“T-Cor seeks to democratize access to the early detection of heart attack”
“T-Cor seeks to democratize access to the early detection of heart attack”
Marina Martínez, UPF alumni of International Business Economics, and Anna Aguiar, an ESADE student, are behind the project T-Cor, winner of the Idea category of the 2019 UPF Emprèn awards.
T-Cor was one of the winners of the 2019 UPF Emprèn Awards, announced by the University’s Board of Trustees. The awards, now in their twelfth year, are endowed with 10,000 euros for each of the two categories (Idea and Enterprise). The project creators are two youngsters who approach their entrepreneurship with excitement, although the pandemic has hampered their efforts to develop a prototype: Marina Martínez Derch, a graduate in International Business Economics from UPF (class of 2019), now living in Montreal (Canada), where she works as coordinator of international cooperation with the company Murri Clothes, which specializes in footwear, and Anna Aguiar Bofarull, a student on the double bachelor’s degree in Law and Business Administration at ESADE Business School (ESADE, Ramon Llull University).
The project is based on a skin patch that detects the presence of a heart attack based on the levels of a protein (the Troponina-T) of the heart produced when its tissues are damaged, which is recognized as an effective and reliable marker of myocardial necrosis. The device, which enables the early detection of the risk of suffering a heart attack, is intended to help check the levels of this protein from home, without the need for a blood test.
—How do you feel about this award?
The fact that the UPF Board of Trustees has chosen to award our idea is recognition that not only makes us very excited, but also gives us the boost required to move forward and realize what until was until only recently a project. The Board of Trustees has acknowledged the potential of the idea and this undoubtedly provides additional motivation to get down to work and materialize it.
The UPF Emprèn award is not just the generous monetary prize, but also, on the one hand, the recognition of an expert jury that endorses our project, and secondly, the fact that the jury, made up of renowned professionals, has expressed its willingness to help us.
—What will you use the prize money for?
The money will be spent on implementing the project: to develop the prototype and file the patent. However, since it is a scientific project, we will require additional investments to carry out research.
—How do you plan to obtain this additional investment?
Before seeking additional funding, we want to build a good team to develop a working prototype. With the 10,000 euros we currently have, we can initiate the first studies and tests with the support of professional mentoring, and a full team trained in the field. Then, with a good team and a powerful first prototype, everything will run more smoothly and the project will become more palpable and more attractive to investors. In this second stage, we would be prepared to seek further financial support and investment rounds to continue with the next steps of the project through acceleration programmes, entrepreneurship events and the like.
—Who might benefit from your project?
Our project was designed as a win-win. On the one hand, users of the product are people with cardiovascular or similar diseases. Our device will allow them to know the risk they have of suffering a heart attack. Knowing the risk of having heart attack, detecting it early, is essential for rapid action and to avoid greater evils. But, that does not mean that the beneficiaries are only these members of the population since T-Cor will mean that many of these people will not have to visit the hospital, which will free up the system. So, to some degree we will all benefit from the project because it allows saving health system resources.
“We will all benefit from the project because it allows saving health system resources”.
The T-Cor device aims to democratize access to the early detection of heart attack. We can avoid unnecessary travel: not everyone has a hospital nearby where they can take a quick test, and in certain parts of the world, access to healthcare is not universal.
—Which is your potential target population? Are there many similar products on the market?
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the world in the twenty-first century, so the potential target population is huge. For this reason, the device may allow considerably freeing up the burden on hospitals: people can assess themselves whether or not they are at risk of suffering a heart attack, and only go to the hospital if they are at risk. So far, the majority goes to the hospital to find out the risk they have, and this leads to overburdened hospitals. Especially in countries with certain lifestyles, such as the US, where every 40 seconds a person dies from heart attack. Similar products on the market are rapid heart attack risk tests, which are precisely only found in hospitals.
“The device can allow significantly freeing up the burden on hospitals".
—At what stage is the project and what is your business expansion plan?
We are at the point where we need to develop a prototype, test its effectiveness and finally patent it. This is what we will now focus on. UPF has a School of Engineering and a Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. Our device is based on biomedical innovations. We want to take advantage of the synergies we believe can be created within the University. We need talent, knowledge and research centres, and the University fuses these three essential elements for achieving a reliable prototype.
—Have you made progress in developing the prototype within UPF?
Yes, to a small extent. Although the pandemic has not allowed us to explore as much as we would have liked regarding the development of the prototype at UPF, we have continued connected to the University, especially in terms of the search for alumni and the network of teaching staff interested in giving the project a boost. UPF has given us the motivation to continue with T-Cor, and we are sure that soon it will provide a crucial role in creating valuable synergies.
—How is covid-19 affecting your project?
The pandemic has put our project, like many others, on standby. Clearly it has not been an easy or a normal time, neither for us nor for the University. We have taken the context of covid as a time to establish contacts and network with UPF members and alumni to set up a strong team. We have put all the ideas we have on simmer and we have continued (tele)working on the more theoretical aspects to take advantage of the practical aspect which, if all goes well, will come soon.
“The pandemic has put our project, like many others, on standby”.
—In some way, the people affected by the pandemic could benefit from T-Cor, or they are two unconnected areas?
That would be fantastic, we would love to contribute by helping all those people who have been directly affected by the pandemic. However, it is a highly ambitious goal that is difficult to link with the technology used by T-Cor. Therefore, we do not believe that is within our reach right now, unfortunately. What is true, however, is that better control over the population at risk could somehow contribute to the current situation.
—How would you assess the collapse of the hospital system due to the pandemic? Is the healthcare system sufficiently prepared?
This virus has caught us all off guard, and the health system too, of course. We believe that hospitals and medical centres have done their utmost given the available resources. It is not a question of a lack of training or readiness, but rather of the resources for such an important sector. Covid-19 has shaken and brought the health system down, thus demonstrating the need for the state to prioritize generous funding and powerful medical equipment for the healthcare system.