From no experience to commercial success

27 February 2024

When Eline Van Beest (40) graduated fifteen years ago, she knew she had a great product in her hands. She had developed a device that could help improve the lives of many patients with sleep apnea. But how do you bring such a graduation project to the market?

As Van Beest had no experience in this field, she searched for a company that could take over her project and bring it to patients internationally. She began to make a plan, but quickly realized that there was no one who would take on this project for her. If she wanted to prevent her device from disappearing in a drawer, she had to take matters into her own hands.

Without any experience and no idea where to start, she approached Yes!Delft, the TUDelft incubator  who guides startups in their early journey. Here, she received guidance and connected with peers working in different fields. Their support made her feel encouraged. She now says, “If they could do it, maybe I could do it too.”

“I decided to give myself one year. Instead of looking for a job, I took out a personal loan of 15,000 euros and continued working on my idea on a student budget. If it did not produce results within one year, I would pull the plug. I wanted a clear go/no-go moment.”

After a year, Van Beest had received none of the requested subsidies. However, she had won over a hundred thousand euros in prize money, including the Philips Innovation Award. “I could continue and worked tirelessly for ten years to clinically validate NightBalance and to roll out the project in America and Europe.” American and European hospitals started prescribing it to sleep apnea patients, but that wasn’t enough for Van Beest.

“As long as patients had to pay for the device themselves, the barrier was too high. NightBalance had to be included in the basic health insurance; only then could all sleep apnea patients benefit from this device.” 80,000 clinical test nights later, she managed to get the device reimbursed. Eventually, Van Beest succeeded in getting NightBalance included in the basic insurance. Mission accomplished!

Right after Van Beest managed to sell her project to Philips, who, with their global expertise and network, is better equipped to get the device to patients worldwide. She herself became the CEO of Hybridize Therapeutics, a spin-off from the LUMC that develops RNA-based therapies for kidney diseases. A new biotech startup with many similar challenges and where she can continue to learn.

“I am happy to be in a position where I can directly impact the lives of patients again. That is what drove me all those years at NightBalance. It took a lot of work, but I am proud it worked out this way. Patients all over the world are really benefitting from the work me and my team did. That is just great.”

Building a startup into such a significant commercial success with no experience and a personal loan: it is possible. But luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. With the Faculty of Impact, you get two years of funding and guidance to go through all the steps to bring your impactful idea to the market. “If there had been something like the Faculty of Impact back then, it probably would have saved me a couple of years -there is almost nothing you can do without money. If you have a good idea to make people’s lives better, I would say go for it. It is worth it and gives the great feeling of purpose.”

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