Student startup tackling UTIs with bacteria-killing light wins innovation award

A student-founded startup won the White City Innovators’ Programme for a device that could revolutionize the treatment of local microbial infections.

Brightcure, which was founded by PhD student Chiara Heide, aims to treat recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) without relying on antibiotics. The Brightcure team also includes Imperial alumni Charles Motraghi and MSc student Jacy Zhou.

Antibiotics can cause side effects for patients, and antimicrobial resistance is increasingly a problem when it comes to treating UTIs.

Brightcure’s novel technology would use localized light therapy as a targeted treatment to kill bacteria in the bladder. The team says that their device, which could be operated by a GP upon confirmation of an infection, could provide immediate pain relief for the patient and clear the bladder from any remaining harmful bacteria.  

As winners of the White City Innovator’s Programme, Brightcure was awarded a £6,000 prize package, including £4,000 cash to support the business’s growth. 

Chiara, who is a research postgraduate in the Department of Chemical Engineering, said: “The Innovators’ Programme was a fantastic learning experience - it gave us the opportunity to develop different parts of our business and gain valuable insight from specialist mentors. Our team especially enjoyed the supportive learning atmosphere that the Incubator team created during the Programme, and we would like to thank them for all the advice, guidance and support we have received so far.”

Runners up

Imperial alumna Niki Göransson (centre) received second prize

Imperial alumna Niki Göransson (centre) received second prize

Studio Lara, an Edtech startup founded by Imperial alumna Niki Goransson, took home second prize of £4,000 worth of support for her interactive learning materials to introduce electronics and programming skills to children in a playful way.

A new Impact Award worth £1,500 was also presented to MDlab for their startup which is developing a wearable, non-invasive device to help people with Parkinson’s gain back movement control.

All participants in the 2019 cohort received access to free co-working space at White City Incubator for a further 3 months

Supporting startups

Delivered in partnership with NatWest, the Innovators’ Programme is the Imperial White City Incubator’s flagship pre-accelerator programme. It aims to support the development of technology focussed early-stage companies by providing funding, mentoring and access to Imperial’s innovation ecosystem at Imperial’s White City Campus.

The five week programme is aimed at Imperial alumni, current students, and tech businesses from the local area and provides an array of business support services including one-to-one mentorship, alongside thrice-weekly sessions on topics covering business planning, raising funds, sales and marketing, managing a startup team and pitch practice.

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Now in its fourth cohort, this marks the first time that 50% of the teams on the Innovators’ Programme have involved a female founder.  

The Programme culminated in a pitching event on 13 June where eleven participating businesses showcased their ideas to a panel of expert judges.

Richelle McNae, Entrepreneurial Programmes Coordinator at Imperial, said: “Our flagship Innovators’ Programme is focussed on supporting local companies, Imperial staff, students and alumni to develop their business ideas whilst immersing themselves in the entrepreneurial community at White City.

Over the last five weeks, we have seen eleven extremely motivated teams come together for specialist guidance to help them along their journey – from pitching on day one to business planning, fundraising, IP and marketing. For the first time, we were able to showcase a cohort with 50% female founders, which I am immensely proud of. I would like to congratulate all or our participants alongside our partners at NatWest, as well as our mentors and speakers.”

The judging panel included James Holian, Chief Operating Officer at NatWest, Dr Andrew Tingey, Executive Director at Imperial Innovations, Linda Apelt, Agent-General for Queensland in the UK and Chris Tilley, Director of the Investor Club at Coutts Private Banking.

Previous winner of the 2018 White City Innovators’ Programme, George Winfield, has since gone on to achieve success in the the Mayor of London’s Entrepreneurship Competition. George founded Spyras – a startup developing a paper-based breathing monitoring system that can detect patient deterioration from sepsis – and won the Tech category in the Mayor’s competition earlier this year.