NovaXS raises first million dollars to make self-administering medicines pain-free


“How many of you are afraid of needles?” Alina Sue asks her audience when she starts the pitch for her new company NovaXS biotech. The audience shifts in their seats. Most people raise their hands. “Now imagine having to inject yourself 1000 times (over the course of) three years.” Alina explains that she has seen her sister endure this daily pain since she was seven. Suddenly the audience is in her shoes – imagining what it would be like if she, or a family member, had to struggle with such a painful regime.

With this riveting opening to her story, Alina has competed in five business competitions and became finalists in all five. She has won three of the matches outright. In the process, Alina raised her first million dollars for the company so that her team can build a prototype of a new device to deliver self-administered drugs without needles.

Her opening grabs the audience’s attention and provides the “vertical start” recommended by storytellers. But Alina demonstrates another vital skill that is essential to a strong innovation story. She breaks the problem down into its component parts early in the story and then pays them off by describing the features of her product that solve each problem.

We are trained to expect this from the narrator. For example, in the Wizard of Oz we follow the journey of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, Lion and Dorothy. We learn that the Scarecrow craves a brain, the Tin Woodsman craves a heart, the Lion desperately craves some courage, and Dorothy wants to return home. The audience follows their adventures and fully expects these storylines to be resolved. In the end, the Scarecrow receives a diploma for his sanity, the Lion a medal for his bravery, the Tin Woodsman a testimony of how much he is loved, and Dorothy eventually makes it back to Kansas.

Even in a short pitch of four minutes, Alina manages to realize this parallel structure in her story. She begins by describing the three aspects of the problem she is tackling. The first is low patient tolerance† People either don’t appreciate being stuck with a needle every day or simply choose not to get the necessary medication because they are too afraid of needles in the first place. The second problem is: low accessibility† The process of self-administration of the medication with the needle is so challenging that most patients have no choice but to go to the hospital to get their injections. For example, Alina’s sister had to make the one-hour drive to a children’s hospital in Beijing every day for three years. Hospitals are also struggling as they are not well staffed to meet this need. The third problem is a lack of supervision† Without proper monitoring, patients often do not take the right amount of medication at the right time, and their doctors and insurance companies have no evidence that the patient has adhered to the prescribed treatment plan. The US health care system spends $39 billion each year on regulatory compliance.

Now it’s time for Alina to pay off all these worries. First, the NovaXS patented solution is needleless† It is a device that generates a rapid flow of fluid the width of a hair that enters the body through the patient’s pores and immediately delivers the medication to the subcutaneous or intramuscular level. The drug spreads evenly in the system without generating hard knots. This addresses the patient’s tolerance problem. Second, the device has LED security lock sensors that light up green when the patient has found the correct placement and angle for entry. It only delivers the drug if it can be done correctly. It offers more than 3,000 treatments with the same device (only the cartridge changes). This means that anyone can administer the medication themselves without going to the hospital. Accessibility issue resolved. Third, the device is connected to an app who has the necessary treatment schedule (including reminders, scheduling and side effects tracking) for the patient to follow and documents each request, which is shared with the physician and insurance company. This function handles the guard bit.

Her pitch is so compelling that several potential investors have asked for the solution for themselves. Investors undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments asked Alina to research this solution for patients like her. IVF may require up to four drugs on six different schedules to be applied to different parts of the body within four months. It’s a drug self-administration nightmare. Thanks in part to this customer feedback, Alina is targeting the IVF market as one of NovaXS’ early target markets, alongside pediatric IBD treatments, gene therapy with regenerative medicine, and diabetes.

A UC Berkeley graduate, Alina is building this business while pursuing a PhD in regenerative and clinical medicine from Harvard Medical School. That’s a story in itself. Stand by for the next chapter as NovaXS Master File Clearance with 510K and Institutional Review Boards pursues clinical trials in 2022. It might be even more compelling than the first.


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