Deal Flow

MedMates hosts dynamic show-and-tell for entrepreneurs

Sharing new products on the cusp of success in the med-tech sector

Photo by Richard Asinof

Stephen Lane, co-founder and CEO of of Ximedica, center right, tosses a blue O-Ring further into the audience, an example of the a new full-body sensory toy being developed by the startup company, Increment.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 3/3/14
The MedMates event allowed the dynamic mix of entrepreneurs who inhabit the med-tech sector in the region speak for themselves, in a show-and-tell that highlighted the kinds of innovative solutions being developed to address health care needs. From potential treatments for Lupus and Alzheimer’s, to communications devices across a spectrum of unmet needs, to ingenious devices to speed healing of chronic wounds and toys for children with special needs, there was a tangible sense of opportunity and collaboration. The free event signaled the emergence of MedMates as a new industry cluster group in Rhode Island.
Many of the new ideas and devices sought to change the dynamics of conversations between hospitals, providers, caregivers and patients. Many of the new concepts were low-cost, easy-to-use devices that change the way the conversation occurs, putting the patient at the center of the conversation. Why is it, then, that hospitals – and health insurers – are so resistant to losing control of the flow of information?
Beyond the epidemic in youth obesity, the reaction of the brain in Alzheimer’s patients to the normal role of insulin points to yet another potential consequence of the ubiquitous use of sugar and high fructose corn syrup in our food products. What kinds of primordial interventions – similar to a ban on smoking – may be necessary to reverse such health consequences?
On the same day that MedMates held its event, Providence Business News hosted its “health care reform” annual checkup, where the conversation was monetized into a native advertising event. The day before, Dr. Michael Fine held his first state-of-the-state address assessing Rhode Island’s report card on public health, which he gave a B-minus grade. There is also the continuing epidemic of overdose deaths from heroin that are plaguing Rhode Island and most of New England.
Instead of these conversations converging, they are examples of the continuing disconnect between public health, health care delivery, the high cost of health insurance and health care, and innovation solutions.

PROVIDENCE – As a way of introducing their new product, Increment’s co-founders, Maeve Jopson and Cynthia Poon, tossed a number of O-Rings – a full-body, sensory toy for children of all abilities – into the audience at MedMates’ “For the Love Entrepreneurship” gathering at RISD’s Chace Center on Feb. 27.

The stackable rings differ in size, weight, density, color and texture, and can be used for seating, building and gross motor training, according to Jopson and Poon. The effort grew from a challenge to design toys for the special needs of children who are blind.

Jopson, a recent RISD graduate and a Betaspring Maker fellow, described the rings as a platform toy, with new prototypes in development, including a soft globe called a play map.

Increment joined 23 other startup and early stage companies in the med-tech sector in pitching their products in a five-minute session, a way for the entrepreneurs to find some potential romance with angel and venture capital investors.

Among the presenters [many of whom may be familiar to ConvergenceRI readers] were Dan Bacher, from the Speak Your Mind Foundation. Bacher, who was featured in the Dec. 16, 2013, edition of ConvergenceRI [see link to article below] said that he had been overwhelmed by the response to the publicity. In addition to raising $25,000 in a crowd-funding effort in December, hundreds of caregivers have been calling, asking for help with their loved ones.

As a result, Bacher announced that he is setting up a for-profit company to look at the development of low-cost eye-tracking and movement recognition systems to serve the growing unmet need. The nonprofit foundation will continue its efforts on a parallel track, Bacher told ConvergenceRI.

Among the entrepreneurs pitching new products and services in a five-minute spiel were:
• Dr. Samuel Dudley, chief of the division of Cardiology at the Cardiovascular Institute at Rhode Island and Miriam hospitals, and chief of the division of Cardiology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, touted his new company, 3PrimeDx, which is developing a blood test to predict sudden death risk in patients with heart conditions. The blood test would enable physicians to know more precisely which patients needed to have a defibrillator implanted – a procedure that can cost up to $100,000.
• Michael Allio, one of the co-founders of the Food Innovation Network, or FIX, talked about the new space his company was founding at the intersection of food, nutrition, design and medicine. One of the prototypes his firm, which received at least $1 million in initial support from Johnson & Wales University, is now investigating is a popsicle that could deliver therapeutic medicine for chemo patients, which has led the firm to consider an entire freezer display for chilled products that could be used in pharmacies for over-the-counter sales. [See link to the Jan. 6, 2014, ConvergenceRI story below.]
• Paul Hayre of Sano, which is developing a low-cost, point-of-care biomarker diagnostic platform to diagnose and personalize healing by using the devices as chronic wound diagnostic. One of the connections Hayre made at the session was with David Goldsmith of Aspiera Medical, co-founder and director of the company, which has developed a series of skin care products to aid in healing wounds. In one of Sano’s clinical trials, the firm used Aspiera Medical products. The two talked about future potential collaborations. [See link to Jan. 20, 2014, ConvergenceRI article about Aspiera Medical below.] Goldsmith is also one of the organizers of MedMates.
• Dr. Henry Querfurth, an associate professor of neurology at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University, and co-director of the Memory Clinic at Rhode Island Hospital, is exploring how the Alzheimer’s afflicted brain appears to be resistant to the normal action of insulin to promote glucose utilization, cell survival and synaptic plasticity. His team has found a relevant enzymatic reaction that is targeted in the disease and a compound that can reverse impairment.
• Andrew Shearer, co-founder and chief technical officer of Care Thread, has developed a patient-centered, HIPAA-compliant, IT health platform, bridging the communications gap across a patient’s team of health care providers, linking them in real time. [See link to Jan.13, 2014, article in ConvergenceRI below.]
• Nick Dougherty of VerbalCare, a company that has developed a patient-engagement platform using a tablet instead of an on-off signal for communicating with nurses and doctors from a hospital bed, to improve the quality of life and outcomes for patients.
• Walt Besio of CREmedical Corp., a medical device startup that has improved the basic electrodes to create noninvasive high-fidelity brain signal recording devices, focused initially on EEGs.
• Chris Macomber of UV Therapeutics has developed a non-drug technology for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, and will soon be starting their first clinical trial in the treatment of Lupus this month.
• Patricia Burbank, director of Graduate Studies at the University of Rhode Island, College of Nursing, has invented a device, AAGILE, that helps remind older adults to be physically active. The AAGILE device, worn at the waist similar to a pedometer, monitors activities in three dimensions and can play pre-recorded messages – including messages from loved ones or instructions from caregivers.

Sandwiched in between the presentations was a panel discussion, two networking breaks and a reception, where conversations, connections and collisions were happening in a fast and furious fashion.

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