Reimagining vision correction in humans, creating a more equitable money transfer solution for African migrants, and designing new systems to protect against coastal flooding were three of the ventures recognized during the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge Awards ceremony on May 5.
“Bringing people together from across the University — people of differing expertise and perspectives — and watching them put their knowledge to work is one of my favorite things about being president,” said Harvard University President Larry Bacow. “It makes me proud of this great institution and optimistic about its future — and the future of our world.”
The President’s Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony drew attendees at Klarman Hall and a virtual audience from around the globe. During the hybrid event, ventures founded by Harvard students, alumni, and affiliates showcased their solutions for some of the world’s most pressing problems. Winning ventures received a share of $510,000 in Bertarelli Foundation prizes.
This year’s $75,000 award recipients
- Adaptilens for revolutionizing vision correction by restoring the eye’s ability to focus;
- Aurie for redesigning the medical services and supplies that people in the disability community use every day, starting with a safely reusable intermittent urinary catheter system;
- Hue for helping people find the best beauty products for their complexion;
- Limax Biosciences for treating internal and external injuries with a stretchable adhesive hydrogel; and
- Myspeech for enabling access to high quality speech therapy through a technology platform.
During the event, President Joe Biden sent a letter of congratulations to the winners, with a special recognition of Myspeech:
I send my heartfelt greetings to all the talented finalists of the 2022 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge … I would especially like to thank this year’s social impact winners for addressing something that’s deeply personal to me and millions of people around the world. Growing up, I stuttered. I remember the pain, dread, and fear of speaking in front of a group or even to another person. But I also learned that when you persevere in the face of struggle, you will be stronger for it. And the efforts of Myspeech will help so many people persevere. You will help change people’s lives for the better.
“I’m so honored and humbled. I’d like to thank my amazing team and the i-lab. It’s just real affirmation that every person who stutters deserves help. Thank you so much,” said Nathan Mallipeddi, founder and CEO of Myspeech, after receiving the $75,000 award in the student social impact track. Mallipeddi is an M.D. candidate at the Harvard Medical School.
The five $25,000 award recipients
- CashEx for helping African migrants send money with zero fees;
- CassVita Inc for using proprietary technology to foster prosperity for smallholder farmers;
- Imago Rehab for creating a robot-assisted virtual clinic that restores hand function to stroke survivors;
- M13 Therapeutics for delivering any gene to any cell with a unique phage-derived particle; and
- VATARA for designing low-cost, negative pressure wound therapy.
The President’s Innovation Challenge also awarded $10,000 in Ingenuity Awards to teams advancing ideas with the potential to be world-changing, even if they are not yet fully formed ventures.
The four $2,500 award recipients
- Coastal Protection Solutions for designing easily deployable systems to protect against coastal floods;
- ListenIn for linking hearing aids with the brain to identify a speaker in the crowd;
- Madad for building an avalanche early warning system; and
- Speakden for nurturing fluent speakers of endangered and extinct Native American languages.
“Since we opened in November 2011, we’ve worked with 3,000-plus ventures,” said Matt Segneri, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Executive Director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “We’ve seen founders from 150 countries … and they’ve raised more than $5 billion. Tonight is a showcase of the incredible breadth of innovation across the University. We are a truly One Harvard effort.”
The President’s Innovation Challenge prizes are funded by the Bertarelli Foundation, which announced the President’s Innovation Challenge Fund in October 2017. This gift extends the Bertarelli Foundation’s support of innovation and entrepreneurship at Harvard, which began in 2013 when the Foundation funded the Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge.
“I’m very proud to have supported the President’s Innovation Challenge since its inception and in that time I have seen it develop and nurture hundreds of young entrepreneurs,” said Ernesto Bertarelli, M.B.A. ’93. “Each of them tries to make the world a better place and help some of the most disadvantaged or marginalized in our societies. It is a truly inspirational program. As I have seen the Challenge grow, I’ve observed a number of common traits in the finalists. They each have a tenacity to learn, to create, and importantly, to never give up.”
To learn more about the President’s Innovation Challenge finalists and winners, visit the website.