From looking for life on Mars to saving lives on Earth


Initial submission

Every year, 15 million babies are born prematurely and 1 million die even though 75% could have been saved if they had been given proper care. However, modern neonatal care is too complex and costly to be given to all, and simpler, safer, and cheaper medical technology must be developed to end preventable child mortality. A good example of this need is blood gas monitoring, which is an important method to monitor the health of preterm infants, but suffers from considerable complexity and safety problems that limit its usefulness. For example, it requires the skin to be heated to harmful levels and needs to be attached with strong adhesives that risk tearing the skin. We use patented gas sensor technology that we initially developed to look for signs of past or present life on Mars to perform blood gas monitoring in a completely novel way. Thanks to this sensor’s unique properties, our prototype requires neither heating nor adhesives to perform the measurements and, hence, can facilitate both safer and simpler monitoring of the infants’ health.


Getting to the finals of the ISM definitely strengthened our CV and has been excellent recognition that we can promote when reaching out to investors and other stakeholders. We use sensor technology from planetary exploration to improve health monitoring in neonatal care. Preterm birth is the most common cause of death among children under 5, and eliminating preventable deaths in this group is central to the UN‘s Health Sustainability Goal. Our solution can only play a small role in achieving this, but, together with others, we can.

  • TRL (Technical Readiness Level) from 4 to 5
  • Team: still 3 part-time, as participation only in 2022
  • Turnover: EUR 10,000-20,000 per year
  • Markets: EU, US
  • Fields of application: Public Health Management
  • Further programmes: regional Bona Postulata prize; space start-up pitch competition at the Space2Business conference in Prague 11/2022
  • Customers: Institutional customers


The exploration and use of space, the development of the technologies required for this and their transfer to terrestrial applications have always been a main motivation for space flight. This has always been a key motivation behind Airbus‘ commitment to space. Fourth State Systems‘ neonatal diagnostics is an outstanding example of this technology transfer. The use of its gas sensor technology enables easy monitoring of newborns even under suboptimal conditions. This can save the lives of many premature babies.

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