New innovators: Embo Medical

Global peripheral vascular embolisation market could be worth about $500 million

Embolisation is a procedure that shuts down blood flow to a diseased vessel or organ. For example, stopping the blood flow to a tumour. Worldwide, there are about 200,000 embolisation procedures carried out each year and Galway-based medical devices start-up, Embo Medical, has developed a new, safer, and more cost-effective way of carrying out this procedure.

Called the Caterpillar, the device is aimed at the global peripheral vascular embolisation market which Embo Medical co-founder, Wayne Allen, says is growing and which is likely to be worth about $500 million within the next five years.

“Current practice is to use multiple coils, about the width of a strand of hair, to shut down the vessel. An average of nine coils are used per procedure,” Allen says. “There are two key issues with the use of coils: the coils can migrate away from the target vessel causing unintended blockages elsewhere in the body. Secondly, it takes five minutes to implant each coil. That’s an average of 45 minutes just to implant the coils. We have developed the first true one-shot vascular embolisation device and our technology provides a superior solution within a much shorter time.”

Embo Medical was set up in 2012 by Wayne Allen, Colin Forde and Liam Mullins. Allen has extensive experience at senior management level in the medical technology industry. He spent seven years in the US working for orthopaedic market leader Synthes Spine where he led the research, development and commercialisation of innovative spinal implant and instruments technologies.

Devices developer

He is also former general manager of Irish medtech start-up,

Vysera Biomedical

. Forde is an experienced medical devices developer who has successfully led a number of large projects from concept, through CE approval to commercialisation. He has worked with both start-ups and multinationals including

Medtronic

,

Clearstream

Technologies and Creganna-Tactx Medical. Mullins’s background is also in medical devices start-ups where he too has led the business through all the stages from conceptualisation and prototyping to clinical investigation and regulatory submission. Most recently, he worked at

Veryan Medical

where he led the design of the BioMimics 3D peripheral stent.

Prior to setting up Embo Medical, the co-founders participated in the first Enterprise Ireland-backed Bioinnovate Ireland Fellowship in 2011. This is an intensive 10-month medical innovation programme where participants spend a number of months observing surgeries and other procedures in hospitals.

Issues

“During the programme we uncovered issues with existing embolisation technology and saw the potential to greatly improve on it,” Allen says. “What we saw were procedures involving multiple coils and plugs that were cumbersome and time consuming to insert and often did not provide an optimal clinical result. Current embolisation technology fails in up to 10 per cent of cases. Embo’s technology reduces blood vessel treatment time by more than 80 per cent. The Caterpillar takes just five minutes in total to deploy and has inbuilt anti-migration features to ensure that only the intended vessel is blocked by the procedure.”

Embo Medical has just raised €3 million in investment to further develop the product and bring it to market. The investment syndicate included the AIB Seed Capital Fund, Irrus Investments and the Halo Business Angel Network. The venture has also been supported by Enterprise Ireland under its high potential start-up fund.

Embo Medical, which is based in NUI Galway’s business innovation centre, employs eight people. They are primarily engineering graduates who are working on expanding the firm’s product pipeline and on preparing its approval submission to the Food and Drugs Administration in the US.

The Caterpillar will be made under contract in Galway where it is expected to support about 10 manufacturing jobs. The product will go on sale in 2016, initially in the US.

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