Bay Area native Kate Garret has always enjoyed a fast-paced, challenging and innovative environment – the very definition of a healthcare setting. And that’s one of the reasons she has focused her energies on solving unmet clinical needs as co-founder and CEO of the startup Ciel Medical, a company dedicated to treating ventilator-associated pneumonia.
When pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, she left California for Olin College, a progressive undergraduate institution based in Boston, where she was one of the first graduates of a program that is now renowned for creating engineering-innovators.
Thanks to the program’s unique approach to teaching engineering, Kate was exposed to a program focused on developing a “whole engineer,” emphasizing the importance of strong communication and collaboration, working well with teams across cultures, and gaining an understanding of fields outside of engineering, such as finance.
Gaining a passion for medtech and startups
Kate discovered her passion for medical technology the summer after her sophomore year, when she joined Living MicroSystems, a genetic amniocentesis startup focused on developing a non-invasive method to obtain fetal cells for genetic diagnosis. She felt a personal pull to the issue because at the time, two of her aunts were over 40 and pregnant, and their experiences made it clear the impact that new technology can have on people’s lives. That’s when she decided she wanted to focus the rest of her career in this field, appreciating that it would not only present interesting challenges but provide an opportunity to make a real difference for patients and their families.
Following graduation from college, she moved to Kirkland, Wash., and joined Pathway Medical Technologies, a startup later acquired by Bayer Healthcare that developed, manufactured and marketed medical devices to treat arterial disease. She started as an R&D engineer and transitioned to project management as the company quickly grew from 30 employees to a team of 180 people.
While she enjoyed the challenges of being an engineer, she wanted to learn more about various aspects of the business, such as how critical decisions are made and how to set the direction of a company. This quest led her to apply and earn acceptance into the Stanford Biodesign program as an Innovation Fellow. There she learned about the very early stages of creating a company, including how to identify an unmet clinical need and determine the best path for solving the problem.
Launching her own startup
That program was the launch pad for Ciel Medical, her team’s project during the fellowship, which revolved around identifying ventilator-associated pneumonia as a major unmet clinical need and subsequently forming the startup to develop a solution to create an aspiration barrier for ventilated patients.
Today, the startup has developed three products, which are commercially available in the U.S. They are currently in the very early stages of selling these products — developing first accounts and establishing a commercial presence.
The company recently achieved a significant milestone on their first two products, with almost 50 devices in use at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago.
With their third product, the NEMO Gauge, the team aims to develop a faster way to position the breathing tube in the airway as a supplement or alternative to portable chest X-rays, the current standard for confirming tube location. Because this is a novel technology, the startup quickly moved to gather clinical evidence to support the use of this device and is currently engaged in a multi-center trial in Southern California.
Thanks to the knowledge and insight Kate gained over the years, Ciel Medical was acquired on April 20 by Vyaire Medical, the healthcare industry’s largest pure-play “breathing” company. The acquisition will help strengthen Vyaire’s strategy to offer products that can help reduce the incidence of Ventilator Acquired Pneumonia for ventilated patients and reduce overall costs of care while improving patient’s outcomes.
Joining the Institute’s Ferolyn Fellowship
Becoming a Ferolyn Fellow was a natural progression for Kate in her journey to learn ever more about device development. She was introduced to the Fellowship by Paul Yock, the founder and director of Stanford Biodesign.
Kate had learned of Ferolyn’s dedication and her work while at Stanford. “It is such an honor to be affiliated with a program in her name as she made such a difference and impact on people’s lives,” Kate said.
So far, she has found the program beneficial in helping her better think through the commercial strategy for their products as the startup moves to its next phase.
In addition, she appreciates the unparalleled access she has to experts in the industry, “These are really busy individuals, and it is incredibly valuable to be able to personally learn from them.”
Kate’s personal mentor is Angela Macfarlane, president and CEO of ForSight Labs, and she has also been working closely with Claudia Carasso on communications and branding, which has provided a definite boost in shaping their message to targeted audiences.
Another aspect that Kate has thoroughly enjoyed is the close relationship she has developed with the two other Fellows, Matt McLean and Julia Fox.