AVeta Medical to offer new ‘safe and affordable’ treatment for vaginal atrophy
New device helps with one of the chronic health issues experienced in the menopause and breast cancer treatment
Paula Newell, founder of medtech start-up AVeta Medical: ‘AVeta is a mechanical solution based on a novel intra-vaginal device that has been designed by women for women.’
Vaginal atrophy is a debilitating condition affecting millions of women worldwide. The menopause is one of its main causes but it can also be triggered by medication and other health-related events. It is also one of the rarely talked about side effects of breast cancer treatment.
“Most women are so focused on becoming cancer free that they just put up with it,” says Paula Newell, founder of medtech start-up, AVeta Medical, which is pioneering a new treatment for the condition. “Women with vaginal dryness can find it painful to sit, walk, sleep and urinate and the impact on the quality of their everyday and sex lives is huge and far reaching yet many of them suffer in silence because they’re too embarrassed to talk about it even to their GP.
“In addition, the treatment options currently available are limited especially if a woman doesn’t want to use hormone-based solutions, expensive laser therapy or messy over the counter creams. There are also issues around daily compliance and the fact that existing treatments often fail to relive the symptoms.
“AVeta is a mechanical solution based on a novel intra-vaginal device that has been designed by women for women,” Newell adds. “Our device, which will initially be prescribed by a physician, is safe for long-term use, it is affordable and it can be administered discreetly at home.”
Newell is a paediatric occupational therapist by training who was accepted on to the NUIG-based BioInnovate medical technology innovation programme in 2016. Its aim is to create cutting-edge healthcare solutions for previously under recognised or poorly served health conditions. It was while participating on this programme that Newell identified the clinical need for a non-pharmacological treatment for vaginal dryness. She received a commercialisation grant of €200,000 from Enterprise Ireland to explore the idea and expects her patent-pending device to be on the market by 2021.
“As the device is in the final stages of patent I can’t go into too much detail about how it works, but it involves a disposable probe that induces a reaction in the vaginal tissue to create a cascade of new blood vessels and it replaces the role of oestrogen,” says Newell who set up AVeta Medical in March last year.
The company is currently based at the school of medicine in NUIG where its head of school, Prof Tim O’Brien, is her mentor and supervisor. The project has also benefited from the technical input of Dr Martin O’Halloran and his engineering and research team at the Translational Medical Device Lab at NUIG who worked closely with Newell to reach technical and clinical milestones during the device’s development.
Newell, who works for the HSE, has continued with her day job albeit with scaled back hours while developing the company which she hopes to spin out next year following a seed fundraising round. She is aiming to raise about €300,000 to bring the device to the clinical trial stage and is now looking to recruit both an experienced COO and CTO to take the project to the next level.
AVeta’s initial target market is the breast cancer patient population not least because hormonal therapies may be contraindicated for this group. “It is estimated that 70 per cent of breast cancer survivors suffer from vaginal dryness, representing a patient population of 1.4 million and a potential market in excess of $1 billion worldwide,” Newell says.
“By 2020, there will be 50 million menopausal women in the US alone and by 2025 there will be 1.1 billion women in the menopausal range across the world. Over 40 per cent of those in the 40-59 age bracket will experience the problem and this rises to 75 per cent for women over 60 years of age. Women want, need and deserve an alternative, safe solution and AVeta is the answer.”