Science entrepreneur awarded prestigious $100K Thiel Fellowship

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Harry GandhiUpper-year Science student Harry Gandhi and co-founder of a startup making smart contact lenses to monitor glucose levels, was one of 20 young entrepreneurs selected from 2,800 international applicants for the 2015 Thiel Fellowship.

In addition to $100,000 in funding, Fellows are part of a community and will receive other benefits and resources, such as: workshops, Thiel Foundation Summits, fellowship dinners, and retreats to accelerate their professional and personal development.

The value of the program lies in the mentorship and entrepreneurial network – which include scientists, funders and investors,” says Gandhi. “You also get to share your professional and personal life with the other entrepreneurs from the program.”

Thiel Fellowship logoFounded by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, the Thiel Fellowship brings together some of the world’s most creative and motivated young people, and helps them bring their most ambitious projects to life. Fellows are mentored by the Thiel community of visionary thinkers, investors, scientists and entrepreneurs, who provide guidance and business connections.

Each of the fellows charts a unique course, but together they have proven that young people can succeed by thinking for themselves instead of competing on old career tracks,” says founder Peter Thiel.

Previous Fellow recipients from notable universities such as Harvard, Princeton and MIT have raised more than $142 million in venture capital and created at least $41 million in revenue.

As a Fellow, Gandhi will receive a grant of $100,000 and two years of support and mentorship to bring Medella Health to market.

Medella Health logoMedella Health is developing smart contact lenses that continuously monitor blood glucose levels of patients with diabetes. This non-invasive, easy to use and real-time monitoring system will be easier for patients to operate and increase compliance.

Using nanotechnology, these lenses transmit data to the patient’s mobile device – allowing them to take immediate action to manage their diabetes. The contact lenses can be used by both hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic patients.

The paired mobile device will also have the ability to store patient information regarding their blood glucose levels, diet management and overall trends in diabetes management.

We want to flip the medical system on its head – turning it from a reactive model to a preventative one,” says Medella Health co-founder and CEO Harry Gandhi.

This plethora of information will help health care providers make evidence-based medical decisions, leading to better recommendations and earlier detection.

In future the company will expand the use of these lenses to measure other biomarkers.

Gandhi and Medella Health will still be based in Waterloo but this fellowship will allow him to build connections and a strong network with other entrepreneurs in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Waterloo’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is the best in Canada,” says Gandhi. “The unique combination of a strong technology network with the proximity to Toronto’s clinical network, makes it hard to find elsewhere.”

Gandhi has been an integral member of Waterloo’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. He helped co-found Velocity Science and was involved in iGEM. Entrepreneurs like Gandhi have helped entrepreneurship grow in the Faculty of Science.

Entrepreneurship and science haven’t been linked much in the past,” says Gandhi. “But programs such as Velocity Science and iGEM are changing that. Students are seeing how to apply science and use it to solve current and future problems.”

Considered to be one of the most entrepreneurial in the world, the University of Waterloo celebrates innovation, encourages hands-on education and provides numerous programs to nurture and support student ideas.

Waterloo breaks away from formal education and emphasizes learning outside of the classroom, through its Velocity and co-op programs. It places students in the workforce – giving them hands-on experience with how the working world works, problems it faces and the opportunity to find solutions,” says Gandhi.

Waterloo computer science student Liam Horne, from the Faculty of Mathematics, was also selected to be a Thiel Fellow in this year’s competition.

For those interested in entrepreneurship, starting a company or have innovative ideas to try out, Gandhi suggests getting involved in programs, such as Velocity Science to meet fellow like-minded students and join the entrepreneurship community. Additionally, there are plenty of free resources available online and entrepreneurs, like Harry, in your community willing to connect and help.