Atlantic Therapeutics: ‘The Enterprise Ireland grant is a huge boost for us’
Galway-based firm’s Innovo device is now available over the counter in the US
Innovo is a unique wearable device, similar in style to a standard pair of cycling shorts, that treats patients suffering from urinary incontinence.
The 2019 Irish Times Innovation Award winner has developed a unique wearable device, similar in style to a standard pair of cycling shorts, to treat patients suffering from urinary incontinence. The Innovo device contains eight electrodes which contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles with a training and strengthening effect which helps patients retake control of their bladder function.
Independent clinical tests have demonstrated significant improvements for a large proportion of patients who use the Innovo for 30 minutes a day, five days a week over 12 weeks.
“The Enterprise Ireland grant is a huge boost for us and for our headquarters in Galway which is our centre of excellence for R&D, supply chain management and other critically important aspects of the business,” says Atlantic Therapeutics chief executive Susan Trent. “The funding will help drive our innovation portfolio.”
Trent, who was appointed last month, had led the successful launch of Innovo on the US market as an over-the-counter device earlier this year. The device was already on sale in the US on a prescription basis but this had presented a barrier for many patients, she explains.
“We had already got good traction from consumers and doctors, urologists in particular, in the US. But women tend not to go to their doctor to talk about the problem. They live with the problem and buy pads and so on to deal with it. We knew that talking to women directly would make a big difference. Getting over-the-counter approval from the FDA has made a massive difference.”
Innovo launched in the US with an advertising campaign entitled The voice of Change on March 16th, the day the US government announced the national guidelines to control the Covid-19 virus.
“Timing is everything,” Trent notes wryly. “Covid-19 has had a massive effect on the US economy and employment. During the first week alone, six million people signed on for unemployment benefits, the stock market dropped, and market sentiment collapsed. Everyone was distracted by the coronavirus pandemic. I was with GlaxoSmithKline for years and launched brands all over the world and had been through a few crises. But I never launched an over-the-counter product in such a crisis.”
Conditions were far from ideal. “You always want a bit of space around a launch and you don’t want a lot else going on in the news,” Trent says. “We had to cancel the PR element of the campaign because the media weren’t interested in any non-Covid-19 stories. But our Irish venture capital investors, Seroba and Atlantic Bridge, were massively supportive. The support from our European venture capital investors was superb as well. As a start-up, having that backing is really fantastic.”
Feedback from women has been very positive. Innovo
is really making a difference to their lives
The launch proved very successful, nevertheless. “We had to get it right and we’ve been delighted with how it’s gone. The brand has really taken off since March 16th. We have seen an exponential rise in sales. The advertising campaign went very well. There was an immediate spike in inquiries after ads were shown. We knew the message we were delivering to consumers was really resonating.”
Some of those messages included women saying “We’re done with bladder leaks, worry and temporary fixes,” and “Now we have science behind us, we hold the power and we wear the pants.”
“We are putting women in charge of their own health,” Trent says. “Feedback from women has been very positive. Innovo is really making a difference to their lives. We launched the campaign in the UK at the same time and it has made a real difference there as well.”
The Enterprise Ireland funding will support the development of an improved device which will utilise a phone app. “This will be a game changer,” Trent says. “The aim is for Innovo to become something people can incorporate into their daily routine.”
The app will offer what Trent calls behavioural support. “That’s what we used to call it in GlaxoSmithKline,” she says. “For example, Nicorette patches help people give up smoking but they have a much better chance if you give them a support programme along with the patches. If you give behavioural support, you get better outcomes.
“Everyone knows how hard it is to follow a programme that lasts for 12 weeks and this will help people do that. They will also be able to use the app to continue to monitor their pelvic floor health afterwards. The Enterprise Ireland grant will help to fund our innovation work, it’s all systems go on that.”