Deal Flow

Aspiera Medical expands its market focus

Pharmaceutical manufacturer's product line attracts a growing customer base

PHOTO BY Richard Asinof

Perry Antelman, left, CEO of Aidance Scientific, and David Goldsmith, co-founder and director of Aspiera Medical, at their Woonsocket headquarters.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 1/20/14
Aspiera Medical and its product line of all-natural pharmaceutical salves for skin care is on the cusp successfully crossing the chasm from early adoption to competing in major markets. The Woonsocket-based company is part of what its co-founder, David Goldsmith, calls an emerging “action-based” economy in Rhode Island.
The success of Aspiera points to the need to look beyond Providence in mapping the emerging knowledge economy in Rhode Island.

The success of the company’s products in treating wounds, for instance, suggests that there may be markets in military and international aid for such products. Will Sen. Jack Reed, the next time he’s in Rhode Island, go to Woonsocket to meet with Goldsmith to learn more about potential applications?
Given the effectiveness in treating diabetic wounds, are primary care practices that are part of the R.I. Chronic Care Sustainability Initiative aware of the products? If not, why not?
Aspeira’s early success in marketing its products online – both to national and international markets – points to the importance that engaged consumers can make in buying decisions. Aspiera’s products can’t be found locally on the shelves at CVS, Walgreen’s or Rite Aid pharmacies, even though they are manufactured here in Rhode Island. More than a branding campaign that says “It’s all in our backyard,” perhaps a more apt campaign would be to develop a Rhode Island brand that advertises the quality and design of products manufactured here, in support of existing companies already located here.

WOONSOCKET – The headquarters of Aspiera Medical on Burnside Avenue, amidst triple-deckers on a steep hillside overlooking the Blackstone River, appears at first glance to be a long way from the entrepreneurial epicenter of the innovation ecosystem in Providence.

The building is not easily visible from the road, and it’s not in an industrial park. But the company is very much at the heart of Rhode Island’s emerging Knowledge Economy, according to David P. Goldsmith, co-founder and director of what he calls an early stage firm.

Goldsmith, who is an active leader in both R.I. BioScience Leaders and MedMates, statewide industry cluster groups, prefers a different label. “We’re part of the emerging action economy in Rhode Island,” he told ConvergenceRI during a recent interview at his offices in Woonsocket. “We don’t just think about it, we do something, we make something happen.”

Aspiera Medical, which was officially launched in October 2012 after receiving market clearance from the FDA for its first product, is now in the midst of repositioning itself in the marketplace.

It is changing the name of the parent company from Aidance Skincare to Aidance Scientific, to put the emphasis on being a scientific research and pharmaceutical manufacturing firm – so as not to be perceived as merely a cosmetic skin care company.

“When people think of skin care, they think of cosmetics,” Goldsmith explained. “We wanted to move away from that. We’re a pharmaceutical manufacturing company. We wanted to be seen as a science company, we are constantly doing research,” Goldsmith said. “We have an in-house research lab. We employ outside researchers, chemical engineers who are tops in their field.”

Positive ions
The company, Goldsmith continued, manufactures natural pharmaceutical products for resolving a range of skin problems, from wounds to fungal infections, from acne to warts. The products use a patented formula of “Activated Minerals,” positively charged ions that have a strong attraction to the negatively charged ions commonly found on the outer membranes of bacteria and fungi.

Aspiera’s products, which are over-the-counter, non-prescription, and FDA-registered, are also all-natural – they use jojoba seed oil and organic beeswax as the moisturizing base of the ointments. The designation to be an “all-natural” product requires that ingredients be 95 percent natural, but Goldsmith said his firm’s products exceed that. “Most of our products, in fact, are between 98 and 99 percent all natural – in some cases, 100 percent natural,” he said.

Aspiera Medical will remain a division of Aidance Scientific, but the change in the parent company’s name reflects the firm’s expanding market for its products, moving from marketing directly to consumers to selling in retail markets such as pharmacies and wholesale to hospitals, home care agencies and nursing homes.

The business model when the company started was distributing its products directly to consumers, and that still remains the lion’s share of Aspiera’s operations and revenue. “We were bootstrapping,” Goldsmith said, explaining that much of the current sales are driven by an online presence. “We grew up with Google’s coming of age. When we started with Google, it was before they had AdWords, it was strictly an organic search, and we ranked in the top 10 on page one of all our search terms,” he said. “That’s not the case today. Obviously, you have to pay your way in now.”

The success of Aspiera’s product line in the treatment of skin infections has helped to propel the company’s entrance into new markets. “Across the board, our formulations are substantially more potent than other products [that are] commonly used and available, whether it’s a pharmacy or a hospital environment,” Goldsmith said. Clinical studies have shown that Aspiera’s products “are a magnitude of six to seven times faster in reducing the bacterial or fungal burden in the first hour [of treatment],” he said.

The positive response to Aspiera’s products has also been very motivating for the company and its team of 21 employees, Goldsmith said. “We’re making a real difference in people’s lives. We’ve received unsolicited testimonials from people who tell us that, as a result of using our wound care ointment, a limb has been saved.” Or, he continued, from customers who had warts on their face or hands, or someplace they otherwise couldn’t hide, and it had affected their social life and their self-esteem. “Once the warts were finally gone and didn’t come back, it changed their lives,” he said.

Everyone who works here, Goldsmith said, “knows that they are a part of those kinds of stories. It permeates the atmosphere.”

On the cusp
Aspiera’s goal is to have its products in every single household, in every hospital and in every nursing home, according to Goldsmith. The future focus is on national and international markets.

“We’re in conversation with some national sales organizations; 2014 is a year when we will be dramatically increasing our sales force through strategic alliances,” he said.

Most of the markets targeted for expanded sales are outside the state, Goldsmith said, including well-established regional pharmacy chains. “Those are good places for us to start; we can learn how to support them, chains that have 100 to 200 stores, and work our way up to chains that have 500 stores,” he said.

CVS Caremark, whose corporate headquarters are just down the road from Aspiera, is aware of the company, Goldsmith said. At the moment, Goldsmith said, the company doesn't have the capacity to manufacture and supply products to all of CVS's stores.

While Rhode Island currently represents “an infinitesimal fraction” of total sales, Goldsmith, who described himself as a “born and bred” Rhode Islander, has reached out to an association representing nursing homes in the state, who have been enthusiastic about Aspiera’s products. In turn, podiatrists treating patients at the nursing homes have also become enthusiastic users of the product line, according to Goldsmith.

“They are enthusiastic to be working with a Rhode Island [pharmaceutical] manufacturer such as ours that makes really effective products,” he said.

Goldsmith also gave a shout out to the late Malcolm “Kim” Chace as an early investor and supporter of Aspiera Medical. “We’re fortunate in Rhode Island to have some great resources,” he said. “A lot of people can be down on the state. It’s great to be a cheerleader.”


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