On November 18, the four-month Tool Foundry accelerator reached its celebratory conclusion: the Tool Foundry Showcase at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. A community of inventors, researchers, entrepreneurs, and funders came together to hear from the five accelerator cohort teams, demo their latest prototypes, and discuss their potential for expanding access to science.
Luminary Labs CEO Sara Holoubek and Schmidt Futures Senior Director and Head of Partnerships Kumar Garg kicked off the evening with a fireside chat about their vision for how accessible tools can impact the future of scientific discovery. With increased access to tools, more people can participate in science — sparking new discoveries, spreading knowledge, and increasing public understanding of the natural world.
“There is a set of people who want to use their passion and talents to build community. They want to use those tools to have other people find science and share what they’re doing.”
— Kumar Garg, Senior Director and Head of Partnerships at Schmidt Futures
After the inspiring introduction, the cohort teams took to the stage, sharing an overview of the progress they made during the accelerator as they worked with Tool Foundry’s collaborator network to build a foundation for sustainable growth. From automating disease detection to unlocking the ability to explore biology at home, the cohort demonstrated the impact of accessible tools across a breadth of areas. Each team outlined ambitious plans for scaling their tools and invited the audience to be part of their future.
Joining via video conference from London, Mindseye Biomedical’s Jean Ritoul presented the open-source medical imaging device Spectra. The small tool — just two square inches — uses the same method as a CT scan to create real-time, inexpensive image reconstructions. Mindseye Bio recently completed and delivered its crowdfunding campaign, putting Spectra directly into the hands of 122 backers. Users are already taking advantage of the tool to accelerate health technology across a range of fields, including neurosurgery, embryo analysis, and spatial localization for muscle movement.
The next team, Feles Bio, wanted to discover if there were simple, accessible methods of exploring biology. Yixiao Jiang and John Min took the audience through their experience prototyping the Feles desktop biolab during the accelerator. The team collected user feedback from an entrepreneur working on a water purification startup, a father learning about his children’s debilitating degenerative genetic disorders, and a teacher on an isolated island. In the next 15 months, the team is looking to raise $1 million to scale their tool. They’re also making plans to present Feles at the Consumer Technology Association’s CES trade show in January.
Experiments are the foundation of science, and precision is key. University of Washington’s Nadya Peek presented the team’s open-source hardware platform MakeItSo, which allows scientists to design and execute scripted, machine-driven processes. The tool can be customized with various tool heads, such as inspection cameras and pipettes, for computer-controlled processes. The University of Washington team is now focused on building collaborations to develop scientific experiments that would benefit from data-driven insights.
Access Sensor Technologies’ Thomas Reilly demonstrated how the team’s On-Target Cards are answering a dire need for precise and accessible water testing. The credit card-sized water analysis tool enables affordable, fast, and quantitative testing, allowing users to monitor any source of water. As part of the accelerator, the team identified a digital business model to directly reach consumers and built out their network of potential collaborators. They are currently focusing on developing supporting technology, including a mobile app, to expand accessibility.
Stanford University’s Manu Prakash delivered the last talk of the night, presenting his team’s automated microscope Octopi. Initially designed to automate malaria testing, the configurable tool can be redesigned for specific applications across disease testing and environmental monitoring. Octopi can analyze slides up to 120 times faster than traditional microscopes and can screen more than 1.5 million red blood cells per minute for parasites. The team released the open-source prototype earlier this year and is working with 25 partners around the world to build a global community network that can help iterate and scale the tool.
The Showcase concluded with a networking reception, which sparked enthusiastic conversations and facilitated new connections between funders and entrepreneurs. Attendees took advantage of the chance to demo the tool prototypes, exploring the breakthrough innovations and discussing future collaborations.
Be a part of creating the future of scientific discovery
Tool Foundry, a Luminary Labs initiative funded by grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Schmidt Futures, advances accessible tools for scientific discovery. Stay connected to Tool Foundry by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on Twitter and Instagram.