Medtech start-ups face fierce challenges in the journey from concept to launch. While the healthcare system is looking to technology far more than ever before, there are still numerous barriers to achieving success and longevity for medtech start-ups. Daniel Chapchal, CEO and Deputy Chairman at Camcon Federation and Simon Saxby, Advisor to the board at Camcon Medical, detail the obstacles that start-ups face, and share their key tips for any medtech preparing to launch.
The medtech market is a crowded space, with a continual flow of new innovative products. However, all aspiring medtech companies have to navigate strict and rigorous regulations unique to the healthcare industry. This means the timeframe from initial concept and launching a company and its products can be a long and sometimes arduous journey, which requires patience and perseverance – in other words, the business equivalent of walking a tight rope.
Having launched in late 2018, Camcon Medical offers an insightful and unique case study on overcoming the challenges faced within a medtech company’s pre-launch period. Camcon Medical specialises in high-speed, precise, gas and fluid flow control, applying its patented Binary Actuation Technology (BAT) to enhance the performance of existing products and create new innovations across multiple applications. The science underpinning the technology is primarily based on an energy-recycling valve mechanism, minimising energy wastage when applied to devices.
BAT has had tremendous success in multiple industries. However, an initial request from the Air Ambulance Service confirmed our belief that this technology could potentially innovate precision fluid control in the healthcare and life sciences industries. The enquiry challenged this valve technology to extend the time-of-usage of onboard helicopter oxygen supply for patients. Surprisingly, it is the oxygen supply for patients that is one of the main limiting factors for the length of time the aircraft can remain in the air, and therefore, directly impacting the distance and regions they can cover. As a result, oxygen therapy devices in the respiratory field became an initial focus of Camcon Medical.
Time and time again, the versatility of BAT has been found to be its greatest asset and has enabled it to be employed in such diverse markets. Having an adaptable technology is hugely beneficial for any start-up as it opens multiple doors, allowing you to approach a variety of markets. However, such scope brings about its own challenges in terms of deciding what market and which application to launch into first. Predicting the success of a technology within a chosen market is largely dependent on mapping and understanding where a technology will serve the greatest impact.
Whilst implantable devices represent a fascinating and rapidly evolving field, and one which BAT could be employed in, the regulatory approval processes required before an in vivo product can be brought to market are extensive and require significantly more funds to maintain development and achieve acceptance. Time pressures are therefore a common obstacle for many medtech companies. There is a fine balance to strike between the time it takes to navigate the necessary safety regulations and achieving commercial viability with the technology. For this reason, Camcon Medical decided to initially target ex vivo applications of BAT as this would not require as many time-consuming clinical trials and therefore approvals can be obtained sooner to get the product to market.
Once oxygen therapy was highlighted as a treatment that BAT can be applied to, the next natural step pre-launch was to narrow down on specific unmet clinical and patient needs. To do this, it is key to have a solid understanding of the market. Camcon Medical’s approach involved speaking to stakeholders in a range of specialist clinical roles, including respiratory physicians and anaesthesiologists. These conversations formed the basis of our product design. We found that in terms of oxygen delivery patient comfort is an area which could be significantly improved, as currently this involves having oxygen blown across your face continuously, which can be uncomfortable and can dry the mucosal tissue and skin, causing irritation. Confirming the key product attributes required for our technology to serve real purpose led to the creation of Intelligent Medical Oxygen Delivery® (IMOD®) system, our first respiratory device that is in the prototype stage.
Seeking industry insight and opportunities to collaborate with others who have expertise in design, manufacturing and production, is fundamental if a medtech organisation wants to truly innovate. To us, true innovation should deliver three dimensions of value – clinical benefit, patient quality of life and economic value to the whole system. Due to valuable insight, IMOD® will improve patient comfort by only delivering oxygen when the patient breathes in, will function silently and will incorporate the option to use either a nasal cannula or face mask. These features will provide considerable cost-savings to health services by significantly reduced oxygen wastage and improve quality of life for patients.
Although having an innovative product or technology is key, it is important to have the right team structure and expertise from the outset to make a new medtech company a success, especially when trying to attract further investment and partners. Our team needed to expand prior to launch, utilising diverse skill sets by defining roles which play to people’s individual strengths. The creative mind of BAT’s inventor complements others on the team who have the necessary business acumen, extensive healthcare and medtech expertise and experience in bringing new devices and products to market.
Generating interest quickly is important to gain early backing from partners/investors as there are time sensitivities in achieving commercial sustainability. The journey from concept to launch can be a lengthy process as the healthcare regulations and restrictions at every stage of development, from design to post-market surveillance, can put significant pressures on funding. Concepts have to be brought to life fairly quickly and prototypes generated as soon as possible.
Passion, purpose and focus are vital when launching a medtech start-up in this industry. We believe it’s also extremely beneficial to collaborate with independent experts, patients or patient organisations and partners to ensure the product, technology or service provided meets a substantial need, creating an attractive commercial opportunity. We consulted experts and partners throughout our journey and continue to do so, and although we have faced several obstacles along the way, we firmly believe in the real value our technology, which when applied to devices, will truly benefit patients and the health services.
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