Serafina: Hi, I’m Serafina coming at you today from the Alpha Conference, AngelMD’s conference, over in Napa Valley. I’m joined by Tom Clement, CEO of Aqueduct. Thank you so much for joining us today, we really love having you on the show.
Tom: Thanks for having me here.
Serafina: So, tell me, what is the technology?
Tom: Well, what we’ve developed and are now testing in the clinic is a product to manage the pressure in your brain. So, you come out of surgeries, often, and you have a tube that’s coming out of the front of your head, and current state of the art is sixty years old.
Serafina: A bit antiquated.
Tom: I basically is into a manometer, and they tell a patient to lay still, not to move, and then they have a nurse 24/7 in case the patient moves. Seriously, two inches of sitting up in bed and nobody paying attention for thirty minutes a patient can get very sick.
Serafina: That sounds like that’s why there’s a two-pronged effect here; It’s one, a waste of human capital; and two, there’s a high margin of error involved with the current technology. So, talk to me about what the impetus behind this company was. What founded Aqueduct?
Tom: I’ve been a serial entrepreneur, I was looking for problems to solve. I was between companies, I was working at the University of Washington helping to spin companies out, and a pediatric neurosurgeon approaches me and says, ‘We’ve got to fix this problem.’ He had some ideas and I just said, ‘Hey, I’d love to join you. Would you mind if I spin it out?’
Serafina: Talk to me about what the patient population looks like. Who are we really talking about here? TBI patients, hydrocephalus?
Tom: All of the above. So, because my co-founder is a pediatric neurosurgeon, his focus was on hydrocephalus. Lots of, I don’t know if you know the problem, but basically, it’s another awful medical condition where babies are born with it, they get a tube placed, implanted, and the only thing they know for sure and that their parents know for sure is that tube is going to fail over time. It could be a year, it could be seven years. He was thinking about fixing that, but then they get infections, so they go on these temporary drains. Post-tumor surgeries, oftentimes patients end up with these, traumatic brain injury, as you mentioned, all kinds of reasons.
Serafina: So, is this a device that you wear consistently?
Tom: It is used temporarily in critical care, patients in critical care wards.
Serafina: The market you’re looking at is the hospital market?
Tom: Yes. In fact, it’s kind of interesting and not easily addressed because you get the neurosurgeon on board, but they don’t handle the patients. So, once they place the tube, somebody else is dealing with the patient in critical care usually 7-10 days.
Serafina: How has the reception been so far? I know you guys recently got your 510(k) clearance from the FDA, congrats on that. So, what’s the next steps look like for you?
Tom: Well, it’s been very exciting, right? So, what we’re finding, and it kind of goes back to who you sell to, but the nursing staffs love what we do because it really takes a lot of pressure of them. So, that’s been a really, really warm reception. We’ve had several patients, because we’re doing a clinical study right now even though we’re cleared, but we’re being very careful about how we go after these patients. The nursing staff, of all of the groups that we’re interested, they’re very interested.
Serafina: Sure, they’re ecstatic. To not have to monitor, actively, a patient.
Tom: True story, just Tuesday this week I had a procedure on my back and at the exit the nurse that was signing me out asked what I was doing. I told him, and he goes, ‘You know, I used to work in neurocritical care,’ and he goes, ‘I almost killed the last patient. That’s when I quit. It was on a drain and I forgot to turn the stopcock.’ And he repeated it twice, he goes, ‘Keep going.’
Serafina: What has the cost been like associated with this kind of technology? You said it’s been around for thirty—fifty years?
Tom: Fifty years. They’re inexpensive devices because what’s currently being sold is just plastic tubes and manometers.
Serafina: The cost of air, however, can be tremendous.
Tom: Yes. Nobody catalogs that. We hear this when we’re out in the field all the time, ‘If we’d had your product three months ago, that patient wouldn’t be an organ donor today.’ Nobody really catalogues how much that costs.
Serafina: Interesting. So, who are the other players in the market right now that produce this current technology?
Tom: The current technology that’s out there is largely dominated by Integra LifeSciences, Medtronic, and there’s a new entrant that wants to get in the market that’s Stryker.
Serafina: So, three major players that basically monopolize this market. Are you looking to, perhaps, be acquired by one of these companies?
Tom: Yes. As kind of a CEO, that’s my job. Our job as a team is to make the company attractive to them.
Serafina: What year are you guys thinking about commercializing this product if everything goes as planned?
Tom: This year we will be doing a certain amount of commercialization. As a small company I don’t intend, or we don’t intend to really grow a sales team. We want to find a partner to do that.
Serafina: And to adopt and take off.
Tom: We’ll do some early work into the market making sure that we understand the selling process, make sure that we’re delivering the product that the customer wants.
Serafina: Awesome. Well, this has been hugely educational. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Tom: It’s my pleasure, thank you.
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