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Students of the Master's Degree in research, development and Drug Innovation develop a product to extract antibiotic residues from wastewater

After winning first place in the Innomakers4Health competition organized by Pfizer Spain, they have spent six months mentoring with the startup accelerator TheCUBE.

FotoCedida/StudentsDavid Gutiérrez, Amaia Ardanaz, Andrea Barbarin and Inés Clemente during a follow-up meeting of project.

30 | 06 | 2023

David Gutiérrez, Amaia Ardanaz, Andrea Barbarin and Inés Clemente are a group group of students of the Master's Degree in research, development and Innovation of Medicines of the School of Pharmacy and Nutrition and in December they obtained the first position in Innomakers4Health, a contest organized by Pfizer Spain. The challenge consisted of coming up with a technological solution to achieve a more environmentally sustainable healthcare system and, from there, devising a realistic business model . After six months of dedication, they are currently in the final phase before having a viable product on the market.

"The idea came through an email from Master's Degree in which they informed us of the existence of this challenge and encouraged us to participate. And we couldn't be more grateful to them for seeking and offering us this subject of opportunities", confesses David Gutiérrez. Thus, the team decided to concentrate all their efforts on the weekend assigned for the challenge, collecting ideas from different people and applying their knowledge acquired during the Master's Degree.

BioPamp, its innovative technological proposal , had as its main goal the extraction of antibiotic residues from wastewater, in order to reduce the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as "superbugs". "This is a global problem that we have been feeling the consequences of for years and that promises to get worse, because, as we argue in our presentation, by 2050 more deaths are expected from antibiotic-resistant bacteria than from cancer." 

"An exhausting weekend."

"It was an exhausting weekend, we had to take off the white coat and put on the suit to apply all our scientific knowledge to a more business environment. It was the first time in our lives that we were working with concepts such as 'model business', and we had to learn from scratch how to develop these sections", explains David. Even so, they found this approach very interesting, which also made them reflect on the way scientists think, and the aspects they can learn from other disciplines. "To top it off, the final submission was a video describing the project, so the second night we stayed up until 6 a.m. recording and editing. We almost didn't wake up for the submission!".

To their surprise, with the work presented they had gone through to the final, and after defending the proposal live, without quite believing it, they became the winners. "They were very exciting days, between the accumulated fatigue, the calls to the family to explain everything, the exam we had that same week... A lot of intensity, but very proud of what we had achieved".

In the final phase of product development

However, the best was yet to come: thanks to being the winners, they could continue with the development of their idea in the InnomakersLab program, promoted by the Pfizer Foundation and the startup accelerator TheCUBE. The program consisted of continuous mentoring from project that would provide them with resources and knowledge on startup creation. "In these six months we have dedicated ourselves to working on our idea from the scientific foundation, contacting various Spanish experts in the technology we want to work with, as well as on the more business side, learning a great deal from our mentors at TheCUBE and from periodic reviews with the Pfizer team." 

Meanwhile, they have also received support from Innovation Factory, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship of the University of Navarra, to make the most of this experience. "We have also been able to apply much of what we have studied in the Master's Degree, especially the subjects of the last block that is more focused on the business, with subjects such as Business Plan", details David Gutiérrez.

Currently, the team is working on a pilot test to prove the efficacy of their technology and, from there, they will be able to say with certainty that there is a product developed by themselves. "For this, we are at contact with various hospitals, researchers from all over the country, even experts from MIT! We are confident that this is just the first chapter of a long story."