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.