EIT Health InnoStars presents a new episode of a series of talks with inspiring people in our community who develop innovative ideas. We ask about their journeys, while developing ideas, their professional career paths and motivations.
EIT Health InnoStars: What is your idea that you’re working on at the moment? What kind of a “world” problem are you trying to fix?
Jogundas Armaitis, PhD, InnoStars Awards 2018 Winner: The problem we’re working on is simple. The number of medical images has recently skyrocketed, but the number of medical imaging specialists and radiologists hasn’t changed much. Hence, most countries are facing a shortage of radiologists. This is the problem that Oxipit is addressing.
Oxipit is applying artificial intelligence to medical imaging. We’ve developed a tool that automates reporting on chest X-ray images, which is the most frequently used medical imaging modality. Oxipit stands out from the competition by covering virtually all pathologies, and being able to generate reports as if written by a radiologist.
Where did you find inspiration? How do you know that this is a need-driven solution with market potential?
J: Before starting out we interviewed dozens of medical doctors specializing in various fields. We then came up with three prototypes, asked for further feedback, and then decided to concentrate on this particular product.
Can a researcher or scientist run their own business successfully? Does science go in tandem with a business approach and mindset?
J: There are a lot of different aspects to this question, and each case is different, so saying something general and insightful is not easy. Several examples of companies founded in Vilnius in the early 1990s come to mind. It seems that a researcher-CEO is a great fit for companies with niche products, serving customers in the academic field such as laser manufacturing. However, it’s much harder to find successful examples when it comes to more mainstream consumer products and services.
When it comes to skills development, brilliant science doesn’t come easily. One learns to persevere no matter what. Usually this is a good trait for startup founders as well, but certainly not always. Moreover, there is a lot of talk of lifelong learning and career paths that are longer and more diverse than before, especially in Europe. I believe that, just as in science skills, business skills can be learned. So it stands to reason that a scientist can learn business, just as a former CEO can become a PhD student, given enough time and motivation.
Do you know any useful methodologies that can help develop a simple idea into a market product or solution? Have you looked for them yourself or was it something you were taught during your studies? How has EIT Health contributed to your ideas/business development?
J: The Oxipit story is just getting started, and I hope to learn a lot more in the coming years. I’ll be more than glad to share what I learn as the company matures. Having said that, I think that information flow is very important. It’s no coincidence that various methodologies that emphasize end-user feedback and rapid product cycles are currently in vogue. Another aspect of the same thing is networks.
For instance, in a highly specialized industry like healthcare, getting to know the early adopters who have the time and the right incentives to try out your solution isn’t always easy. EIT Health is able to contribute to early-stage companies, both when it comes to connecting the right people, as well as gathering feedback by getting their solutions to so-called testbeds.
If you could give one piece of advice to other scientists and researchers on early-stage start-ups, or on how to develop or find the proper start-up idea, what would it be?
J: I think I’m still too young to give out such meaningful advice. I’ve noticed that healthcare is a complicated business, so having a wide range of expertise in the founding team certainly helps at the beginning.