The start-up AW Technologies has joined the Business Acceleration Academy to build a business around their invention for ventilated patients, TrachFlush. The company is founded by Stephen E. Rees, Professor at Aalborg University as well as Scientific Director at Medical Decision Support Systems group, Jørgen Hansen who has held positions such as Managing Director of Byrum Healthcare and Business Unit Manager Nordic at Philips Healthcare plus the two young entrepreneurs Adam S. Hansen and Andreas M. Hejslet.
It was Adam S. Hansen and Andreas M. Hejslet that pitched in front of the selection committee and made it through to the program with funding and in-kind services at a value of DKK 625.000. Both of them recently graduated from Frederikshavn Business College where they studied innovation and entrepreneurship, and this is also where they proved their worth to the experienced senior founders of the company.
In addition to participation in the BAA-program, Adam S. Hansen and Andreas M. Hejslet recently pitched to Life Science Innovation North Denmark and in September, they received a grant of DKK 750.000 to establish safety documentation for the device.
We sat down with the two young and very hard-working entrepreneurs for a talk about the company.
What problem do you solve?
Ventilated patients are not able to remove secretion from their airway by themselves due to a small balloon inflated in their windpipe. Today a small catheter is used to suction out the secretion from patients’ airways to prevent lung infections like pneumonia, which infects up to 27% of ventilated patients. The suctioning catheter is a very inefficient and unpleasant invasive procedure resulting in a high risk of contamination and exposure to bacteria. Pneumonia, which is one of the most common ventilator-associated lung infections, results in extended stays of 9 days and adds more than €35.000 to the typical hospital admission per pneumonia patient.
How do you do that?
AW Technologies is currently developing the TrachFlush device which can inflate and deflate the balloon in the patient’s airway in alignment with the ventilator flow. But what’s important is the TrachFlush procedure which can be described as an artificial cough maneuver, removing secretion from the patient’s airway by mimicking a normal cough. The artificial cough is a simple maneuver and doesn’t require any invasive actions and the maneuver is performed within a closed system, meaning a low risk of contamination and exposure to bacteria.
How does that work?
The artificial cough maneuver is performed by using the inhalation from the ventilator to build up pressure in the lungs of the patient. The balloon blocking the patient’s windpipe is then deflated allowing the pressure to escape. When the pressure escapes, it results in an airflow – like a cough – pushing secretion accumulated in the patient’s airway up to the mouth of the patient, and down the esophagus. Then, before the inhalation ends, the balloon is inflated to the same degree as before.
What have you learned in the program so far?
IP is definitely something that we have made progress in. Not just regarding our company, but in general, we have gained a better understanding of what we can do with IP and how we can strengthen our position through it. We have also been networking a lot more than before and been able to talk to many people through the program which has given us a better understanding of product development. Especially our mentor Henrik Bengtsson from Device R&D at Novo Nordisk has been a great help.
What has surprised you?
We founded the company about a year ago, and within this time we have developed a fully functional product, joined the BAA program and much more. One thing we had not yet considered at all was graphics and visual design because we did not believe it to be important in life science. But here at BAA, we have talked to experts in the program that have shown us that visual identity also plays a role in this industry, so we are putting focus on that as well now.
What are your next steps?
To raise funding so we can proceed to clinical trials. We are currently setting up the pre-clinical studies, and our ambition is to accelerate sales of TrachFlush in 2022.
Follow AW Technologies work here.