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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Smart clothing for babies helps navigate stresses and anxieties of early parenthood.

Three years ago, Goldilocks founder Shem Richards was blessed with a daughter. At the hospital, his daughter was perfect and they had all the support that they needed. Then they brought her home and she started crying.

“In our sleep deprived and stressed mindset, we forgot all that information that we knew cerebrally. We constantly questioned ourselves: Is she hungry? Is she too hot or cold? Is she tired?” says Shem.

As a medical device engineer, Shem has deep expertise in ICU and NICU machines that give doctors insights into patients who are not able to communicate with them.

“I set about coming up with a solution for parents that is easy to use, and that answers the simple questions they so often have.”

This led Shem to found Goldilocks – smart clothes for babies to help parents navigate the stresses and anxieties of early parenthood.

In addition to hunger, body temperature and sleep needs, Goldilocks also tracks the behaviours or skills seen in infants and children as they grow and develop – also known as development milestones – inspired by Shem’s cousin who had cerebral palsy.

Shem’s cousin was not able to sit alone without support by the age of one. His mother did not know this was a concern because he was her first child – a mother with older children noticed and raised this. Fortunately, cerebral palsy was detected young enough to provide effective early intervention, but this is not always the case.

“We are driven to develop a product that will help parents become experts in recognising what is not ‘normal’. This way we can help children around the world to have the best possible start to their life,” says Shem.

Shem says that there have been so many challenges in creating Goldilocks that it is hard to choose just one.

“Maybe this is because you need so many expert opinions in product development including hardware, software, firmware, machine learning, doctors, regulatory, legal and more. It is hard to build a superstar team with the small amount of capital you have.”

To help overcome this challenge, Shem says that it is important to build a vision that is compelling to others.

“Sometimes that is the only thing you can offer when you are looking to build employees, investors and partners.”

Goldilocks joined the MedTech Actuator in 2019 to access experts who could help him to navigate the product development landscape – and the capital with which to do so.

The 15-month, industry-led, venture-backed program aggressively funds and accelerates medical, health and biological technology startups, working alongside venture partner Artesian to support startups on their journey.

Goldilocks has achieved impressive milestones in the program including building the team; developing and testing their version 2 prototype; and developing their version 3 prototype.

“We have also built a network of partners through access to amazing experts in so many fields. Money can’t buy you this access and networking.”

Goldilocks has launched their equity crowdfunding campaign on Birchal – supporters will own a share of Goldilocks Suit Pty Ltd. More at www.goldilockssuit.com.

To stay up-to-date on the latest news from MedTech Actuator startups, subscribe to our newsletter at www.medtechactuator.com and connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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