Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

April 17, 2020

Making the pitch: Health startups compete for prize money

PHOTO | Contributed Fresh Air's wristbands check for pollution in the air around you.

Start-ups aimed at preventing opioid deaths, testing air quality, diagnosing blood diseases and improving housing situations competed Friday morning for the $10,000 Rita Wilson Prize Fund in Support of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

InnovateHealth Yale awards the prize to a student-led venture focused on creating a technological solution to address a health disparity in the United States.

Four ventures competed for the prize, and the competition took place virtually via a Zoom webinar, rather than in person, due to the coronavirus crisis. 

The competition was among several taking place Thursday and Friday through Startup Yale, an event featuring two days worth of pitches, prizes and ideas.


EnlighteN seeks to provide a technological solution to the growing number of opioid overdose deaths that occur when patients are alone. The team described it for a panel of judges Friday as a wearable device that detects and reverses opioid overdoses. Users can wear the technology around their finger or wrist. The team noted how thousands die each year in the country due to opioid overdoses, and many who do overdose do so alone, with no one around to help. The wearable technology senses a drop in blood oxygen and then delivers Naloxone to counteract the effects of the opioids, to prevent the fatal overdose. This team hopes to distribute the technology to insurance companies, rehabilitation centers, methadone clinics, pharmacies and individuals.

Fresh Air

The Fresh Air team has developed a low-cost air monitor that you wear around your wrist, and it looks like a watch. It detects hundreds of environmental contaminants so customers can find out what chemicals they are being exposed to and take action to fix and prevent further exposure. The team noted how people spend most of their time indoors, and may not be aware of chemicals they are being exposed to, from cooking, floor coatings and even traffic exhaust filtering inside. They reported testing the technology around the world, and it has found insecticides in the air in South Africa and a harmful fungicide in New Haven. They foresee their customers being insurance companies, researchers and individuals.


This team is working to create a social safety net for those who are “housing unstable” in Connecticut through their “Widely-Integrated Social Services Platform.” (WISSP) Their platform networks tenants, landlords and social service providers together to improve housing outcomes. Tenants find affordable housing, and landlords find the tenants interested in their apartments, so they fill up vacancies faster. According to this team, success would be helping people avert a housing crisis, such as being evicted or having to live in a shelter. They noted how housing and health are tied together, and how many rely on every paycheck to maintain their housing. 


KovaDx describes itself as a startup “building a powerful image analysis platform for the diagnoses of blood diseases.” According to this team, they are working to make the diagnosis of blood diseases both fast and affordable. The team told judges they are working to bridge the health disparity faced by people with sickle cell disease, which can result in pain, strokes and reduced life span. Their technology includes 3D phase imaging, and they hope it will be useful not only for sickle cell disease, but malaria and other blood diseases. The team indicated it not only collects data but will also engage with customers. They are currently in the prototype phase, and they hope to market their technology around the globe, noting how there are high populations of people with sickle cell in Africa, for example.

The winner among these ideas? 

Laura Mitchell Tully, communications & creative director for the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, said the judges ultimately chose KovaDx to win the $10,000 prize. Some 100 people tuned in to watch the presentations, and a poll of participants showed the audience choice award went to EnlighteN. 

Read more about the Startup Yale finalists HERE.


Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF