Meet Christopher Walker—Momentum Student Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist

Electroclear – removing underwater biofouling for marinas, boaties and aqua farmers

University of Auckland bioengineers have developed an innovative way to get rid of the underwater biofouling that creates such a headache for marinas, boaties and aqua farmers.

Electroclear is using electric fields to disrupt small organisms' ability to live on selected underwater surfaces. It is a permanent, non-toxic solution that can be applied to a wide range of geometries.

"We became aware that biofouling was a big problem when we heard about the invasive fanworms in the Auckland harbour," says doctoral student Christopher Walker.

Walker, and fellow doctoral student and company partner Patrin Illenberger, (both in Auckland Bioengineering Institute's Biomimetics Laboratory) brought their bioengineering training to bear on the problem. They discovered that if they set up two separate electrodes underwater and created a fully encapsulated electric field, they could target and disrupt certain organisms.

Electroclear has been experimenting with several marinas: looking at ways to create electric fields on different surfaces - boat hulls, rope and key marine infrastructure. "The panels that had an electric field had no organisms attached after 50 days," says Illenberger, "while the others with no field had bryozoans, algae and barnacles on their surface."

With the positive results of their marina trials, Electroclear is pushing to get this into more applications.

"As an island nation with such strong ties to our ocean, we have a real chance here to lead the world in anti-fouling and biosecurity," says Walker.

Applications for this technology seem wide spread, from boat hulls to drainage systems. "The way forward is to dive into applications; we want this technology being trialled in aquaculture and marine infrastructure around the country."

Electroclear recently won funding and mentor support through the University's Entrepreneurship programme, Velocity, and is talking with research institutions and commercial partners to develop applications for both marine infrastructure and aqua farms. As well as Walker and Illenberger, the company includes Associate Professor of Engineering Science Iain Anderson, renowned for pioneering the University's world-champion, human-powered submarine, Taniwha.

"New Zealand has a unique ecosystem, if you add another creature from somewhere else, this society can be very much upset or disrupted," says Anderson.

Meet Cynthia Hunefeld—Momentum Student Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist

HerbScience: Back to the future

Cynthia Hunefeld is on a mission to bring herbal medicine into the 21st Century with the help of modern science. With 20 years of experience in the field of integrative medicine and an academic background in ethnobotany, clinical herbal medicine and clinical research she identifies potential new medicines from a unique perspective.

Helping her father overcome an antibiotic resistant infection with the support of a plant extract was a defining moment for her, which has led to the discovery of an active constituent that can kill bacteria, and secondarily express poly-pharmacological actions to minimise the occurrence of single-step bacterial resistance, inhibit biofilm and bacterial adhesion, and ameliorate tissue damage at the same time.

Cynthia is currently studying towards her Masters in Innovation & Commercialization to establish the road for a novel plant-based for E. coli induced urinary tract infections (UTIs). She is aiming her innovation and commercialization pathway towards the development of a dietary supplement by 2020 and is working towards an evidence- based integrative medicine within the next 3 years.

UTIs are the most common bacterial infection world-wide that affects over 150 million people each year with a market value of 4.69 Bn. The World Health Organisation has indicated that there is a significant shortage of new medicines for E. coli induced UTIs and states that "Novel treatment regimens that are assembling non-toxic medicines are desperately needed".

The project has received recognition with a regional AMP scholarship and was awarded pre-seed funding by the Momentum advisory board.

Meet Connor Talbot—Momentum Student Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist

ProstheteX - personalised 3D printed socket designs for amputees

ProstheteX are creating personalised 3D printed socket designs for amputees who are suffering pain, discomfort, and frustration, caused by their current prosthetics.

ProstheteX flexible custom design aims to eliminate issues that approximately 75% if all amputees face in their prosthetic journey due to prosthetic sockets, including skin issues because of their socket fit, and more serious complications such as oedema.

Connor Talbot, the founder of ProstheteX is a student at The University of Auckland and is in his final year of his Electrical Engineering degree. The venture was started with a co-founder, another undergraduate – Sebastian Weaver, who works as a technician for the New Zealand Artificial Limb Service (NZALS) and is majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

Connor Talbot says, "Current prosthetic sockets are developed with conventional manufacturing methods that can lead to hard, relatively inflexible sockets. We're aiming to achieve a better fit through personalised 3D printing for the ever-changing shape and size of amputee's residual limbs."

Since inception only four short months ago, the team has achieved wonderful traction. They have secured the world's foremost 3D printing expert, Professor Olaf Diegel and won several awards for their vision and values. Most notably, the team has snapped up the 'Research Prize' by UniServices at the 2019 Velocity Innovation Challenge, and, 'The Ultimate Start-Up' prize at Tech-Week Auckland 2019 hosted by Niesh and ATEED.

The team also walk the talk. They have connected to high profile amputees, testing their designs with NZALS, and are integrating themselves and their business heavily into the amputee community in New Zealand. With all this achieved in just four months, it is an exciting time for both the founders and the wider amputee community.