NearWave Revisited: ‘We won’t win’ is common misconception among past Mira Award winners
The Mira Awards celebrate the best of tech in Indiana, but after the awards are announced at the gala and the cameras have shut down, what happens next? For NearWave, winner of the Innovation of the Year Mira Award during TechPoint’s 22nd annual gala, it has been continued hard work and steady successes in their mission of improving breast health.
Founded at the University of Notre Dame, NearWave is the result of a mock grant proposal being assigned to PhD candidate and NearWave Co-Founder & Chief Scientist Roy Stillwell.
“My friend, Vince Kitsmiller, and I were in a course Dr. Thomas O’Sullivan, assistant professor of electrical engineering, was teaching and wrote mock grant proposals, and I thought we could use the tech in his lab being put into a small handheld device for breast-focused applications. It hadn’t been done before then so we wrote a grant for it. Then we thought, ‘could we make this real?’ and it turns out you can.”
Since then, Roy, Vince, and the rest of the NearWave team have worked on making their idea a reality with the NearWave Imager, a non-invasive handheld imaging device for breast cancer that accurately determines the best path forward in regards to chemotherapy or surgery. The power of the Imager’s deep tissue imagining can help patients avoid surgery or avoid 6-24 weeks of unnecessary therapy and move directly to surgery to improve outcomes and patient survival rates.
The NearWave team was encouraged to apply for a Mira Award by their partners at Notre Dame’s IDEA Center, and did so thinking that their company’s status in the research phase would render them non-competitive among the best of tech in Indiana. The judges of the 22nd annual Mira Awards thought otherwise, and were highly impressed by the technology and its potential to impact breast health.
What has NearWave been up to since Mira?
Since winning Innovation of the Year at the Mira Awards Gala, the NearWave team has continued work on their Imager device, working to get the product into trials and studies, which was made easier through a $50,000 grant to support a study through Notre Dame.
They also have had an article published in Biomedical Optics Express, they were awarded $40,000 in pre-seed funding through Elevate Ventures’ Statewide Pitch Competition in September 2021, and they were accepted into the Creative Destruction Lab accelerator based out of Toronto. Roy said the Canadian accelerator has paired them with experts and mentors in their field to help them set and achieve certain milestones and secure more funding.
What does the future hold for NearWave?
When asked what the world can expect from NearWave in the years to come, Roy has high hopes. “The plan is to grow the company in the next five years to either be a multi-million dollar company with $100 million sales in a year, or to being acquired,” he said. “Once you get traction, one of the big guys comes in and wants to buy the technology to help it grow.”
At the end of the day, they’re OK with both options. The main priority of the NearWave team is to get this product out into practice, making a difference, which requires more studies, more trials, and approvals. Roy said their goals are to have the Imager in clinics for study by the end of 2021 or early 2022, complete the FDA’s approval process in a year-and-a-half, and made broadly available in about five years. And that would be a particularly fast growth path.
Although you may not see the NearWave Imager in doctor’s offices in the immediate future, the hard work and incredible innovation of their team continues.
The Mira Awards offer the Indiana tech community the opportunity to come together and celebrate incredible growth, excellence, hard work, and innovation. NearWave’s amazing example is one of many instances of Hoosiers rolling up their sleeves and doing good work for our industry, and our community.
If your team has achieved excellence over the last year and you’re interested in entering for a Mira Award – or you know someone you’d like to nominate – please visit miraawards.com to learn more and enter by January 21, 2022.