Wearable bionic ear to offer accessible hearing transformation.

Australian startup Augmented Bionics has secured $650,000 in a round led by UK-based VC fund IP Group and included MedTech Actuator™ VC partner Artesian.

This new support will help to advance their non-invasive bionic ear for people with severe to profound hearing loss.

Every year nearly 1.5 million adults worldwide are diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss – the vast majority of whom receive no hearing help or only have access to technology that does not meet their needs. But Augmented Bionics is working to make it possible for individuals around the world to access non-surgical, safer, more affordable, and easy to use hearing support.

Fitted by a hearing audiologist, the non-invasive bionic ear is worn just like headphones and aims to activate the auditory nerve through magnetic waves from outside the body. This makes it possible for individuals with profound to severe hearing loss to hear and comprehend speech, and to hear sounds from their environment. This is currently only possible through costly surgical alternatives that just a handful of the world’s population with severe to profound hearing loss can access and afford.

Augmented Bionics CEO, Viraj Agnihotri’s first elevator pitch for the technology took place back in 2016, quite literally, in an elevator.

“After speaking to all the hearing clinics across Brisbane, I knew there was a big need for a non-surgical alternative. But I needed 3D models of the human head and simulation and computation software to design the device,” recalls Viraj.

“I didn’t have access to that or know how to use them, so I started hustling for someone in the engineering faculty to help me out and was recommended to a professor. He was a very busy person, and I literally found him in an elevator: we were on level one, I had until level six to convince him.”

The chance encounter connected Viraj with valuable new contacts and resources that would help bring his innovation closer to reality.

Since then, Viraj has established a strong team to advance the technology. Viraj has a background in mechatronics engineering, bioengineering, business, and innovation. His cofounders include Mahanthesh Chandra, an electrical engineer, and Nicholas Jabbour, a biomedical scientist.

The team joined the MedTech Actuator™ in 2018, a 15-month, industry-led, venture-backed program that aggressively funds and accelerates medical, health and biological technology startups alongside venture partner Artesian.

Since joining the MedTech Actuator™ the team have demonstrated their prototype’s effectiveness, received ethical clearance for human research to commence proof-of-concept testing with commercially available magnetic stimulation devices, and secured $650,000 in a round led by IP Group to continue advancing their technology.

“The MedTech Actuator’s support on all aspects of medical device commercialisation and access to investors through pitches have been very beneficial,” says Viraj.

“I would recommend the MedTech Actuator to every MedTech, HealthTech and BioTech entrepreneur that I come across.”

To learn more about Augmented Bionics and follow their journey go to www.augmentedbionics.com.

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First-in-human trial of new MedTech to support critically ill newborns.

MedTech Actuator startup Navi Medical Technologies passed a major milestone recently when the clinical prototype of the Neonav ECG Tip Location System was used on patients for the first time.

The Neonav is being developed to deliver life-saving drugs and nutrients to critically ill newborns. The commencement of the ‘feasibility’ phase of the observational study will see the Neonav clinical prototype be used to record intravascular ECG data from 50 patients undergoing umbilical venous catheter procedures.

The prototype has already shown some promising early results and is expected to detect some potential line migration which will contribute to patient safety.

“This is such an exciting milestone for our whole team because it’s the first time a device we have designed and built is being used on real patients,” says Mubin Yousef, Navi Founder & Chief Technology Officer.

“We are already starting to see a great interest from our colleagues in the device and we just initiated the next stage of our study. Everybody can see the positive impact this device will have and that’s a great feeling,” adds A/Prof Christiane Theda, Navi Founder & Chief Medical Officer.

Find out more about Navi and follow their journey at www.navitechnologies.com.

Preventing heart attacks with MedTech innovation.

Australian startup Nirtek is developing a medical technology that will help prevent heart attacks, the leading cause of death worldwide.

Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of the arteries due to the build-up of fatty deposits called plaques. This is the most common cause of heart disease. If a coronary plaque is unstable, it can rupture and cause occlusion of the artery, resulting in a heart attack and too often, death. To date though, there has been no reliable way to detect which atherosclerotic plaque is unstable and in need of immediate treatment.

Leading interventional cardiologist and Deputy Director of the Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute, Professor Karlheinz Peter and his colleagues wanted to solve this deadly problem and began researching a new and reliable way to detect unstable plaques.

The research led to the development of Nirtek’s patented technology, known as Near InfraRed Auto Fluorescence (NIRAF). NIRAF detects unstable coronary plaques so that cardiologists can intervene and treat them before they lead to heart attacks.

“This technology was developed in direct response to a critical unmet need in the global healthcare market,” says Matthew Hoskin, Nirtek Director and CEO.

“There is no more compelling clinical need than to identify coronary artery disease that is vulnerable to plaque rupture, thrombosis and occlusion of a coronary artery” says Matthew.

“Heart attack caused by unstable plaques is the number one killer in Australia and the world. Giving cardiologists a tool to quickly identify which plaques and which patients are at high risk will allow them to intervene and treat.”

Matthew says that the technology itself has been a challenge, but one the team has risen to with determination and dedication.

“Cardiologists, scientists, optical physicists, and biomedical engineers across several leading Melbourne hospitals, research institutes and universities, have contributed to the development of an incredible device that will provide cardiologists with critical information about plaque stability” says Matthew.

“Importantly, the device does this within the existing workflows of the cardiac catheterisation laboratory.”

With a device in development that has the potential for such significant clinical impact, the team is eager to complete and where possible, accelerate the process of development, manufacturing, trial, regulatory approval, and commercialisation of this lifesaving technology.

“That is what drives us, getting the product through all the stages necessary to launch it into the clinic where it can start benefiting patients,” says Matthew.

Nirtek joined the MedTech Actuator in 2019 as an opportunity to be surrounded with people who spend all day, every day working on MedTech startups.

“That includes the MedTech Actuator staff themselves who have deep knowledge of what helps a startup to succeed, and what traps and pitfalls can be avoided,” says Matthew.

“But it’s also the many other startups with passionate and knowledgeable founders, all of whom become part of your network through the MedTech Actuator. That instant plug-in to knowledge is like expanding your own team far more rapidly than would normally be possible.”

During their time with the MedTech Actuator, Nirtek developed a business plan for product development and commercialisation, designed and built the first product prototype, progressed the patent application, and created the company entity itself, Nirtek Pty Ltd. This was supported by access to experts with specific skills and experience in establishing startups and getting them investment-ready.

“There are so many areas of strategy and planning that need to be taken into account when forming and launching a MedTech company. The MedTech Actuator is a valuable source of advice and guidance along the way,” says Matthew.

“It’s a chance to refine but also stress-test your plans as you put your business together.”

Find out more about Nirtek and follow their journey at www.nirtek.com.au.

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