In 2018 Suzanne Moloney was accepted onto the BioExcel medtech accelerator at NUI Galway. To the outside world this might not seem like a big deal, but for Moloney it was the breakthrough that fast-tracked the development of her innovative wound dressing system from an idea into a fledgling business about to launch its first product.
Moloney is a former chef who set up Hidramed Solutions in April 2016 to design user-friendly dressings aimed at those dealing with chronic wounds. Specifically, she wanted to help people living with the debilitating skin condition Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). HS affects about 1 per cent of the population, including Moloney herself, and inadequate dressings are a major source of frustration for sufferers.
“HS causes lesions of the skin, particularly in the armpit, thigh and groin, that require regular dressing, but current solutions are not fit for purpose as they leak, move and fall off. On top of this the constant application and removal of adhesive-backed dressings further damages the already extremely painful skin causing high levels of patient distress,” Moloney says.
“HS wound care has a big impact on a patient’s life as the routine is painful, stressful and difficult to manage,” she adds. “HS patients miss on average three days a month from work and have a higher risk of developing anxiety, depression and becoming isolated. Our product enables patients to change a dressing quickly and easily – in less than 30 seconds – and, most importantly, without any adhesive skin contact. It is also secure so patients no longer have to worry about leaks or lost dressings.”
The product is patent pending, so Moloney is keeping the detail under wraps for now. She is fully aware that a patent can’t guarantee her product won’t attract copycats, but she plans on making the most of her first-mover advantage and is open to the possibility of co-operation rather than conflict with existing manufacturers.
The dressings will sell under the HidraWear AX brand and will be priced at similar points to existing products on the market
Moloney says participating in the accelerator, coupled with the support she received from the Health Innovation Hub at UCC, was a game-changer for her company. “I ran my own business but in a different area, so the programme brought me up to speed about the medical devices market, about managing the financial elements of the project and about the clinical, regulatory, legal and IP pathways that lay ahead,” she says. “Conan Cavanagh recently joined me as COO and we are pushing hard to get our first product to market. We are producing a class 1 medical device which carries the lowest regulatory burden, so we can move quite quickly.”
Hidramed’s first dressing, (for the armpit), will be launched in Q3 of 2019, with a suite of other products to follow which will extend the company’s reach beyond HS. The dressings will sell under the HidraWear AX brand and will be priced at similar points to existing products on the market. Standard dressings will cost about €1 each, with more advanced dressings costing about €2.50. The company is currently in discussion with potential manufacturers.
Between grant aid from BioExcel and Enterprise Ireland and cash prizes from several competitions, Hidramed has been working with a development budget of around €150,000. The company is now looking to raise around €1m to make key hires, launch its first product and accelerate the development of the rest of its pipeline.
The company will sell to healthcare providers and directly to the public, which is a route not usually travelled by medical device companies. However, Moloney is determined that people should be able to get the dressings without a prescription or visiting a wound clinic, as “most patients are spending out of pocket already”, she says. “We believe our product has the potential to become the dressing of choice for the many people with adhesive sensitivity and has the potential to greatly disrupt the generic wound pad and dressings market.”