AI for Your Personal Finances
29 de February de 2024
After the birth of her daughter Ona, and marked by the profound change brought about by motherhood, Elisabet del Valle experienced a moment of personal revelation. With a Ph.D. in Biotechnology, Elisabet had dedicated her entire career to transferring the results of her research to the market. She observed how many innovations with great potential never saw the light of day for various reasons.
“When babies are in neonatal and the ICU, they have to undergo invasive blood testing, which can lead to thrombosis, infection risk, and even death. So, in talking to the neonatal unit, we said: ‘We’ve got to do something, don’t we?’”
So, together with her partner Xavi, a researcher at the National Center for Microelectronics of the CSIC, they decided to get involved directly. They had a very personal connection to the problem, finding a non-invasive solution to a real and delicate necessity — they had the expertise and practical skills needed to make it a reality.
Born in Barcelona, Elisabet del Valle Álvaro holds a Ph.D. in biotechnology and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. However, she confesses that she has devoted her professional life to transferring knowledge from research to the market.
Define yourself in one word
“I couldn’t sum it up in just one word. I’d say I’m not one to settle. For me, it’s more like a phrase: ‘In monotony you find death,'” she reflects.
For Elisabet, each stage of life has its charm. In her teenage years, she was attracted to the versatility and multiculturalism of Barcelona, which she loves most about the city. Now, with her partner and their 9-year-old daughter, she prefers the tranquility of Bellaterra.
But starting a family wasn’t the only venture she undertook with her partner, Xavi Muñoz. Besides having a daughter together, they also founded Onalabs, a medical technology firm. Established in 2016, this company has earned her recognition from EAE Barcelona, placing her first in the ranking of women entrepreneurs in Catalonia in 2023.
When she decided to bring her entrepreneurial vision to life, Elisabet was working as the business development manager of the Barcelona Hospital Research Institute, and Xavi was a researcher at the National Center for Microelectronics of the CSIC.
Both were looking for a way to get their project off the ground. So, they approached the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, known for its expertise in neonatology. They contacted them to present their idea: a patch that monitors newborns through sweat. This non-invasive method would avoid the complications of multiple blood draws.
Onalabs is an innovative company focused on developing non-invasive technology designed for continuous health monitoring through the skin and sweat. Founded in 2016, this Catalan start-up has stood out for its focus on creating smart devices that monitor vital parameters through sweat, turning the skin into a health data platform.
These parameters include: measuring respiratory and heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation, glucose, lactate, and more. All of this can be done remotely and in real-time, enabling constant monitoring without frequent medical visits.
“Onalabs’ disruptive edge lies in the methodology and non-intrusive technology we’ve developed for measuring biochemical parameters through sweat,” explains Elisabet.
This system is unique and groundbreaking in the healthcare sector. Until now, there hasn’t been another way to conduct analyses besides needle extractions. “We’ve developed a technology that yields the same results as traditional methods. And we also incorporate artificial intelligence, which is entirely novel in the market,” asserts Elisabet.
Elisabet initially wanted to focus on selling their product to hospitals for newborns. However, they faced difficulties because it was hard to get into the healthcare industry, and they didn’t know much about the market they were trying to enter. Even though their product could have helped many people, these challenges stopped them from starting.
“As a small company still figuring things out and not making money, we realized we could use our technology for other things. So, we decided to change our plans and focus on selling to different markets that were easier to get into,” Elisabet explains.
They identified sports medicine as the initial sector ripe for innovation. They devised a device to monitor all health parameters crucial to athletes’ performance.
In parallel, Onalabs also started working on ONAVITAL, which is aimed at monitoring patients with chronic conditions.
Today, Onalabs continues to expand and explore new avenues. Their primary project at the moment is still in the laboratory phase. With ONADM, they aim to provide comprehensive monitoring for diabetic individuals without the need for injections.
Patient data is extracted through a bracelet without a display. This device connects to an app via Bluetooth, and the app connects to a platform managed by medical professionals. Patients can check their parameters at any time, knowing that all the information reaches medical professionals who will contact them if any value is abnormal.
“We didn’t want to overwhelm the patient, which can happen with some smartwatches offering similar functions. They provide a lot of real-time data, but people don’t always know how to interpret it,” explains Elisabeth.
While still advancing technologically, Onalab is also expanding as a business. They’ve secured a collaboration with Barça Innovation Hub — FC Barcelona’s center for knowledge and innovation. “When you start a business, you have certain goals in mind, but sometimes things surpass your expectations. That’s what happened with Barça. Partnering with them has been a game-changer for our sports division,” explains Onalabs’ CEO. This partnership has propelled Onalabs to new heights, helping them explore fresh opportunities in the market, strengthen their network, and showcase their achievements.
Starting any business is tough, and that’s no secret. Elisabet points out the challenge of breaking into the highly regulated healthcare market. “These processes can take a long time, which is a major hurdle for a developing company like ours,” Elisabet explains.
Despite her scientific background and experience, Elisabet found that running a business required more than scientific and management skills. She stresses that dealing with people is the trickiest part: “A company exists because there are people behind it.”
This businesswoman focused on the EAE Barcelona Master’s program in Management Development, Coaching, and Emotional Intelligence to develop and strengthen her leadership.
“It was a wonderful experience because I understood and learned the importance of self-awareness, knowing who you are, and discovering your leadership style. I realized that Emotional Intelligence is essential for knowing who you’re interacting with, especially for appreciating the importance of active listening and teamwork […]. A company is this, many people fighting towards the same goal. I always try to apply it,” she says.
Onalabs is a prime example of an entrepreneurial endeavor committed to improving society, striving to generate a change where no other alternatives were previously considered.
Thank you, Elisabet, for your commitment to people and their health!