Belfast doctor develops groundbreaking anaesthetic gel

Dr Mark Jenkins won £20,000 in InterTradeIreland’s 2014 Seedcorn competition

According to Jenkins, most children hate needles, which is very often an inescapable part of a visit to an A&E with a wound

Necessity – as Dr Mark Jenkins can testify – is not only the mother of invention but can inspire some brilliant ideas.

As a consultant in emergency medicine at one of the North’s busiest hospitals, Jenkins is used to working under pressure in stressful conditions. Virtually every day he has to deal with injured children who are often scared and upset, not to mention coping with their worried parents.

According to Jenkins, a large percentage of children admitted to an accident and emergency unit arrive dripping with blood from a mishap. Most children hate needles, which is very often an inescapable part of a visit to an A&E with a wound.

Jenkins began to think there must be a better way of to make the hospital experience better not just for children but for anyone with an injury. A late night chat with Prof Paul McCarron, a university-based academic pharmacist, forged an alliance that ultimately led to a groundbreaking hydrogel that can be used as a needle-free anaesthetic.


Open wounds

The gel, which can be applied to any open wound, flows into the crevices of a wound taking its exact shape. Jenkins says it has the potential to be used from the “battleground to the playground”.

Two years ago Jenkins and McCarron set up Belfast-based Jenarron Therapeutics, a spin-out company from the University of Ulster. Jenarron hopes to bring its first product to market next July.

All they need to realise their ambition to become a “sizeable pharmaceutical company” in the North is more money.

Jenarron Therapeutics is in discussions with investors regarding the next stage of its development. In the meantime, it has won £20,000 (€25,000) in InterTradeIreland's all-island 2014 Seedcorn Competition. Jenarron was not the only company to shine in this year's competition, one of the biggest of its kind for new and early- stage companies in any sector.

PT Dock, a web app developed by Simon Lloyd-Lavery, also caught the judges’ eyes as they selected the most promising new companies in Ireland looking for equity funding.

PT Dock is a business app devised for personal trainers to help them manage their client information and provide a better service.

The entrepreneurs behind both Belfast businesses are passionate about their products and determined to succeed. But like Yvonne Brady, the founder of EVB Sport, one of the Connacht and Leinster regional winners, they realise that ambition alone does not guarantee success – even if it is built on solid foundations as with Athlone-based regional winner Nearfield Communications


Even those with brilliant ideas – such as Limerick-based SonarSim, a sub-sea technology company and Stayhold, which makes products to secure cargo in a car boot – need a strategy.

Instead there is a list of components that companies need to have in their tool kit to have any chance of succeeding.

Here are the top five as mentioned by the judges of the all-island final of this year’s InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn Competition: 1 The right business plan 2 The right opportunity 3 The right market 4 The right difference that sets it apart from competitors (technical defence) 5 The right team behind the idea or product.

Two companies that emerged from the 24 regional finalists this year are well on their way to getting all five components in place.

Early stage

Cork-based medical device company AventaMed, who won the Best Early Stage company and a cash prize of €100,000, and Dublin-based software solution company TruePivot who won €50,000 and the Best New Start category.

What the finalists proved most was that they had seen a space that was not occupied and that they could make it their own – whether it was a revolutionary gel that will sooth a child’s wounds or a device as in AventaMed’s case to revolutionise paediatric ear, nose and throat surgery.