One of the leading life sciences startup in Lithuania Oxipit has just came back from the trip to the USA. During a week-long visit to Ohio the winner of Life Sciences Baltics Pitch challenge presented the products to the potential clients: universities, hospitals, radiologists.
The chance to go to the USA was awarded to the artificial intelligence (AI) startup after it beat out nine other startups from the Baltic countries and Ukraine which presented their products or services during the Life Sciences Baltics event in September.
Naglis Ramanauskas, the representative of the winners’ team and one of the founders of the start-up, said that the organisers of the main prize of the pitch challenge contributed a lot – both while preparing for the trip to the USA and during the travel – to make the visit useful and successful. “I would like to express my gratitude to Robert Anthony, Samuel DeShazior and Ingrida Baublys, the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Lithuania in the USA: these people made great effort and were genuinely sincere trying to make our trip productive and successful,” Mr Ramanauskas noted.
How were you preparing for the visit to Akron? What was your goal and what products have you presented?, we asked Naglis Ramanauskas after the visit.
We presented our two main products designed for optimising the analysis and the description process of lung x-rays. One of them is intended for optimisation of radiologists’ work and for improvement of the accuracy of diagnostics; the other serves as an advisory tool meant to help in complicated cases and educational gadget.
We had three key objectives with regard to the visit: 1) find some users of our products – hospitals, clinics or universities which would be interested in trying our products right away and would later become our clients in the USA market; 2) find out the specificities of certification by the FDA and what any other additional challenges might be posed; 3) better understand the procedure of payment for medical services in the USA and the possibilities to sell medical diagnostic solutions. I suppose, we have achieved all these targets.
We prepared for the travel by arranging targeted meetings with the institutions and people in Cleveland and Akron that might help us pursue our goals. These were administrators, researchers of hospitals and universities, representatives of business companies, manufacturers of medical products, insurance companies and the FDA consultants.
What was the response to your ideas in the USA? Have you seen any demand for your products there? Have you managed to establish sustainable relationship which might develop into a tight cooperation in the long run?
The ideas were welcomed and accepted well. The demand for radiologists in general, both in the USA and in Europe as well as all over the world, is big and has been growing; for this reason, products which help radiologists be more efficient and accurate are also in high demand. To sell an innovation, a very clear substantiation of the added value of the developed product is required; in other words, you have to illustrate the potentials of a product, to show how it might increase an entity’s income or reduce its costs. This is even more evident in the US market than in any other market. Increase of efficiency of the medical products’ market helps an entity save some money, whereas accuracy gives it a competitive advantage and reduces the costs of legal proceedings. As regards any cooperation, it is too early to state anything definitely, but we have found at least 5 potential clients who have showed a great interest in us and a desire to try our products. We hope that they might become our first clients in the US market.
What potentials do you see in entering the US market? What challenges do you face?
We have found at least 5 potential clients who have showed a great interest in us and a desire to try our products. We hope that they might become our first clients in the US market.
Although the US market is not our main priority at the moment, we view our chances as positive ones. The US market has its own specificities, you need to go through certain specific certification procedures, medical services are taxed in a manner which is different from Lithuania or Europe. Nevertheless, we are about to successfully complete the certification procedures in Europe and presume that this experience could be used for the certification procedures in the USA. During the visit, we met with the FDA consultants who readily answered all the questions we had on this issue.
Oxipit, just like many other young start-ups, has tried a number of methods of searching. How have you discovered a niche in the area of medicine? How much has the fact that you are the only one in a team with a medical education and specialization in radiology contributed to these discoveries?
It was determined by a few factors. Artificial intelligence has a huge potential of improving the quality of medical services. Products which create added value in this field not only can become successful commercial projects but can also improve the patients’ situation. This motivates us to go ahead. Besides, this market is fairly new, for this reason, there is a lot of room for new players. During my medical studies, I got deeply interested in the AI technology and started applying the AI algorithms for various medical problems merely for scientific purposes. Understanding the AI technology and facing the problems in the medical field I also saw some other fields in which the AI could be much helpful. In this way, the direction or approach of our company has gradually become clear.
This market is fairly new, for this reason, there is a lot of room for new players.
In your view, why it is worth participating in such competitions as Life Sciences Baltics Startup Pitch Challenge, hackathons and other events focusing on presentation of start-ups? How useful was the participation for you as a team and business?
It is worth participating in these events first of all for the reason of meeting people who have the same way of thinking. Our company would have not been set up, had we not met each other in one of such events, namely, in the AI hackathon organised in spring 2017 in Vilnius. For a company, participation in such competitions and events gives awareness and the possibility to make self-evaluations and prove your value to others. This, without a doubt, is important for selling your products and for attracting investments, to say nothing of direct and undisputable benefit.
Over these years, you have received a number of local and international awards. Oxipit could be titled the start-up of the year in Lithuania. What further plans do you have?
There are many plans for the next 18 months. We have some specific objectives we want to achieve in this period towards the improvement of the product and the expansion of its functionality – both by actively working in terms of business and by establishing a network of our clients.
Comment by Ingrida Baublys, Honorary Consul of Lithuania in the USA:
All visits to Akron is a gift to Lithuania. There are some finest US hospitals, research centres, consultative firms, etc. around Akron. In other words, everything what is actually hardly accessible in other cities. To get life science entrepreneurs, clusters of life science interested one has to work hard and establish relationships.
There are very well known brands and names among the life science companies in Ohio, such as Abbot, Battelle, Cardinal Health, Ethicon (Johnson & Johnson), Midmark, STERIS, also many growing companies, including Abeona Therapeutics, Enable Injections, Myonexus Therapeutics, etc.
Economic impact of life sciences’ industry is seen in the entire state, as many as 81 companies of the sector are located in 88 counties of Ohio. The life sciences industry has been growing in all six regions of Ohio and has played an important role in promoting critical discoveries. For instance, Cleveland is the city in which the headquarters of the famous Cleveland Clinics is set up. The clinics operate not only in Ohio and in other US states but also abroad.
Robert Anthony, Programme Coordinator of the visit by Oxipit to the USA
I really enjoyed working with Naglis last week. He did an excellent job in representing the life science community from Lithuania. Although early in the commercialization process, Oxipit is another example of an innovative, highly motivated and leading-edge technology based company from your country trying to expand into new markets. We were quite busy with meeting throughout Northeast Ohio (Cleveland, Columbus and Akron) including discussions with universities, medical schools, hospitals, radiologists, FDA consultants, insurance companies, etc. While Lithuania has made significant progress in various life science initiatives in the US market you are still relatively unknown in the mid-West. Ohio is a key state when it comes to life sciences and would be a good fit on many levels for Lithuania to begin expanding into the overall US market, not just the East and West coast.