Swiss MNT Start-up Prize – Encouraging award for young start-up anavo medicalAward, SNI INSight August 2021, Success Stories
At the Swiss NanoConvention, the young start-up anavo medical was awarded the Nanotechnology Start-up Prize from the Swiss MNT Network. Co-founder Dr. Tino Matter studied nanosciences in Basel, and in 2018 he won the prize for the best master’s thesis in nanosciences at the University of Basel. Tino had already worked with bioactive nanoparticles for his master’s degree, and anavo medical now wants to use these particles in wound healing.
A focus on wound healing
Tino Matter had investigated wound healing while studying nanosciences at the University of Basel. As part of his master’s thesis at Empa in the group led by Professor Inge Herrmann, he then worked with bioglass nanoparticles that support rapid wound healing.
It was also in Herrmann’s team that Tino completed his doctoral dissertation, for which he continued to research nanoparticles for medical applications. For example, these include the use of inorganic nanoparticles that create a localized anti-inflammatory and antibacterial environment in which wounds can heal effectively. By making specific modifications to the particles, the researchers are also able to stimulate the formation of blood vessels. In turn, the improved circulation in the tissue also supports faster wound healing.
Tino Matter successfully completed his doctorate in September 2020 and has recently received the MaP Award 2021 for the most promising doctoral dissertation at ETH Zurich in the area of materials and processes.
Start-up idea in mind for some time
Even before completing his doctorate, Tino had begun exploring the idea of founding a start-up. Working with Sebastian Loy, who is currently completing his master’s degree in Accounting and Finance at the University of St. Gallen, he carried out market analyses, clarified issues relating to patent law, investigated sources of funding and drafted a series of applications. Since November 2020, Tino has been able to devote himself fully to the start-up as an ETH Pioneer Fellow.
Since then, the anavo team has taken part in several start-up competitions such as Venture Kick and programs such as Innosuisse Coaching in order to acquire the necessary expertise and to build up contacts, as well as registering a patent and drawing up a business plan. “I also spend a lot of time with doctors in order to establish which indication we’re seeking an initial approval for,” says Tino Matter. “That’s easier said than done for a small start-up, because we need to be in a position to carry out both preclinical and clinical trials.”
Focusing on internal wounds
The anavo team initially wants to concentrate on “seromas” — accumulations of liquid in existing cavities created by the removal of a tumor, for example. In principle, these are internal wounds, which often heal very poorly. “There’s almost nothing on the market that can support the healing of seromas,” says Tino Matter. As patients with seromas often have no other wound-healing complications, anavo is focusing its efforts on this indication for the time being. “However, we can see other poorly healing wounds, such as diabetic feet, being added to the list in the future,” says Tino.
An exciting journey lies ahead
There is still a long road ahead, however. The team recently reached a milestone when they received various approvals, including for an Innosuisse project, thereby securing funding for the near future. Tino and Sebastian are also no longer working alone — in addition to several advisers, they now have some newly appointed scientists working on the project.
“My work and focus have changed completely over the last few months,” says Tino. Whereas last year he was still in the middle of his dissertation and hoping to uncover details of the underlying science, the focus is now on developing the project.
Even in his current role, he says that his nanosciences degree has been a huge help: “In conversations with both doctors and clinical research organizations, or when taking on scientific staff, who all know much more about their specialist areas than I do, I need to have broad-based but also expert knowledge — and the nanosciences program has helped me a great deal in that regard.”