Innovation Interview: KOVE medical and the potential of fetal treatment
KOVE medical focuses on a crucial mission: saving babies before they are born. This Swiss start-up fights for preventing malformations and reducing risks occurring during pregnancy interventions. Thanks to KOVE, fetoscopies can be safer and easy, which means decreasing costs, premature births and future risks.
Today, we met Dr. Yannick Devaud, his Founder & CEO, to discover more about their expertise and successful path at KOVE medical.
Join us to find out everything about how this project may change future fetal interventions!
KOVE medical’s team (from left to right): Dr. Kurt Ruffieux, Co-Founder, CTO; Dr. Yannick Devaud, Founder & CEO and
Helena Tronnier, Head of R&D.
As we said at the outset, KOVE medical addresses the commendable mission of saving babies before they are born. Why did you choose this important purpose for your company?
During my PhD, I had the chance to work on a project where we were developing complex stem cell and bioengineering therapies to solve an existing clinical need, which is the high rates of premature birth following in-utero surgeries.
With time, it became obvious to me that those therapies had a long way to go to reach the clinics. At the same time, I was convinced that a solution could be found, and I decided to dedicate my time to its development.
I find the purpose and the vision extremely inspiring, and this motivation is our driving force.
We realised KOVE medical was founded as a MedTech spin-off of the University of Zurich and specifically related to its University Hospital. What has been the role these institutions played on KOVE’s growth? Can you please tell us more about your experience regarding the UZH Innovation Hub?
The University, the University hospital of Zurich and also its innovation hub have greatly contributed to the development of KOVE medical. The University of Zurich started putting in place a structure that help researchers that aspire to have their research applied to do so. KOVE was lucky to have started when these incentives were launched. All the future project will surf on this wave, which is fantastic. The structure is put in place to support start-ups very professionally, and I can only recommend any future entrepreneur to reach out to them at any stage of their development.
Let’s continue focusing on your place of origin. KOVE is based in Switzerland, one of the most innovative countries worldwide. In your opinion, what makes Switzerland one of the R&D leaders year after year?
Switzerland is taking advantage of its long history of high-tech research and development throughout all industries. The Swiss label is unconditionally recognised and valued everywhere. We can thank past advantageous fiscal politics that enabled the concentration of high-tech hubs, which, in combination with the development of excellent universities, set a solid ground for future generations.
Talking about innovation, we are really impressed by how KOVE’s technology aims to reduce the risks of preterm births during fetoscopic procedures. Could you please tell us more about it?
Fetoscopy is a fairly new field of surgery. Until now, methods to treat certain anomalies during pregnancy were hypothesized and innovative surgeons would explore those methods to observe their effects.
After 2 decades of surgical exploration, we have now scientific evidence that those procedures change dramatically the outcome of related pregnancies. Indeed, fetuses who would be born with high cardiac deficiency or paraplegic can now be born healthy and live a normal life.
However, despite the success of those interventions, preterm birth due to fetal membrane rupture created by the insertion of the surgical tools during fetoscopy appears to be the Achilles heel of this kind of surgeries. Without this limitation, fetoscopy would be more broadly used and even potentially convenient for other anomalies. It appeared evident to us that we had to come up with a method to lower the risk of premature birth following fetoscopy.
This is our vision and our fate, and by doing so, we will unleash the potential of fetoscopies!
KOVE’s project helps to improve fetoscopies and prevent premature births and future risks.
This project, in particular, received the financial support of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). How can organisms like this one boost R&D? What do you think about the new ‘Swiss Accelerator’ funding line and its expected impact on start-ups and spin-offs like yours?
Fundraising at this early stage of development is a question of survival, being these kind of financings hence crucial. On the one hand, it enables to push the development of the technology and, on the other hand, this recognition builds a certain traction helping to put fetoscopy, its promises and limitations on the map. As a result, it sets KOVE as an interesting venture to follow and invest in.
We have been pleased to work with you and participate in your project development. What do you think about our involvement in your funding strategy?
The collaborative work with Evolution was very professional. People were dedicated and did everything possible to be understanding, receptive and reactive to our comments and inputs.
The different teams were well coordinated to make us use the time as efficiently as possible. At the end, it is still a collaborative work, but Evolution definitely pulled the strings to make it a success.
We are sure KOVE’s technology and innovative path will inspire other spin-offs and start-ups. What would be your top advice for them?
Follow your inspirations, even the craziest ones. There is everything set up for a successful translation of any entrepreneurial idea. Surround yourself with people smarter than you and open all the doors until you find a path you want to walk on.
My top advice for spin-offs and start-ups would be to follow their inspirations, even the craziest ones. Surround yourself with people smarter than you and open all the doors until you find a path you want to walk on.
According to your plans for the near future, what’s next for KOVE?
We are setting up the production for our device and expect to have the certifications by 2024 to launch our product. We are strengthening our vision to provide specific fetoscopy tools for this emerging field, and have already some ideas of how our next product will look like.
Thank you, Yannick, for sharing KOVE medical’s story with us. We are looking forward to witnessing your product launch and discovering more about those new ideas!