Eric Johnson, co-founder of Radial Medical, a startup that is aiming to treat venous ulcers.
Forty percent of adults suffer from some degree of venous insufficiency, or inadequate flow of blood through the veins, which, if left untreated, can lead to varicose veins or worse, severe venous ulcers. Radial Medical, one of the newer Fogarty Institute startups, is addressing this condition by developing a comfortable, easy-to-use smart compression therapy system. The treatment will initially target venous ulcers, which affect approximately three percent of the population over the age of 65, a total of 1.5 million cases a year, making it a $3 billion market.
The system delivers precise compression therapy, tailored to each patient. It monitors in real-time, allowing for adjustment as needed with the assistance of a physician. This is a revolutionary approach in a space where until today, venous ulcers have been primarily treated by wraps and compression stockings, which are uncomfortable and difficult to put on. In fact, up to 70 percent of patients don’t wear them, even if prescribed.
Flexing for success
The device acts like the calf is flexing, which improves circulation back to the heart and helps heal the ulcers. Radial’s therapy can be used in the comfort of one’s home for two hours a day for approximately a month. Patients are reminded to use the therapy by text, and progress is monitored by the physicians.
Data supports that wearing this active compression for two hours a day drastically reduces the time to reduce ulcers, reduces time-consuming visits to wound care clinics and lowers costs and pain. Comparative data shows that with current therapies, half of ulcers were unhealed at four months.
The system is the brainchild of co-founders Dr. James Wall, Stanford surgeon and Stanford Biodesign assistant director; and Eric Johnson, a serial entrepreneur who most recently founded Crux Biomedical, which was acquired by Volcano Corporation.
Targeting an underserved market
The idea behind the device came to James and Eric as they surveyed greatly underserved conditions, noting ones where other companies had tried to solve the technical, clinical and regulatory challenges unsuccessfully, but where the market remained viable. Their goal was to learn from previous experiences, and then add in current technical advances in non-medical fields, such as materials science, AI and sensors, to improve efficacy.
In true Silicon Valley fashion, the team worked out of Eric’s garage for the first year until they secured seed funding in November 2016 and were accepted as a company-in-residence in May 2017 by the Fogarty Institute, where they are now based.
“I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Fogarty in the past and it is a true honor to be part of his vision of advancing medical technology and helping patients,” said Eric. “The Institute is the ideal startup ecosystem as it brings together physicians, a diverse group of entrepreneurs, and veteran medical device mentors just a few steps away from each other, which allows us all to seek one another’s expertise. The setting fosters creativity, while also providing the lab and materials that would otherwise be difficult to procure as an early-stage startup.”
Radial is currently developing and testing its compression technology in anticipation for regulatory submission in 2017 and planning for clinical studies and market launches in 2018.