2020 - All Press Releases

Twelve companies pitch for a chance to win The Spinoff Prize

Young science-based university spinoff companies showcase their visions and strategies in the final rounds of a new award created by Nature Research and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

London | New York | Darmstadt, 30 June 2020

Today, Nature Research, part of Springer Nature, and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leading science and technology company, announce the twelve finalists of this year’s inaugural Spinoff Prize. Selected from almost 150 entrants by an expert panel of judges, the finalists include companies working on solutions to a broad range of challenges such as dementia, diabetes, heart disease and indoor air pollution. A supplement published today in Nature profiles each of the finalists, which are listed in the table in the notes section below.

The Spinoff Prize has been established by Nature Research in partnership with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. The prize aims to provide visibility and support for academic entrepreneurs and their companies, worldwide. All university spinoff companies formed on or after 30 November 2016 were eligible to apply. The winner receives a cash prize of €30,000 (thirty thousand EUROs).
Finalists of this year’s Spinoff Prize will pitch to a panel of expert judges during two rounds of an online slam. In the first round, all twelve companies will explain in six minutes how their company translates original, high-quality scientific research into products or services that address market problems and make a positive impact on society. Four companies will then be selected to participate in the second round of the slam, which will be part of the Future Insight Virtual Event on 13 July 2020.

In addition to the twelve finalists, the judges selected 32 promising companies as “ones to watch”. These included, for example: NanoRed (spun off from the National Cancer Institutes in the US), which works on the precision delivery of cancer immunotherapies; PetMedix (spun off from the Sanger Institute in the UK), which uses monoclonal antibodies to treat disease in dogs and cats; and Nanovatif Materials Technologies (spun off from the Middle East Technical University in Turkey), which uses silver nanowires integrated into fabrics to make heated clothing. The companies to watch are also listed in Nature’s supplement. 

Richard Hughes, VP, Publishing, Nature Research Partnerships, said: “We are delighted to have received so many strong applications from university spinoffs worldwide. By featuring the most promising companies in Nature, we hope to raise their profiles. We encourage potential collaborators, partners or investors to get in touch with the founders to build relationships. The challenging external circumstances require that the closing rounds of the Spinoff Prize competition – during which we will have an opportunity to meet the entrepreneurs and hear them describe their work in finer detail – will take place as virtual pitch events. This provides an opportunity for anyone to participate from home. We invite you to join us.” 

Ulrich Betz, VP Innovation Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, said: “We are proud to have The Spinoff Prize in the frame of Curious Future Insight – science for a better tomorrow. The recent developments show how important it is to boost scientific and technological progress worldwide to solve the problems of today and to enable the dreams of a better tomorrow.” 

*The term spinoff in this case refers to a company that has been formed specifically to commercialise the outputs generated from research conducted at a university or research institute.


Associated Institution

Company Description

Cage Capture

University of Liverpool, UK

Capturing indoor air pollution using advanced materials technology.


University of Oxford, UK

New ways of examining CT scans can uncover future risk of heart attacks.


University of Pennsylvania, US

Drug development to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


University of Zurich, Switzerland and Harvard University, US

High-throughput screen in zebrafish leads to new drug candidate for obesity.

Forkhead BioTherapeutics

Columbia University, US

An oral drug for treating insulin-dependent diabetes

MiWendo Solutions

Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, Polytechnic University of Catalonia, and the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies, Spain

A medical device to integrate microwave technologies with conventional colonoscopy.

Oxford Brain Diagnostics

University of Oxford, UK

Early diagnosis of dementia.


University of Cambridge, UK

Developing prognostic tests for immune-mediated and auto-immune diseases.


ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Neural network machine learning to develop new diagnostic biomarkers.


Northwestern University, US

A networked wireless sensor system to monitor neonatal vital signs in real time with clinical-grade precision.


University of California, San Diego, US

A wearable ultrasound device to accurately, continuously measure blood pressure non-invasively.

Temprian Therapeutics

Northwestern University, US

Treatment for the skin condition vitiligo.

About Nature Research

Nature Research is a portfolio of high-quality products and services across the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences – including journals, databases and researcher services – dedicated to serving the scientific community.

Nature (founded in 1869) is the leading, international weekly journal of science. Nature Research also publishes a range of Nature-branded subscription journals, the leading open access multidisciplinary journal Nature Communications, other open access journals including Scientific Reports, and a range of Nature Partner Journals published in partnership with institutions and societies. Together, these journals publish some of the world's most significant scientific discoveries.

Online, nature.com provides over nine million unique visitors per month with Nature Research content, including news and comment from Nature, and the leading scientific jobs board, Nature Careers. Nature Research also offers a range of researcher services, including online and in-person training and expert language and editing services. For more information, please visit nature.com and follow @nresearchnews. Nature Research is part of Springer Nature.

About Springer Nature

For over 175 years Springer Nature has been advancing discovery by providing the best possible service to the whole research community. We help researchers uncover new ideas, make sure all the research we publish is significant, robust and stands up to objective scrutiny, that it reaches all relevant audiences in the best possible format, and can be discovered, accessed, used, re-used and shared. We support librarians and institutions with innovations in technology and data; and provide quality publishing support to societies. 

As a research publisher, Springer Nature is home to trusted brands including Springer, Nature Research, BMC, Palgrave Macmillan and Scientific American. For more information, please visit springernature.com and @SpringerNature

About Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leading science and technology company, operates across healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 57,000 employees work to make a positive difference to millions of people’s lives every day by creating more joyful and sustainable ways to live. From advancing gene editing technologies and discovering unique ways to treat the most challenging diseases to enabling the intelligence of devices – the company is everywhere. In 2019, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, generated sales of € 16.2 billion in 66 countries.

Scientific exploration and responsible entrepreneurship have been key to the technological and scientific advances of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. This is how Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has thrived since its founding in 1668. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed company. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the business sectors of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, operate as EMD Serono in healthcare, MilliporeSigma in life science, and EMD Performance Materials.

Further Information

Register for the Future Insight Virtual Event on July 13th 2020, 14:00 – 19:00 (CEST) here 

Read the Nature Outlook on The Spinoff Prize here


Elizabeth Hawkins | Springer Nature | Communications
tel +49 6221 487 8130 | elizabeth.hawkins@springernature.com