When it comes to innovation, it’s often the people who are on the front lines of the problem that are best positioned to come up with solutions.
Ken Malone sees this playing out with doctors and nurses working at hospitals. The cofounder of Pigtown-based startup studio Early Charm Ventures said that clinicians can readily identify devices that would make their lives easier and help patients. But often these are simpler gadgets, and venture capitalists or big companies that would get behind them for commercialization won’t move forward with something new unless there’s a giant market to tackle.
With a new joint venture called Lankenau Ventures, Early Charm is teaming with Philadelphia’s Main Line Health, the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research and L2C Partners to create those devices inside hospitals.
“This is an opportunity for us to work with frontline healthcare workers and deliver them products they actually want to use, and, where appropriate, market them more broadly across the U.S.,” Malone said.
The goal, said Malone, is to improve life for doctors and nurses, so they can in turn treat patients faster and achieve better outcomes. And there’s a chance to make revenue while doing so.
The partnering orgs believe the ventures have the ingredients to bring those new inventions forward. Main Line Health operates four hospitals, where nurses and doctors can offer ideas and test products, while its research division, the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, will add rigor. Early Charm and L2C, who have previously partnered, will draw on expertise in commercializing new inventions, applying product development and getting IP to market. And Early Charm’s wider team will provide support in a variety of areas, as it does for each of its portfolio companies.
Lankenau Ventures is led by Dan Keeley, a biomedical engineer and 15-year medical device professional who was recently hired by Early Charm. He brings experience most recently from Rochester, New York-based technology commercialization firm Dawnbreaker, as well as corporate leaders such as Johnson & Johnson and Beckton Dickinson.
The company is initially focusing in the areas of safety devices for hospital rooms, software that augments electronic medical records, clinical tests and clinical devices.
Keeley said one early development is focusing on patients who undergo robotic surgeries. More patients are being operated on this way, but it requires them to be tightly bound for four to six hours. This can pinch nerves that leads to temporary damage, and in a small number of cases leads to permanent nerve damage. So an anesthesiologist recommended a device that will prevent that pinching. Going forward, Lankenau Ventures will design the device with input from surgeons and nurses providing feedback along the way.
In Keeley’s experience, these clinicians have good ideas and they are creative in their approaches, but they just lack product development experience — and time — to push product development forward.
“There’s an opportunity to make a big impact with these small gadgets that the medical professionals are coming up with every day,” he said.
It’s also a chance for teams from two nearby healthcare hubs to work together. Baltimore and Philly leaders routinely tout the importance of their “eds and meds” to innovation. Ventures like this show a chance for the benefits to flow both ways.
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