Detecting heart murmurs and treating chronic wounds. Alleviating the progression of osteoarthritis and the battle against prostate cancer. Preventing urine leakage in women.
These are the healthcare challenges that cause sleepless nights for many patients and for the executives who presented at M2D2’s “Shark Tank” pitch-off at UMass Lowell on October 15, 2014. All five executives responded to tough questions from a panel of investors from Boynton Angels, Catalyst Health and Mass Medical Angels, aka “the sharks.”
First up was Mike Fahey, CEO of Sensi and a key developer of SensiCardiac. The FDA-cleared software application helps primary care physicians and other front-line health workers decide whether that’s really a cardiac murmur in your chest – or if it’s just an innocent murmur that poses no health risk.
SensiCardiac, developed at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, is engineered to outperform a cardiologist. “This technology will change the way physicians are using the 200-year stethoscope when assessing cardiac sounds,” Fahey said. Looking for $1.2 million in funding, Fahey projected that the software could significantly drive down healthcare costs by reducing more than 60% of unnecessary referrals.
Next in the hot seat was Cocoon Biotech’s Ailis Tweed-Kent, MD. Located in Boston, the company’s focus is on advancing the treatment of osteoarthritis with an injectable silk protein. Osteoarthritis – which occurs when cartilage breaks down in the joint and causes pain and inflammation – impacts 150 million people worldwide and costs more than $128 billion a year in management and treatment costs.
Silk, a biomaterial known for its strength, lubrication and drug-delivery capabilities, can be injected directly into the joint to deliver long-lasting pain relief. It may also have the ability to delay the progression of osteoarthritis. Tweed-Kent sought $750,000 to complete pre-clinical work such as proof-of-principle animal studies. Asked by one of the “sharks” about a strategic partnership with a larger company on clinical trials, Tweed-Kent said there are companies interested in partnering on a clinical trial after efficacy is demonstrated with a pilot study.
Ashok Chander, CEO of Boston-based Cellanyx Diagnostics, discussed his company’s lab service, which provides quantitative and objective diagnostic information for the treatment of prostate cancer. Cellanyx Diagnostic’s solution includes a set of biomarkers that are used to measure and predict growth patterns in cancerous tumors, and a software algorithm that measures biomarkers from the company’s diagnostic chip.
This solution could help alleviate the over-diagnosis and over-treatment of prostate cancer, said Chandler. Projected savings for the U.S. healthcare system as a result of this solution are $4.9 billion.
The challenge of treating chronic wounds is what keeps Sano LLC’s CEO, Paul Hayre, on his toes. With his company’s solution, Hayre said $2 billion could be saved in the treatment of chronic wounds in the United States. The product’s target market is about a third of over 35 million chronic wounds globally. Sano LLC’s point-of-care diagnostic solution speeds healing by clinically assessing wounds based on their biochemistry.
Last up was Jerrold Shapiro, president of Acton-based Floelle, which provides a device built to prevent stress urinary incontinence in women. This condition, typically caused by sneezing, laughing or coughing, decreases the quality of life of 20 million women in the United States and costs the healthcare system $30 billion dollars each year.
A life-size prototype has been conceptually designed, and the company plans to file a 510(k) application to the FDA after it receives sufficient data from its first European patients. The advice from one of the sharks for Shapiro: Spend less time talking about the problem you’re trying to fix; spend more time talking about your solution.
This investor pitch event was organized by the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2), a joint initiative of the Lowell and Worcester medical school campuses of the UMass system. Discussions among investors and executives will continue into the future, as no winner was announced.
Aine (“ONya”) Cryts is an on-staff contributing writer for MedTech Boston. She's a political scientist by education, a writer and marketer by trade. She has written for various healthcare technology publications and also served as marketing director at several healthcare software companies in the Boston area. Cryts is an avid volunteer, pet lover and long-distance runner. Story ideas are always welcome.
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