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Biodisseny Europa, observació

“Biodesign has become the best option for healthcare entrepreneurship”

Healthcare is full of unmet needs. Industry and academia work to address these issues but 16 years ago, in the United States, they realized that the solutions that were making it to market just didn’t cut it. That was when a whole new methodology for innovating in healthcare was born: biodesign. Barcelona is one of the European capitals to which this concept has spread in recent years.

  • Paraplegic patients lose muscle mass and develop atrophy
  • 0.2% of people that wear contacts develop serious eye infections that could lead to blindness
  • After being under anesthesia, patients can asphyxiate after being extubated because their glottis closes. Anesthesiologists have to use many drugs to prevent this complication 

These are just a few examples that show healthcare is full of unmet needs. Industry and academia are working to tackle these problems through companies, universities and research laboratories, but 16 years ago in the United States they realized that the solutions that were making it to market just didn’t cut it. They worked fine technologically speaking but no one was buying them because they didn’t actually cover a real market need.

That was when Stanford University launched a fellowship program with a whole new methodology. In this program, multidisciplinary teams invent useful solutions to real problems through direct observation of patients and professionals in hospitals. This was the beginning of what is known as biodesign, a methodology that has spread to several European capitals.  One of these is Barcelona, with the d·HEALTH Barcelona program offered through Biocat’s Moebio initiative.

Biodesign means entrepreneurship in health through a full three-step innovation process. The program, which must be done full time, begins with a clinical immersion in a hospital to identify unmet medical needs. Then each team selects one of those needs and comes up with a solution to resolve it. They make a prototype of their solution and design the business model to bring their technology to market. The program is designed to develop medical technology and create companies.

“Thanks to this comprehensive methodology, biodesign has become the best option for healthcare entrepreneurship from scratch, for those who don’t already have a team or an idea,” says academic director for Moebio and director of e-Health and Health 2.0 at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, Jorge Juan Fernández.

This was the case with Markus Wilhelms, Imma Herrero, Marc Benet and Ángel Calzada. They participated in the d·HEALTH Barcelona biodesign-inspired program and developed a non-drug, non-invasive solution for chronic constipation that imitates professional therapeutic massage and founded their start-up.

The company has raised €2.2 millions and launched its product on the Spanish market. In fact, it is the only company to come out of a biodesign-inspired program in Europe that has a product on the market and now the team is looking for distributors in Germany and the United States for 2018.


Keep reading the report: A disruptive methodology for healthcare innovation >


The biodesign methodology was developed at Stanford University in 2001 and is based on the concept that healthcare innovation can be reproduced, taught and learned through a closed cycle. The process has three phases and aims to develop a medical device or technology.

After spreading throughout the United States (to more than 100 universities), biodesign landed in Europe in 2010, seen as a good opportunity to incentivize innovation in medical technology. In Turkey and Israel, there are also programs that use this methodology.

The d·HEALTH Barcelona fellowship has also chosen to give fellows international mobility in order to meet participants in other European programs, share their knowledge on the clinical areas of their hospital immersions, validate the medical needs they’ve identified and build their international network of doctors, healthcare professionals and venture capitalists.