Life Sciences

Healiva: The Venture Leader Biotech offering end-to-end wound care solutions

By Priyanka Dutta Passecker, Co-founder and CEO

This fall, the Venture Leaders Biotech will represent Swiss innovation in the United States. To select the 10 featured startups, a jury of professional investors and medtech experts reviewed 90 applications. These startups improve diagnostics, treatments, and well-being with innovative solutions that cover artificial intelligence, sensors, smart devices, and robotics. Allow us to introduce you to each of the Venture Leaders Biotech 2022 ahead of the September 2022 roadshow in Boston and Cambridge: Meet Priyanka Dutta Passecker, the CEO and co-founder of Healiva.

Explain in one or two short sentences what your startup does and why: Our mission is to heal life, by offering a portfolio of innovative chronic wound care solutions, which are personalized and affordable. Our approach combines enzyme technology, cell therapies, and medical devices.

How and where did you come up with the idea for your startup?
I founded Healiva in 2020 with Bioseutica BV. I had previously been responsible for the Global Commercial and Business Development at the Bioseutica Group, where I co-invented an enzyme that provided the initial trigger for Healiva. With a vision in mind, I mobilized a core team of seasoned experts in wound care and cell therapy who helped me build a cell therapy, medical device, and enzyme technology-focused startup in Lugano, Switzerland.

What do you expect from the Venture Leaders roadshow, and how will it help you achieve your vision?
First, we are looking for financial and strategic investors for our next funding round. Secondly, we would like to bring visibility for Healiva to the international level. We are also looking to expand and launch Healiva’s portfolio products in the U.S. We are looking for a strategic partner for Healiva phase 3 in the U.S. and a partner who will be able to support us for a U.S. market launch. I hope to achieve this by networking and connecting with potential investors during the Venture Leaders roadshow.

Who does your product or solution help, and how?
We offer an end-to-end solutions for wound care. Our multi-pronged approach is to become the go-to provider for all wound care needs, from wound debridement to the treatment of severe wounds. Our multifaceted customer base encompasses hospitals, medical practitioners, insurance providers, and patients. We are developing a unique selling proposition for chronic wound healing that targets the high cost of care, time to heal, requirements for frequent dressing changes, and specialist medical expertise, whilst reducing wound reoccurrence and accelerating patients’ re-establishment of normal work and life routines.

What are you most excited about at work right now?
I am most excited as we are working towards comprehensive tailored solutions for each step of the chronic wound healing process. A successful regimen can prevent osteomyelitis, hospitalization, amputation, and even death, allowing patients to re-establish their normal work and life routines. Healiva aims to provide a paradigm shift in wound care by bringing one of the broadest, end-to-end, personalized chronic wound care portfolios to millions of patients with unmet chronic wound needs.

How did you build your team?
With a vision in mind to bring a paradigm shift in wound care, I mobilized a core team of seasoned experts in wound care and cell therapy from the industry together with a backup from an enzyme company called Bioseutica. New recruits joined Healiva to make a difference for patients and be part of an exciting journey from the beginning.

Which market are you addressing and what is the potential of your startup?
36 million people globally suffer from chronic wounds today. 2-3% of the elderly suffer from painful venous/arterial leg ulcers and nearly 25% of diabetics may develop diabetic foot ulcers in their lifetimes. This figure is set to rise with the increasing prevalence of contributing factors, including diabetes, advanced age, and obesity. This burden is also borne by healthcare systems, which spend 2% of their budgets on wound management. About 70% of chronic wounds remain unhealed and our mission is to bring therapies for hard-to-heal wounds to cure them permanently. Healiva’s portfolio potentially addresses the growing unmet need for chronic wound care, which forms part of the global €15.6B wound care market.

What are your key achievements to date?
We have closed initial starting capital from Bioseutica, to focus on build the chronic wound healing portfolio. In the initial years, we focused on creating a diversified (in modality as well as time-to-market) portfolio of wound healing approaches by the acquisition of two cell therapy products from Smith and Nephew. We also built a strong team and obtained necessary agreements for Epidex launch in Switzerland. Epidex is planned to be launched in Switzerland by 2023. Healiva also successfully finished proof of concept studies for one of the early stage projects with Innocheque in collaboration with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW).

What is one thing not many people know about you?
That I went to defense school in India and I was engaged in parachute jumping and flew with helicopters from a young age. Now, after so many years, I’ve started working towards a private pilot license. Like in defense, I always prepare my team to move ahead, with or without me.

What is your favorite book and why?
The Heart of a Rebel Poet: Letters of Michael Madhusudan Dutta. He is my great grandfather (once again only a few people know this) and he was a popular 19th-century Bengali poet and dramatist. He is the person who was responsible for taking Bengali literature into the modern era. He believed that the free-thinking world would be more receptive to his creative genius compared to conservative Hindu society in the early nineteenth century. He composed his early works of poetry and drama almost entirely in English.

How did you come up with the name of your startup?
Healiva means “heal life,” which is our vision. I came up with this name during my WU Executive MBA thesis and I kept it when we launched the startup.

Who inspires you and why?
I have many mentors and family members who are my inspiration. From my early school days, I was inspired by my biology teacher, who made science so much fun and is the sole reason I loved science.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a founder?
The most challenging aspect of being a founder is finding time for yourself. It is key to say “no” sometimes and allocate time for your family and yourself, otherwise, you’ll always be working. It is important to take a break and energize yourself with a fresh mind.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a founder?
When patients come to you and thank you. Just feeling that you were able to improve the lives of people and make them better. As a founder, it is rewarding to be able to help society with your small contribution to science.

What is the most important lesson you have learned as a founder?
Be creative to find solutions and be patient to find ways to overcome your hurdles. Timing is everything as a founder and sometimes it is ok to be imperfect.

What is the best advice you have ever received and from whom?
One of my old friends told me to take a long breath when I get stressed and to take a walk before I make a mistake.

How do you stay on top of industry trends?
You must frequently talk to experts, KOLs, and your competitors to turn competition into opportunity. It is key to accept that you do not need to reinvent the wheel and you must learn from the industry to fast-track the innovation to market.

The Venture Leaders Biotech program is co-organized by Venturelab and Swissnex Boston and supported by Debiopharm, EPFL Lausanne, ETH Zurich, EY – Ernst & Young, Swiss Biotech Association, VISCHER, Hansjörg Wyss, and Venture Leaders alum Ulf Grawunder.