Eddie McDaid shares the story of Galenband, a new medtech spin-out from NUI Galway seeking seed investment for its wrist-worn heart monitoring device.
Biomedical engineer Oisín McGrath was driven to come up with a new device for heart rhythm monitoring thanks to his own experience with intermittent atrial fibrillation, or AFib.
AFib can increase the risk of stroke by up to five times, but research shows that many cases go undiagnosed. In McGrath’s case, he repeatedly used a Holter monitor as a sort of portable electrocardiogram (ECG) over a 13-year period. However, this monitoring system failed to capture his intermittent symptoms.
In his biomedical engineering studies at NUI Galway, McGrath focused on cardiology so he could investigate and develop alternative and improved ways to monitor heart activity. He set out to find a long-term, continuous and convenient solution to the problem he had identified.
This research project was awarded €500,000 from Enterprise Ireland, and it was then that McGrath joined forces with software entrepreneur Eddie McDaid and electronic engineer Patrick Conway to co-found Galenband in 2020.
‘Galenband’s mission is to enable a step-change reduction in the incidence of stroke’
– EDDIE MCDAID
The team claims that the wrist-worn Galenband heart monitor is so reliable that it can detect so-called ‘silent AFib’, a rhythm irregularity that is asymptomatic and difficult to detect. Catching this silent condition early could vastly reduce the risk of stroke.
“Galenband’s mission is to enable a step-change reduction in the incidence of stroke by reliably detecting silent AFib so that patients can be treated before, rather than after, stroke occurs,” explained McDaid. “Early detection has huge benefits – not only for patients, but also for healthcare systems, which spend 2pc of their budgets dealing with stroke and its aftermath.”
McDaid leads Galenband as CEO alongside McGrath as COO. His background is in the internet of things and analytics software.
“The AFib monitoring devices market represents a €1bn opportunity, and it is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 15.6pc,” he told Siliconrepublic.com.
Within this broad market opportunity, Galenband is specifically targeting the detection of silent AFib. These patients, said McDaid, are underserved by current solutions such as the 24-hour ECG Holter monitor. “These cumbersome Walkman-sized devices connect wired electrodes adhesively to the patient’s chest yielding just a 1pc chance of detecting silent AFib,” he said.
He doesn’t find other wearable solutions much better, either. “Mobile ECG devices (like patches and smart watches with ECG) are power-hungry and cannot operate while wet. They cannot offer the 90 days of continuous heart rhythm data experts say is needed to reliably detect silent AFib.”
These are the issues Galenband sets out to address with its patent-pending, Class II medical device and AI platform. Together, they record an ECG-like waveform and are capable of continuously monitoring a patient for a 90-day period.
By comparison, McDaid claims 24-hour ECG monitoring offers silent AFib patients around a 1pc detection rate, while Galenband boosts this to as much as 85pc.
The company has produced its first prototypes and has been recording data from people for six months. An initial clinical trial in a hospital setting is scheduled to be completed by April this year.
“Like most start-ups, one of the biggest challenges Galenband faced was assembling a really great team from the outset,” said McDaid. “We’ve been very fortunate to be able to bring together an amazingly talented group who has crafted a truly unique product offering, which promises to transform silent AFib detection.”
The connections that come from being based in NUI Galway, amid a thriving medtech scene, were no doubt useful here. McDaid said the company has also benefited from support from Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland, the Western Development Commission and the Halo Business Angel Network.
At the close of 2020, McDaid was given the opportunity to present Galenband to an audience of Ireland’s research and business communities at the Enterprise Ireland Big Ideas showcase. Not only did he emerge victorious with a One to Watch Award, but Galenband also took the Viewers’ Choice Award at the virtual event.
For its next steps in this new year, the company is looking for the right partners to join them on their mission.
“The team is seeking a seed investment round of €3.5m, which will see the completion a second clinical trial in the US as well as attainment of regulatory approval in preparation for market launch in 2023,” revealed McDaid.
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