The Harvard Gazette: Entering a second decade of innovation

President’s Innovation Challenge names 25 finalists


Alex Parks
Harvard Correspondent
April 4, 2022

A new approach to countering neurodegeneration, an application for assessing the environmental impacts of architectural design decisions, and an AI-powered currency exchange program for migrants are just a few of the 25 ventures that will be showcased in the 2022 President’s Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony.

Now in its 11th year, the President’s Innovation Challenge is a competition designed to harness creativity and ingenuity from across the University to generate solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The Harvard Innovation Labs received more than 400 applicants for the 2022 President’s Innovation Challenge, and an esteemed panel of more than 250 judges has evaluated the ventures to determine the finalists.

“Year after year, the Innovation Challenge gives members of our community an opportunity to focus, collaborate, and create,” said Harvard University President Larry Bacow. “Their efforts yield remarkable ideas for how we might work together to address some of the greatest challenges facing humanity. I am always energized and inspired by the work of our finalists — and by the deep engagement of faculty and alums who make that work possible.”

On May 5, the President’s Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony will feature ventures from 11 different Harvard Schools, and remarks from Bacow. Winning teams will receive a share of $510,000 in prizes from the Bertarelli Foundation, co-founded by Ernesto Bertarelli, M.B.A. ’93. Five ventures will win prizes of $75,000; five will receive $25,000; and $10,000 in Ingenuity Awards will go to teams advancing ideas with the potential to be world-changing, even if they are not yet fully formed ventures.

“This spring marked two milestones for the Harvard Innovation Labs: the beginning of our second decade, and a record-setting semester in terms of the number of students and alumni who participated in Harvard Innovation Labs programming,” said Matt Segneri, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Executive Director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “With more than 1,000 ventures now engaged in the Harvard Innovation Labs’ three-lab ecosystem every year, the 25 President’s Innovation Challenge Finalists are remarkable in both their accomplishments to-date and their visions for what’s next.”

The 25 President’s Innovation Challenge Finalists across five tracks are

Health & Life Sciences
Providing an affordable, accessible, and accurate point of care diagnostic kit for sepsis.

Ilios Therapeutics, Inc.: Leveraging molecules with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to prevent and counter neurodegeneration.

Limax Biosciences: Developing a super flexible adhesive hydrogel for advanced bleeding.

Trial Atlas: Making clinical trials more patient-centered by helping sponsors recruit, engage, and retain trial participants.

Vacuum-Assisted Wound Therapy Affordable for All (VATRA): Providing an effective, low-cost, negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) alternative to traditional NPWT devices.

Cardinal LCA:
An early-stage digital tool for architects that analyzes the environmental impacts of design decisions.

CashEx: A currency exchange platform that leverages AI to help migrants transfer money with zero fees.

Hue: A beauty tech platform that recommends the best makeup products for shoppers’ skin tones.

Keto Kind: A clinical nutrition brand making science-backed products to support metabolic health in patients.

Trove Market: Diverting excess shelf-stable, packaged food away from landfills and into consumers’ homes.

Social Impact
CassVita Inc.
: A technology that increases the shelf-life of cassava, a nutritive but rapidly deteriorating root vegetable, from three days to 18 months.

GarboCarbo Inc.: Capturing carbon dioxide from power plant emissions by creating a long-term carbon storage byproduct (limestone).

MiKashBoks (MKB): A digital social finance platform designed to support self-help, peer-based group saving and lending.

Slam Out Loud: Using the visual and performing arts to enable children from disadvantaged backgrounds to find their voice.

Stuttering Scholarship Alliance: Building the first framework to provide affordable and effective stuttering therapy.

Alumni & Affiliates: Health & Life Sciences
Developing an intraocular lens that will allow people to have clear near, intermediate, and distance vision without glasses or contacts.

BioDevek: Improving clinical outcomes following internal surgeries through degradable biomaterials.

Holistick Medical: Developing a flexible device for atraumatic treatment of common cardiac defects.

Kern Systems: Leveraging enzymes and cutting-edge software to store digital data in DNA at scale.

M13 Therapeutics: Harnessing the phageome to deliver any therapeutic gene to any target cell.

Alumni & Affiliates: Open
Aurie: Building a reusable intermittent catheter system to improve quality of life and health outcomes for people living with urinary retention.

Kiwi Biosciences: Developing novel enzymes to make food a painless experience for at least one in eight people who cannot enjoy the most common and nutritious foods.

Delfina: Offering pregnant women and their physicians a real-time intelligent monitoring system to predict fetal risk and guide clinical decisions.

Imago Rehab: Enabling superior recovery outcomes for stroke survivors through a combination of home-use wearable robotics and digital health.

Metric: Providing analytics software to help private market investors measure their portfolio’s environmental, social, and governance performance.