“We believe the best therapies should be accessible to the people who need them,” says Healyx co-founder Madeline Sides. “We’ve realized there is a problem with unequal global access to advanced therapies. We wanted to design specifically for these developing countries to enable doctors to heal their patients faster.”
One of these needs is the treatment of severe, non-healing wounds resulting from trauma, diabetes, burns and surgery, which are on the rise due to an aging population and a rapid increase in diseases that cause chronic wounds. Experts have labeled acute wounds as a “public health and economic threat,” affecting more than 110 million people worldwide and imposing a significant opportunity cost to stakeholders.
In developing countries, where resources are scarce and there is little to no access to high-quality healthcare, long-term hospital stays can be financially devastating for patients and their families who live on only a few dollars a day. Extended stays also cause a significant burden on already overcrowded hospitals.
Healyx, one of the Fogarty Institute’s newest companies-in-residence, is set to meet this need by developing an innovative, cost-effective solution that improves upon negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), a proven and leading method to treat chronic wounds.
Identifying a need; honing the solution
Healyx was formed in 2015 out of a program at Stanford, Design for Extreme Affordability, a unique social innovation course that pairs teams of graduate students with organizations operating in the developing world to tackle social challenges.
The project-based program provides an environment in which students learn to design products and services that will change the lives of the world’s poorest citizens, working on real-life world problems and culminating in solutions that can be implemented to provide real change.
Healyx partnered with ReSurge International, a Sunnyvale-based nonprofit that provides people in developing countries with access to life-changing reconstructive surgical care that is safe, timely and affordable. The organization trains the next generation of reconstructive surgeons in Africa, Asia and Latin America; works with them to create a sustainable business model; and together, they provide high-quality reconstructive surgical care to people living in poverty and in remote areas.
The group first went to Bangladesh as part of a class project to work with research plastic surgeons to identify areas where better solutions were needed, and the treatment of chronic wounds emerged as a priority.
After identifying the need, Healyx next worked on discovering how to innovate and redesign a proven technology to make this therapy more cost-effective and accessible to meet the realities of low-resource settings.
Following its first prototype at the end of the program, the Healyx team secured grant funding totaling $200,000 to continue its market research in Bangladesh and Nepal. The next step was to define its price point and seek feedback from patients, clinicians, plastic surgeons and hospital procurement officers to improve the design of the device.
Advancing the therapy through the resources of the Fogarty Institute
Healyx reached three key milestones before applying to be part of the Fogarty Institute’s incubator program: low-volume manufacturing of 15 functional prototypes; a run usability validation study in Bangladesh with feedback on the design and usability from 37 local physicians; and a business plan on how to implement in India, their target market, in the private hospital infrastructure.
Their desire to join the Fogarty Institute stemmed from a need to move from an academic setting to one where they could learn the practical elements of how to build a medtech company. Healyx was also keen on becoming part of an entrepreneurial community where they could learn and grow.
“The first two months have been incredible,” said Healyx’s Cam Hutton. “The mentorship and education that comes from being with others who ask thoughtful questions and help connect us with the right people has been invaluable. Given our youth, it’s imperative to be surrounded by seasoned experts.”
An entrepreneurial team focused on its mission
Cam was the first Healyx member to join the company full time, as CEO. Cam earned an undergraduate and graduate degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford and had experience in medtech in both the academic world and working as an intern for J&J Development Corporation. He developed an early interest in how to apply his background to benefit the industry and make an impact on patients.
Madeline Sides also joined the team full time as head of product, leading the technology. Madeline studied bioengineering as a Stanford undergraduate and will receive her master’s in mechanical engineering in June. She is also a teacher at the Stanford Product Realization Lab, where she brings extensive experience in manufacturing and machining.
Other co-founders include Tiffany Kung and Cassie Ludwig, two medical students with strong clinical backgrounds; and Matias Rivera, a Stanford MBA graduate and current part-time advisor who brings substantial expertise in starting companies and raising grant money, having launched four startups in Chile.
Looking to the future
Major upcoming milestones for Healyx include running a clinical trial in the first quarter of 2018 with a goal of receiving an FDA 510(k) prior to commercialization. They are currently raising $1 million in seed funding to achieve those targets.
Healyx will initially bring its technology to India where it sees an untapped market with more than 20 million potential users and where the team has established solid on-the-ground partnerships. After proving its ability to commercialize and scale, Healyx will seek to expand into more developed markets to generate alternative sources to its impact-driven revenue.