Devices & Diagnostics

California non-profit picks up new class of startups hoping to (finally) transform women’s health

Five startups have been selected to join the incubator program at The Fogarty Institute, an education nonprofit based in Mountain Valley, Calif., that mentors medical innovators. Four out of five of these companies–First Pulse Medical, Materna Medical, InPress Technologies and Medical Cue–are attempting to innovate in the maternity/women’s health field. President and CEO Ann Fyfe […]

Five startups have been selected to join the incubator program at The Fogarty Institute, an education nonprofit based in Mountain Valley, Calif., that mentors medical innovators.

Four out of five of these companies–First Pulse Medical, Materna Medical, InPress Technologies and Medical Cue–are attempting to innovate in the maternity/women’s health field.

President and CEO Ann Fyfe said this is a growing trend, as lots of innovations need to be made but haven’t been, partially due to an environment surrounded by litigation that makes innovators and investors nervous.

The other one, Prescient Surgical, has two buzz words associated with it: readmissions and wound healing. Fyfe said the woundcare field is growing quickly, especially for those products intended to reduce hospital-acquired infections (in theory limiting hospital stays and readmissions).

These companies, selected out of 40 applications, will be housed for two to two-and-a-half years at the Institute, where they will receive access to mentors, including founder Dr. Thomas Fogarty, who has more than 150 surgical patents (he came up with the balloon embolectomy catheter), business plan development and connections to potential funding resources. The mentorship aspect is what is stressed–the startups are surrounded by lawyers, regulators, business people and clinicians. Fogarty even sometimes attends the companies’ presentations to potential investors.

So far, this has been a fairly successful strategy, with three of the ten companies the Institute has taken on since 2007 exiting the incubator with a closed first round.

“The startups are like newborns: they require a lot of nurturing, they require a lot of support,” Fogarty said. “It really does take time and more effort and it always takes more money than you thought.”

Especially in the U.S., Fogarty said, where regulatory hurdles, lengthy clinical trials and increasing preclinical trial costs are contributing to a trend of early-stage companies not making it to the end. And with the government funding transitioning to VC funding transitioning to a big question mark for medtech companies, Fogarty thought up the space in order to encourage American innovation.

The Institute is located on the El Camino Hospital campus, which is essential to its mission of serving patients in hospitals and bringing down the cost of care.

“If you want somebody that really knows. . . daily problems, it’s a community hospital,” Fogarty said.

Despite the lofty goals and serious problems the startups plan to tackle, Fyfe said it’s still a fun environment for the startups and mentors.

“Most of them would just be sitting in their own garage or own apt trying to come up with these things,” she said.

Fun and games aside, after six years, it may be time for the Institute, or at least its model, to expand. They’re considering Ireland and Japan as potential sites for new Fogarty Institutes, as well as doing educational programs on innovation for large American device corporations. This fall, the nonprofit will begin to settle on the new directions it will take as it expands.

But patients are still at the heart of it.

“If we’re going to improve patient care, it will be through the process of innovation,” Fogarty said.