Using data in new ways to solve our community health crisis
Innovation in an unrealized sector
Tackling wellness through wastewater epidemiology
With an ever-growing population, worsening climate change, and emerging public health threats, the need for innovation in the human health and well-being sector is growing. Biobot Analytics, a startup born out of MIT, is working to transform how we collect and use data from an unexpectedly important part of the public health landscape: wastewater (that’s right, sewage)!
Wastewater can provide valuable information about the health of communities when collected and analyzed. But until Biobot, companies and municipalities alike had largely ignored this powerful database. The current COVID-19 pandemic is an example of how overwhelmed health systems only test the most severely affected, and fail to contain the issue because they fail to realize the scope of the problem in time.
Biobot is changing that, developing cutting-edge technology to transform sewers into public health observatories and help our system proactively make decisions for the health and well-being of our communities before it gets to that point.
Biobot: saving lives with sewer data
Biobot’s first application was tackling the opioid crisis, and today, they are piloting efforts to help identify and stem the tide of the COVID-19 outbreak. Biobot’s technology collects and analyzes biological data from sewers to provide real-time, crucial information about community health. This allows cities and towns to assess the scope of an epidemic in specific areas, making resource allocation and planned interventions much more effective.
From 2017 through early 2019, the Biobot team tested over 30 prototypes of their sewage sampling device. Their device must navigate hostile environments that present corrosion and water damage risks, and during a pilot in partnership with a North Carolina municipality, the need for more robust safety features was identified. With defined goals to expand their prototype into the market – beginning with a pilot in the state of Massachusetts – Biobot needed help optimizing their devices for manufacturing at scale.
FORGE impact: scaling up
Biobot contacted FORGE to help with this initial hurdle. We were able to assess Biobot’s needs and, using our extensive network of 350+ regional suppliers, make right-fit connections to help them scale. FORGE facilitated a partnership between Biobot and Boston Engineering, a full-service product development company, that helped design Biobot’s product for manufacturability. In addition, at our annual Innovation and Supply Chain Showcase in 2019, Biobot was granted our Engineer in Residence (EIR) Grant, securing $5,000 of funding to help them better refine their device’s design. After the initial creation of 12 beta prototypes, Biobot intends to continue working with Boston Engineering to design and manufacture 50 gamma prototypes focusing on optimizations for scalable manufacturing.
“Working with Boston Engineering, through FORGE’s connection has been transformative to our work. I would recommend that any startup in need of hardware to look for and leverage the type of support that FORGE offers,” said Biobot CEO and co-founder Mariana Matus.
From preventing overdoses to monitoring COVID-19
By working with Biobot during this critical time in their path to market, FORGE helped Biobot conquer their initial roadblocks around scaling and safety. After a very successful pilot in North Carolina, where the opiate-related overdose rate fell by 40% in Biobot-treated areas, the startup has contracted with municipalities in Massachusetts to test their product. Today, Biobot is piloting new efforts in-state to help identify critical areas of COVID-19 for targeted intervention and success rate monitoring. It’s through successful connections like Biobot and Boston Engineering that FORGE has cultivated a startup base with an incredible survival rate of over 80%, far greater than the 10% average. As they continue to scale and build out their products and range, FORGE will remain a resource to help Biobot solve key manufacturing and supply chain problems on their path to success and impact at scale.