Ignition Labs fosters the growth of medical technology startups

Ignitions Labs, a Sydney-based accelerator for niche technologies, has launched its 2013 medical technology program; and will be supporting four medical technology startups that are prime examples of the creativity offered by Australia’s medical entrepreneurs.

The convergence of healthcare, life sciences, engineering, information technology and telecommunications industries has seen a growing number of professionals in the healthcare industry leveraging technological advancements – such as microelectronics, wireless networks, cloud computing and advanced manufacturing – to transform the way healthcare is delivered to patients.

However, when attempting to commercialise new medical technologies, founders experience difficulty in gaining traction, navigating the domestic and global healthcare markets and raising capital due to lack of entrepreneurial skills and the risk appetite of seed investors.

In Australia, early stage companies can access the NSW Medical Device Fund, NSW Government Tech Vouchers and Commonwealth programs like Commercialisation Australia, but their availability is limited to those with an organic entrepreneurial capability and previous track record of commercialisation.

The Ignition Labs Medtech program aims to foster the growth of medical technology startups, by injecting seed capital of AUD$25,000 for market validation activities and providing founders with guidance from industry specific mentors and accelerated education in entrepreneurship and commercialisation.

“Ignition Labs is a vehicle to scan and select the most promising founders, technologies and investment opportunities; provide them with an entrepreneurial education, expose them to customers and partners early and guide them to investable milestones,” says Ben Wright, ATP Innovation Director of Commercial Development.

“Ignition Labs portfolio companies represent the next generation of businesses that will go on to become the next Resmed or Cochlear.”

The Sydney-based incubator represents Australia’s largest community of medical technology startups and currently supports over 20 early stage life science companies, spanning from medical software, diagnostics and drug development to medical devices.

Ignition Labs has helped medical technology startups take their concept to market, raise capital and exit through trade sales or IPO. Two of its companies, Elastagen and Endoluminal Sciences recently raised a combined $4.5 million through the NSW Medical Device fund.

Wright points out that Australians are far above the OECD average when it comes to publishing academic papers and are prolific patent writers. Examples of this inventiveness include: the world’s first electronic pacemaker, humidicrib for neonatal care, first ultrasound, first cochlear impact, and the first artificial heart valve. All of these were invented before the 1990s.

However, we’ve been poor at executing and growing these businesses at home in Australia. Wright says this is in part due to lack of funding and support for startup businesses.

“Ignition Labs is a mechanism that supports ideas like these at an early stage and provides founding teams with the support they need to engage with customers, partners and investors in order to create positive health outcomes and profitable businesses,” he adds.

Ignition Labs has 24 mentors for its 2013 medical technology program – a combination of clinicians, serial entrepreneurs, professional business mentors, angel investors and venture fund managers.

“Each mentor is involved in the selection of the final portfolio and each mentor is personally invested in the companies success by contributing to the seed funding they receive as part of the program.  It’s an educated democracy in action and it works.  The experience and extended network that these mentors are able to provide to the Ignition Labs portfolio is one of the most powerful elements of the accelerator program,” says Wright.

At stages throughout the six-month accelerator program, companies will have the opportunity to participate in formal investor pitching events both in Australia and overseas.

“Constant exposure to potential investors seasons the teams and provides them with access to would-be investors as they build their business,” says Wright.

The four companies participating in the program are:

BiOZ
Founded by Melissa Knothe Tate, the Paul Trainor Chair of Biomedical Engineering at the University of New South Wales and ex Medtech executive Colin Stahel, the BiOZ team are pioneering the latest 3D Weaving technology and advanced biomaterials to produce next generation orthopaedic splints for post-operative patients.

De Motu Cordis
Headed by Professors John Fraser and Kim Chan, De Motu Cordis have developed an advanced drug delivery system for critical care patients.  The technology has been spun out of the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney and has the potential to save lives and significantly reduce the long-term health costs of patients following cardiac arrest.

ResQdevices
Born out of practical necessity and spurred on by recent fatalities, Roger Price and Glen Triebel have developed a unique spinal immobilization device for trauma patients.  Their device has been designed to reduce post traumatic event injuries associated with moving and transporting suspected spinal patients.

Sky Biomed
One in four women over the age of 18 will experience urinary incontinence at some stage during their lifetime and urinary incontinence is one of the leading reasons for admission into nursing care.  The Sky Biomed team draw from their experiences inside icons Ventracor, Cochlear and continence company Simavita to deliver medical devices for the treatment of incontinence.

The program is supported by ATP Innovations, IP firm Griffith Hack, UK Trade and Investment, British Airways and Life Science Venture Capital firm, Brandon Capital Partners.

For more information, visit www.ignitionlabs.com.au.