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Ideas become successes: exoskeletons for the operating room

BioRegio STERN Management GmbH has been promoting innovations and start-ups on behalf of the public sector for over 20 years and is the central point of contact for founders and entrepreneurs in the Stuttgart and Neckar-Alb regions with the cities of Tübingen and Reutlingen. It has already supported nearly 80 start-ups - many of which are now very successful with their products and services and demonstrate the great innovative strength in the region. One example is Hellstern medical GmbH, which recently launched the "noac" exoskeleton. This globally unique high-tech innovation, which founders Sabrina Hellstern and Claudia Sodha developed with their team in record time, enables surgeons to operate without fatigue.

noac is the world's first exoskeleton that uses intelligent motion detection to hold surgeons in any desired position on the operating table. A team consisting of engineers Harald Rager and Alexander Strobel as well as electronics and software developers and physicians developed this innovative high-tech product, which enables physicians to operate without fatigue even during hour-long procedures, with numerous patents in the record time of only 15 months. And it did so despite the Corona pandemic: the company from Wannweil in the district of Reutlingen even produced face visors for doctors and nursing staff for a short time when the market for protective equipment was completely empty. But then Hellstern medical GmbH focused entirely on noac again. "This is a great success for us as a start-up," explains Sabrina Hellstern. "And it's a great success for the region and its economic development." The company raised 3.2 million - "And that's despite the fact that only a little more than five percent of all female founders in the medtech industry generate more than one million euros," emphasizes CEO Hellstern. Now noac is on the market and it is not only the surgeons who benefit, whose performance and precision are demonstrably increased, but also the patients who can be operated on optimally in this way.

Users who put on the SensoRun set of sensors would like to avoid surgery if possible. The mobile measuring device for the motion analysis of runners determines the biomechanical loads directly on the athlete's leg. This makes it possible to detect stresses or malpositions at an early stage. Dr. Steffen Hüttner is the CEO of HB Technologies AG and one of the pioneers in digitalization for medical and biotechnology. The long-distance runner from Tübingen founded SensoRun GmbH & Co. KG and, together with his team, has developed an artificial intelligence that interprets running data in such a way that professional athletes and hobby runners can analyze themselves as if they were in a laboratory, in order to avoid injuries and move pain-free. The SensoRun set, which is now available from a major mail-order sports goods retailer, will probably soon be standard equipment on running tracks and jogging trails.

Researchers also need a lot of perseverance - and sometimes a final impetus to start up, a little push in the right direction. BioRegio STERN Management GmbH therefore launched the "Science2Start" ideas competition 14 years ago to identify commercially promising life sciences ideas from the region - and to provide scientists with an additional boost of motivation for their start-ups.

In 2012, for example, Dr. Sebastian J. Schultheiß was one of the award winners. The core of the award-winning idea was a technology that can be used to analyze DNA sequence data in a particularly high-quality manner. Today, Computomics GmbH, of which Schultheiß is managing director, is celebrating its tenth anniversary in Tübingen and is growing just as reliably as the seeds it analyzes. That's because the company's technology platform is in demand worldwide when it comes to new plant breeding for rice, corn or cereals. Even the world's largest beer company, AB InBev enlisted support to breed malting barley that can meet the challenges of climate change while providing excellent quality for malt production. Computomics' machine learning-based technology processes all available data, such as genotypes, phenotypes, and climate and soil conditions, so that the Belgian brewer can continue to breed ideal varieties for beers in the future.

Among other things, Variolytics GmbH is concerned with the end result of beer consumption. The analysis platform of the Stuttgart-based start-up, whose technology was developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, enables operators of wastewater treatment plants, among others, to save energy and reduce the emission of environmentally harmful gases. The measuring devices with their patented real-time analytics for monitoring emissions from wastewater treatment plants are now successfully on the market and specifically help to reduce the generation of greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide and methane in the aeration tanks of wastewater treatment plants. AI-based control significantly reduces not only unwanted gases, but also energy and chemical consumption.

"Many of the innovations offer answers to the pressing issues facing our society in terms of energy consumption, environmental protection or medicine of the future," explains Dr. Klaus Eichenberg, Managing Director of BioRegio STERN Management GmbH. "The founders just need a real chance for their ideas to become successes. Supporting and promoting them remains indispensable." For more than 20 years, the team at BioRegio STERN Management GmbH has been supporting the establishment of companies, which in turn have already created more than 3,000 high-quality jobs. Three billion euros in investment and 550 million euros in federal funding have so far flowed into the region's 110 biotech companies.

Source: Ideas become successes: exoskeletons for the operating room, running analyses like in the lab, genetic analyses for the perfect beer ( (16.02.2023)

Tom Illauer

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