Good SIRS swept the MIT $100K Pitch competition on Oct. 29, winning both judge and audience approval with a promising device to treat sepsis.
The pressure is high for competitors at Pitch, who have one minute to tell their startup’s story and deliver a value proposition. Dr. Brian McAlvin, of Good SIRS, focused on “Sarah,” a child suffering from sepsis and systemic inflammatory response syndrome, known as SIRS, where the body’s immune system responds to an infection by attacking the organs. Sarah lost her limbs as doctors scrambled to save her.
“Sarah is among the lucky ones,” McAlvin, said, as the mortality rates from sepsis are high. For Good SIRS, the value proposition had a name.
Good SIRS is developing a blood-filtering device that can remove factors in the blood that are responsible for organ failure.
“It modifies the immune system,” McAlvin said. “If we can intercept the signals, we can block inflammation, and we can prevent the response that leads to organ failure.”
He compared the device, not yet named, to dialysis, which filters the blood but can’t tell the difference between factors in the blood. It can only find molecules of a certain size and shape. Good SIRS’ device is customizable to find and block any molecule in the blood, and may ultimately have other uses beyond combating SIRS, McAlvin said.
The Good SIRS team includes McAlvin and Brian Timko, both researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, and their mentor, Dr. Daniel Kohane, director of the Laboratory for Biomaterials and Drug Delivery, also at Children’s. Timko is a post-doctoral fellow at MIT’s Langer Lab.
Their device is getting support from the Boston Children’s Hospital Technology and Innovation Development Office, and is currently in pre-clinical animal trials. They’ve seen promising results in tests on rats, and will soon move to pigs.
“People in the field are very excited, the enthusiasm is immediate,” said McAlvin, who noted they are researchers first; entrepreneurship is new ground for him as the research moves forward.
The grand prize at Pitch is $4,000 and the founder.org audience choice—done through live text message voting by the capacity crowd in room 10-250 on campus—is a $2,000 prize.
Judges also praised honorable mention teams. Wooboo is “empowering cuteness with technology” through a line of interactive cuddly robots for children. Poly6 Technologies is developing biodegradable plastic coatings from lemons for industrial and commercial uses. Quickhelp mimics Uber in delivering not drivers, but tutors, linking students under pressure with nearby PhD students or undergraduates who aced a particular course.
Pitch is the first of three MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition events. Pitch, is “all about the idea,” according to $100K managing director Marc Chalifoux, MBA ’16, as they welcome teams whose startups may only be in the conceptual stage. Accelerate, usually held in February, pairs teams with mentors for concepts further along, with time spent on customer research and product development. Launch, carrying the $100,000 grand prize and usually held in May, involves more substantial presentations and fleshed-out business plans.
According to Chalifoux, entrance applications took a different form this year and were submitted via video rather than as written applications. Judges whittled 110 applications to the 20 finalists that presented.