Cork firm raises €1.3m to run trials on ear devices

AventaMed hopes to simplify procedure for children with ear infections

Cork company AventaMed, which hopes to greatly simplify the procedure millions of children undergo to have grommets inserted, has raised €1.3 million to run clinical trials on its device.

A grommet – essentially a small plastic tube – is placed in a small incision in the eardrum to relieve pressure and to allow fluid and bacteria to drain from the middle ear. As many as one in 15 children up to the age of seven undergo the procedure, which at the moment takes place under general anaesthetic.

“The insertion of ear grommets to treat ear infections and hearing loss is the number one reason children undergo surgery requiring a general anaesthetic,” says AventaMed co-founder and chief executive Olive O’Driscoll, who estimates the global market opportunity as being worth more than $5 billion. “Over 2 million children require this procedure annually.”

AventaMed, a spinout company from Cork Institute of Technology’s Medic research centre, has spent four years developing technology that avoids the expense involved in a full surgical procedure and the risks inherent in general anaesthesia. Its hand-held device allows a consultant to insert a grommet in an ear in just a few minutes. The grommet is preloaded into a sterile packaged cartridge which is fitted to the device. It is placed in the ear by pressing a single button.


"This is a routine procedure for so many families and we are proud to provide a new way of advancing the quality of care," said Ms O'Driscoll, who founded the business with fellow biomedical engineer and company chief technical officer John Vaughan. "This quick procedure will give parents and surgeons the choice to undergo this surgical procedure without the need for a full general anaesthetic."

The latest funding has been raised from Halo Business Angel Network syndicates Medtec, Irrus, Boole and Enterprise Ireland. The company says the money will be used to start clinical trials and to secure regulatory approval for the product in the United States and Europe.

Until now, product development was funded by an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund grant and help from Cork’s Local Enterprise Office. AventaMed received a €100,000 boost and broader industry exposure when it was named best overall early stage company in last year’s InterTradeIreland Seedcorn Competition.

It expects the pilot phase of the trials in a number of centres in Europe and the US to begin in the new year. Twenty-five patients will be enrolled and results are expected by the end of 2016.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times