5 Irish Big Ideas that could transform medical treatment

Enterprise Ireland’s Big Ideas showcase arrives at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham in Dublin next month, bringing a potent blend of research and entrepreneurship to the fore.

An audience of established researchers, business experts, commercialisation specialists and, most importantly, plenty of investors will be introduced to 10 Big Ideas in particular. These selected frontrunners of commercial research will take centre stage to pitch their technology solutions and business propositions.

Most of these projects have been supported through Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund Programme for researchers or inspired by the BioInnovate medtech innovation programme, and half of them are addressing unmet medical needs and key markets in the life sciences industry.

Inspirefest 2017

CroíValve
When the tricuspid valve in the heart does not close properly, blood can leak into the right atrium, presenting a risk to mortality, cardiovascular events and quality of life. Known as tricuspid regurgitation, 550,000 patients develop this condition in the US and Europe every year but less than 1pc receive surgical treatment because of high risk due to age and other factors.

CroíValve is now at the pre-clinical and in vitro testing phase of developing a novel solution to this problem. Led by Prof Bruce Murphy and Lucy O’Keeffe, they hope to produce a safe, effective, minimally invasive and easy-to-deliver medical device to significantly reduce tricuspid regurgitation where surgery is not an option. Their proposed technology is cost-effective and technically straightforward to implant, working in tandem with the native valve and using existing interventional techniques for delivery.

At Big Ideas, they are hoping to attract funding for this research spin-out to undertake a first-in-human clinical trial.

OmniSeal
When Jonathan Bouchier-Hayes participated in the Enterprise Ireland-supported BioInnovate programme, he identified an unmet clinical need for a better device to allow for safe and easy delivery of large diameter vascular devices through the femoral artery.

These devices are typically implemented using introducer sheaths, but there are major problems such as blood loss and difficulty pushing devices through the valve. OmniSeal is developing a combined solution comprising the OmniSeal Hemostasis Valve, which minimises blood loss by sealing around a large range of wires and catheters (including multiple devices at the same time), and the OmniSeal Introducer Sheath, which uses advanced flexible sheath technology for safe and easy transfemoral delivery into the vascular system.

Bouchier-Hayes believes that this enabling technology can gain significant share in a fast-growing market for large diameter introducer sheaths, estimated to be worth in excess of $300m.

Selio
Lung cancer, the most common cancer worldwide, has a five-year survival rate of only 10pc, in part due to late diagnosis. CT-guided transthoracic needle biopsy (TTNB) is the gold standard for lung cancer diagnosis, but it comes with the risk of pneumothorax (collapsed lung) if the needle punctures the lung.

Attempting to plug the needle tract has proven an ineffective method of eliminating the risk of pneumothorax, but Selio, a first-in-class medical device, has a revolutionary approach. Selio forms a temporary pleural seal pre-biopsy. The biopsy is then carried out through this airtight seal, preventing pneumothorax both during and after the procedure.

Colm McGarvey co-founded Selio with Dr Garrett Ryan, combining more than 50 years’ experience with a clinical team including internationally renowned interventional radiologists. McGarvey and Ryan devised the idea during their BioInnovate fellowship at NUI Galway in 2014, and plan to spin this technology out of Trinity College Dublin this year to form a high-potential medical device start-up.

Hooke Bio
Founded by Prof Mark Davies, University of Limerick, Hooke Bio is a multidisciplinary team of engineers and scientists who have developed a fully operational microfluidic system called Enigma. Enigma is a continuous-flow, high-throughput microfluidic system capable of combining biological material with compounds in a huge variety of combinations, particularly for drug screening.

High-throughput screening (HTS) is a standard method for drug screening in the pharmaceutical industry, accelerating drug discovery by screening large compound libraries at a rate that can exceed a few thousand compounds per day or per week. The Engima system is a disruptive technology that can address the need for HTS in disease modelling, drug repurposing, toxicity testing, microbial screening, personalised drug optimisation and more. The system can be integrated into existing robotic testing facilities or as a stand-alone system, and the team are targeting multinational companies with the resources to enter into a co-development agreement.

Latch Medical
Wound closure is a time-consuming and technically demanding end to surgery. We’re all familiar with the conventional methods of sutures or staples, which penetrate to the deeper dermal layer of the skin. This causes damage to the soft tissues, predisposing patients to scarring and infection.

Latch Medical has developed a novel tissue anchor system that allows rapid, reproducible and robust wound closure. Relialoc uses micro-needle technology to achieve stable fixation in the superficial layers of the epidermis. Relialoc also aims to decrease the time taken for skin closure by 80pc, and to diminish post-operative infection and wound discharges, which can lengthen a patient’s hospital stay.

Sutures and staples represent an estimated €4bn market, which Latch Medical hopes that Relialoc can disrupt. Other products in development include catheter anchors, biosensor application and drug delivery devices.

5 more research-inspired ideas
While life sciences represents half of the projects on stage at Big Ideas, the remaining five have applied research to agritech, enterprise software, fintech and energy efficiency. All 10 of the companies presenting are at the early stage, hoping for a successful combination of networking, media attention and investor interest from the event, as well as essential practice in pitching.

Electrical Analytics
Transformers on the power grid in Ireland are, on average, more than 30 years old. Electrical Analytics has developed a retrofit device that can attach to existing electrical transformers and bring them into the 21st century, performing real-time analysis on the transformer’s health and the quality of power. This analysis will enable operators to prioritise maintenance and upgrades, better model their networks, and help improve efficiency of the electrical grid.

Nanoscience PhD Barry Murphy and his adviser, Prof Igor Shvets, applied for an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund to spin out this company, though they have yet to launch commercially. Big Ideas will be the first major event for the project.

FarmEye
FarmEye is a software system applying digital traceability to agriculture, providing a comprehensive chain of custody from the soil, to the plant, to the animal, to the dinner table. This system will allow agribusiness such as dairy processors and grain merchants to stand over the provenance and environmental sustainability of the products they are selling. It will also enable agri and environmental consultants to authenticate nutrient management of every field and ensure compliance with EU directives.

FarmEye is delivered to users as an easy-to-use, highly visual, map-based system for use on laptop, desktop and smartphones. From this platform, users can easily maintain and analyse a digital record of the soil management and nutrition for every field on the farm.

FarmHedge
FarmHedge started out as a weather app to help farmers better plan their work around the vagaries of the Irish weather system. Developed by Dr John Garvey, a senior lecturer in risk management and insurance at the University of Limerick and part-time farmer, the app now aims to improve information flow in agribusiness.

Using the online FarmHedge platform, farmers can reduce information inefficiency and coordinate their purchasing activity with other farmers to secure volume-based discounts in a low-cost and flexible way. This also lowers barriers for agribusiness suppliers to reach farmers in new markets – both nationally and internationally.

LiquidEdge
LiquidEdge is an enterprise Wi-Fi analytics platform helping businesses to understand customer behaviour and leverage that in their marketing. As a pitch, LiquidEdge aims to help businesses turn Wi-Fi from a cost to something that can generate revenue.

The idea comes from Steven Davy’s PhD research at Waterford Institute of Technology’s TSSG research institute, where he is focused on making Wi-Fi networks actually work to improve business operations. Davy secured Commercialisation Funding for the project and is now seeking seed funding from angel investors to expand with partnerships in the UK.

Durrus Compliance Diagnostics
It is estimated that anywhere between $800bn and $2trn is laundered every year. Banks invest hugely in anti-money laundering (AML) programmes, and regulatory bodies have lately shifted focus from technical compliance to demonstrating cultural and process effectiveness.

Durrus Compliance Diagnostics helps organisations assess and determine their AML cultural strengths and weaknesses as well as to investigate specific compliance risks. The University College Cork team found a framework that NASA uses to measure nebulous concepts such as quality, and found that the same methodology could be applied to assess AML cultural embedding. Durrus has also leveraged maturity modelling methodologies from areas such as software development and engineering to assess current effectiveness and identify the next steps for continuous improvement.

Enterprise Ireland Big Ideas 2017 takes place at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin 8 on Tuesday, 20 June 2017.

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