Cartoon showing Lego-style people in the hall of a scientific meeting

Credit: Totto Renna

In 2020, 12 companies were highlighted as finalists for the inaugural Spinoff Prize — a competition to showcase excellence in research commercialization. Nature contacted the start-ups and asked them what they have achieved in the past year. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, they have raised money, entered partnerships, filed patents, developed products, received various honours and recognition and expanded their numbers of employees.


The spin-off from the University of Liverpool, UK, won a £150,000 (US$210,000) grant from the government agency Innovate UK to develop new materials, and secured £500,000 in its latest round of funding. It is now developing a version of its molecule-trapping product that can capture the greenhouse gas sulfur hexafluoride.

Caristo Diagnostics

The start-up based in Oxford, UK, raised £8.2 million in funding. And its heart-attack prediction system received a CE mark under European Medical Device Regulations, meaning it meets safety requirements and can be sold in the European Union.


The start-up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, raised $112,500 and created a scientific advisory board to guide the development of its system to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The company also licensed a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in the hope that it can develop drugs to target the condition.

EraCal Therapeutics

In addition to its existing work on appetite suppressants to tackle obesity, the company in Schlieren, Switzerland, started a joint development project on appetite stimulants with the University of Zurich, Switzerland. It also hired Ann Clare Kessler as its new board chair — Kessler has held various research positions at Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche in Basel for more than 25 years.

Forkhead BioTherapeutics

The company filed patents on its drug designed to restart insulin production as a therapy for type 1 diabetes, and moved to a laboratory space in New York City to ramp up in vivo studies of insulin control. Chemist and drug-development researcher Sandro Belvedere, who had been vice president for chemistry at the company, was promoted to chief scientific officer.

MiWEndo Solutions

The start-up in Barcelona, Spain, raised €4.5 million (US$5.5 million) and doubled its team of scientists and engineers. It hopes to launch clinical trials of its colon cancer detector this year.

Oxford Brain Diagnostics

The UK firm was awarded a £1.4-million National Institute for Health Research grant to run a multicentre trial of its Alzheimer’s diagnostic tool. Neuroimaging specialist Ged Ridgway joined as chief scientific officer.


The company based in Cambridge, UK, worked on commercializing its prognostic test for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and continues to enrol people in its clinical trials.


The start-up raised 3.7 million Swiss francs (US$4.1 million) in new funding to continue developing its system, which combines single-cell analysis and neural networks to help precision diagnosis. It also relocated to the Switzerland Innovation Park in Basel.

Sibel Health

The winner of The Spinoff Prize 2020 submitted its wearable health sensors for approval to the US Food and Drug Administration. The company, based in Niles, Illinois, also partnered with the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, to test its system with a simpler user interface.


The spin-off from the University of California, San Diego, began working with the university’s medical-technology start-up accelerator to polish the business strategy for its flexible biosensors. It hopes to start fundraising by the end of the year.

Temprian Therapeutics

The start-up in Chicago, Illinois, raised $700,000 to further the development of its gene-based treatment for the skin-pigment condition vitiligo. It is now preparing for its next round of investment.