they plan to use machine learning to detect toxicity at the pre-clinical stage. One of the important things to look for in the early stages of drug development is to predict side-effects. Therefore, if pharmaceutical researchers can accurately predict unmanageable toxicity and side-effects, they can focus money and effort on developing the right drugs to bring to patients.
Bois says they will use the money to further a number of initiatives “We have a lot of pilot studies that we want to start with different groups. We also want to build the business and the team”.
Startups were invited to sign up and pitch to an aggregation of 10 angels as of noon on Thursday. Entrepreneurs were each given about a minute to make their case for the funding, which came directly from the 10 angels, each of whom put in $10,000 of their own money for this prize. Each judge then selected 1 of the startups to be added to the short list. The 10 lucky startups were then invited back to a breakfast with the angels on Friday morning. At that point they were asked to make a 5-minute presentation before the judging panel, plus Q&A. After breakfast the judges deliberated and selected the winner.
The panel this year was stacked with heavyweights from the tech sector, including tech entrepreneurs like Marc-Antoine Ross – Co-Founder of PasswordBox (acquired by Intel in 2014), Phil Telio – Founder of Startupfest, and others like Mathew Rosenblat who helped develop the Distillery District in Toronto. Steve Abrams of BDC Venture Capital was also invited as an honorary judge.
Past winners of this award include BUS.com, which went on to raise millions, Flixel from Toronto, and last year’s champion was FlashFood, which tries to reduce food waste, and allows consumers to access items not wanted by food retailers.
The cash is given to the winner in exchange for an equity stake in the business.
Startupfest offered over $750,000 in prizes for startups this year, with the biggest prize going to InVivo AI. Other award winners include:
- Best Onstage Pitch, winner: SucSeed
- Next 36 Young Entrepreneur Award, winner: Health Bridge
- Next AI Top Startup Award, winner: Shoofping
- Grandmother’s Choice, winner: Locketgo
Startupfest runs through Saturday afternoon at Parc de Dieppe. Shuttles to the site leave from Square Victoria (by land) and from the quai Jacques Cartier (by sea). Saturday is Open House Day, and visitors can access the site at a discounted rate. Check out https://www.startupfestival.com for info.