Heart-monitoring device wins Big Ideas prize for Galway company
Enterprise Ireland event has been highlighting commercialisation potential of Irish academic research for 12 years
Julie Sinnamon, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland. This year’s One to Watch award event was broadcast from a studio in the RDS in Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
A revolutionary heart-monitoring system earned Galway company Galenband the coveted One to Watch award at Enterprise Ireland’s Big Ideas 2020 event last month. Galenband was one of 12 investor-ready spinout companies to pitch their new technology solutions to investors at the annual showcase for innovative companies emerging from higher education institutes.
Other innovations pitched included a wearable sensor to manage vertigo and dizziness, a sperm-sorting technology to address fertility care, and technology that combines psychology and artificial intelligence to empower people to be their best selves at work.
Now in its 12th year, Big Ideas highlights the commercialisation potential of Irish academic research. The format sees each spinout having just three minutes to promote their innovations and business propositions to an invited audience made up of the Irish research and investment communities.
The audience of 1,260 people included local investors, business angels, venture capital firms, and other research scientists. “Some of those scientists are already working on commercialisation projects and some of them are thinking about it. Big Ideas provides a great opportunity to show what can be done with role models there to show how it’s done. Out of the 12 spinouts we had seven female co-founders.”
Two of them were led by a chief executive who had come through the Enterprise Ireland Business Partner programme. “We identify and match experienced entrepreneurs to work with research scientists as commercial co-founders. They bring complementary skills and strengths to help accelerate the commercial development of the spinout.”
Galenband ceo Eddie McDaid came through the programme. Before joining Galenband he led the creation of several software platform businesses which have achieved more than €50 million in sales between them. “I joined the Business Partners Programme in 2019 and then Galenband in early 2020,” he says. “We have been working together on the proposition since then and we have got it to the point where we are about to start our first clinical trial.”
The heart-monitoring system was developed by NUIG biomedical engineering graduate Oisin McGrath who had a personal interest in the subject, having suffered from undiagnosed heart arrhythmia for 13 years.
“I had heart issues since I was five years of age, but the problem was intermittent,” he explains. “All of a sudden my heart would start racing and the episodes could be weeks or months apart.”
Standard tests involving wearing a heart monitor for 24 or 48 hours didn’t identify the problem. McGrath even underwent surgery on two occasions to try to diagnose it. “I decided to do something about it myself and applied to college to study biomedical engineering.”
The development of the Galenband device formed the basis of his undergraduate and master’s degree theses. The device, which can be worn for up to 90 days, is capable of increasing detection rates of silent atrial fibrillation from the 1.3 per cent associated with current standard monitoring methods to 85 per cent. The solution includes an AI-driven analytical platform capable of automatically detecting silent atrial fibrillation. The aim is to offer a disruptive screening service for long-term, continuous cardiac rhythm monitoring, resulting in improved patient outcomes through early intervention to reduce risk of stroke.
“It was great to win the One to Watch award ahead of a selection of 12 of the most promising spinouts in the country,” says McDaid. “It’s a very significant validation for the team and the product. We have received quite a number of inquiries from investors since we won it – it’s been a real shot in the arm for us. We hope to have the product approved by the FDA in the US and to have CE mark approval in 2022 and to launch on the market in 2023. That is very quick as we are benefiting from the tailwind of Oisin having worked on it for so many years.”
Diverse and viable
According to Burke, events such as Big Ideas help create a diverse and viable pipeline of investor-ready spinout projects. “The virtual format was highly successful,” he says. “We had 400 in attendance last year and 1,260 this year. We are going to look to build on that model in years to come and might look at a hybrid event. It’s great to be able to showcase these people who are working to make the world a better place through innovation. Ever since the event we’ve been hearing from participants who have been approached by investors.”