Oct 06, 2022

MedTech Actuator Origin Alumni: Vause Medical

MedTech Actuator Origin Alumni: Vause Medical

Vause Medical is making lumbar punctures more accurate and accessible in newborns. Using machine learning and medical imaging, the team are creating LumVi – a guidance system that will help clinicians choose the best point to insert needles during lumbar punctures, increasing accuracy and efficiency of care. This will allow more children to have access to this crucial procedure and medical care, no matter where they are.

Vause Medical’s Origin story

Mara Quach, Shelby Holland, and Michelle Callow, founders of Vause Medical, came together while undertaking the University of Melbourne’s BioDesign Innovation course in 2021. After talking with clinicians, the team identified the recurrent problem of finding accurate puncture points, prevalent across paediatrics and general medical practices. When a newborn is brought to an emergency room with a fever or seizures, chances are they will need to get a test for meningitis, which includes a lumbar puncture where a long needle is inserted into their back. This critical procedure is not only painful, but also difficult to perform on small children, particularly in rural areas with the added costs of equipment, wages, manual labour, and a need for an extra specialist to perform the imaging. With a device like Lumvi, the team aims to streamline lumbar punctures with medical imaging to identify puncture points, taking the guesswork out of difficulty in meningitis diagnoses.

Motivation to improve healthcare accessibility

Healthcare disparities in the team’s respective home countries impacted them directly and drove them to come together to try and create a solution that removes barriers to accessing healthcare. 

For Shelby Holland, financial barriers to healthcare are the motivator: 

As a US citizen, I don’t have access to health insurance as it’s a huge cost for me. Back in 2019 when I went home to visit my family over Christmas, I didn’t have health insurance. I had to go to the hospital for an anaphylactic reaction and I am still paying off those medical bills. There are countless times in my life when I’ve had to make the decision between using my EpiPen and going to the hospital and incurring the costs after,” Shelby Holland.

For Mara Quach, her personal motivation comes from her experience in Vietnam where healthcare resources are limited. 

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in hospitals as my mother was really sick. The question to me was how do you distribute a limited amount of resources to 90 million citizens in a country? Experiencing illness and seeing cancer patients not getting access to treatments motivated me to try to make healthcare accessible and adequate for all,” Mara Quach.

After spending significant time working in the pharmaceutical industry, Michelle Callow is inspired to address the biases in healthcare.

I’m very conscious of inequities in health globally. In my current role in the pharmaceutical industry, I see the impact that innovation could have on patient outcomes and equally in remote areas. I am driven by the impact that innovation can have not only on addressing problems in accessing resources but also on the patient and their families,” Michelle Callow.

Their strong support network consisting of the MedTech Actuator, BioDesign Innovation leaders and other startups is driving the team to bring this product to market. 

We want to make our idea work as we want people to live happier, healthier lives and want to make an impact on newborns and their families”.

The MedTech Actuator Origin experience

Before applying to the MedTech Actuator Origin, Vause Medical was undertaking BioDesign Innovation at the University of Melbourne. Having completed the concept designs and early-stage clinical validation, the next step was to develop a prototype and build their network. 

We knew that Origin was a well-respected competition to test out your idea and see what people think about it. So we applied for the program as it ended up being a safe learning environment to validate our theories, pressure test our concept and gain feedback from people that were valuable”, Vause Medical team.

As Vause Medical progressed, they learned innovative ways to design and test the solution to get closer to a prototype and minimum viable product. Other challenges have been finding stakeholders, such as clinicians, to assist with product development and further validation. 

The team utilised the mentoring opportunities in Origin to rework the initial LumVi designs and deepen their connections with the ecosystem. The team also engaged with regulatory consultants, who helped to craft a clear vision of what a LumVi would look like in clinical settings and how this would inform the subsequent regulatory pathway. From here, the team were able to pivot and refine their product strategy and better address a variety of benefits to different stakeholders. 

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel

During ideation, Vause Medical received key advice from mentors early on – don’t try to reinvent the wheel – and this has become their north star. For emerging teams and startups, Vause Medical advises a similar approach; don’t try to change something for the sake of changing something, you must start with a powerful mission statement that addresses a clinical need for a specific user group. 

From an industry perspective, Michelle advises, “Healthcare is a challenging industry to be in because of all the regulations that we have. You should have a real love or connection to what you’re developing and a business or a clinical need”. 

When it comes to taking the first step, Vause Medical recommend reaching out and not being shy when it comes to asking for help from partners, distributors, and manufacturers. There is power in asking for help and you never know where one conversation can lead to.

Mentors and advisors of Vause Medical have been incredible drivers to help progress the team, including: 

  • The BioDesign Innovation lecturers, Prof David Grayden, Prof Kwanghui Lim, and Simon Wilkins, showed the A-Z of identifying a problem that is worth bringing to market. 
  • Yaser Darban, General Manager of Sales Strategy at EnTech Electronics, was their Origin mentor and who inspired them inspiration, shared wisdom and connected the team to other industry partners. 
  • Elise Sutherland, Founder of Stelect, guided them through some of the early-stage unknowns of building a healthcare venture.

Apply for MedTech Actuator Origin 2022

Vause Medical made it to the Semi-finals of MedTech Actuator Origin 2021, helping them to get out of an echo chamber and into the startup ecosystem. The Origin experience connected them with key stakeholders and mentors, enabling them opportunities to stress-test LumVi and dive into their product strategy.

MedTech Actuator Origin is a pre-accelerator for the MedTech Actuator’s Accelerator program. Participants can gain fast-tracked entry into the program and the Winner of Origin receives further mentoring to help address key milestones required for the application. After completing MedTech Actuator Origin, Vause Medical applied and was accepted into the MedTech Actuator Accelerator Cohort 7.

Origin was incredibly beneficial for us, as it gave us that springboard that we needed and the confidence to know that we could progress forward. We are very grateful for the opportunity and are fortunate to join MedTech Actuator Accelerator as the next step. We’re working hard on LumVi, and we’re dedicated to getting it to market”, Michelle Callow.

Whether you’re a researcher, scientist, clinician or student, MedTech Actuator Origin is looking for passionate entrepreneurs to transform healthcare. The winner of MedTech Actuator Origin will receive a $10k cash prize, over $5k worth of in-kind support and gain access to fast-tracked entry into MedTech Actuator Accelerator 2023.

Have questions about the application or program?

Check out the FAQs or reach out to Makenzie, Program and Community Coordinator via email – makenzie@medtechactuator.com – or book a meeting with the team via calendly

MedTech Actuator Origin is supported by LaunchVic and the REDI Initiative, powered by MTPConnect.