Driven by a commitment to provide more independence and a better quality of life to patients, SymPhysis Medical has just picked up €1.9 million for its healthtech that is patient-centric. Funding for the Irish startup was led by HBAN (Halo Business Angel Network). DBIC Ventures, Enterprise Ireland and a private investor also participated.
Founded in 2018 by Tim Jones and Dr. Michelle Tierney, SymPhysis Medical offers patient-centred solutions for palliative care. The startup’s emergent technology, releaze, is an innovative drainage solution to treat a common complication of late-stage cancers, malignant pleural effusion (MPE), or ‘fluid in the chest’. It’s been developed with a needs-based approach and collaboration with clinicians, public health nurses, patients and carers to improve clinical outcomes and enhance the patient experience.
The founders uncovered the under-met need for effective treatment of fluid in the chest as part of the NUI Galway BioInnovate Fellowship programme. The condition is experienced by approximately half of metastatic cancer patients and can cause severe shortness of breath, chest pain and can be extremely distressing. Often, patients are fitted with an indwelling pleural catheter, which is invasive, has an uncomfortable external tube, requires frequent medical assistance and is long-term.
Tim Jones, CEO and co-founder, SymPhysis Medical, said: “Palliative care is concerned with quality of life from the point of diagnosis of a life-limiting condition to the time of death. It focuses on managing distressing symptoms, such as pain and discomfort, and should also support a patient’s mental and social well-being.”
‘Releaze’ is less invasive to place than the leading competitor devices on the market and can be removed after just 30 days. A usability study helped the team to ensure that after being fitted in a medical setting, the device can be managed by patients themselves without the assistance of a nurse – therefore minimising hospital visits at a time when patients wish to be at home – giving patients back their independence. SymPhysis Medical has now filed two patent applications relating to the novel aspects of the technology used to create the device.
Tim Jones continued: “Patient and public involvement is a vital element of product development and we have worked closely with patient groups including AIIHPC (All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care) and IPPOSI (Irish Platform for Patient Organisations, Science and Industry), as well as individuals with experience of malignant pleural effusions. These are really dedicated organisations who have provided us with invaluable insights into real patient needs, enabling us to develop the best possible device for patients. The device will not only make patients more comfortable, but it can also give them the freedom to spend time with their loved ones and remain active and mobile, without being tied to their hospital or carers.”
This funding injection will be used to help SymPhysis Medical to expand its team, growing from three to seven people by the end of 2022, complete product development and target FDA clearance. The company will initially target the US market and following FDA clearance, expects test market sales to reach €1.5 million in the first year.
SymPhysis Medical is already working with two of the top five cancer care centres in the US. This work includes a clinical study that commenced in November 2021, along with human factors usability studies which will provide insights into how patients will interact with the device. The team will quickly follow the rollout in the US by seeking the CE Mark in the EU
Tim Jones added: “This funding will help us to deliver better quality of life to late-stage cancer patients and we will use it to support our international expansion, ensuring we reach as many patients as possible. The support of business angels from HBAN is essential as we embark on the next steps of our company’s journey. The angels have not only provided us with vital funding, but they also have valuable knowledge of – and experience in – our sector and a network of connections who can help us to make a meaningful global impact.”
Colin Henehan, chairperson of HBAN’s MedTech Syndicate, said: “The founders of SymPhysis Medical impressed our investors not only due to the significant market potential of their company, but also because of the real-world impact that it will have. Business angels do not just provide capital: they are personally invested in the companies which they fund. SymPhysis Medical struck a chord with our angel investors and they will work with the founders to ensure that the company is a success and reaches its financial targets, providing return on investment for funders and quality of life for patients.”