Hidramed applies a sensitive touch to dressing wounds

29 Apr 2019

Conan Cavanagh and Suzanne Moloney. Image: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

Our Start-up of the Week is medtech player Hidramed Solutions, which has developed a system for dressing wounds.

“Hidramed Solutions has developed an intuitive and easy-to-use wound dressing system for people living with chronic wounds, in particular people living with a debilitating skin disease called hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), which affects 1pc of the general population but is regularly misdiagnosed,” explained Hidramed Solutions’ founder and CEO, Suzanne Moloney.

“HS is an embarrassing disease to live with, so people often delay seeking help and, unfortunately, there is little clinical knowledge around the disease, so at the moment there is no cure. HS causes lesions of the skin – particularly in the armpit, thigh and groin – which require regular wound dressings.”

‘We want to make a positive impact on the lives of people living with HS and other chronic wounds’

Moloney said that current dressing options are not fit for purpose as they often leak, move or even fall off. She added that patients have to conduct regular dressing changes, often in work or when out socialising. They miss on average three days a month from work and can also develop anxiety or become isolated.

“Our product enables patients to change a dressing quickly and easily and, most importantly, without any adhesive skin contact. It provides secure dressing retention so patients will no longer have to worry about leaks or lost dressings. It is designed to provide comfort and security to patients, enabling them to live a more active and productive life.”

The market

Hidramed’s primary research and literature reviews showed a serious lack of suitable HS wound dressings and/or a lack of understanding of the impact of HS lesions to the patient.

“Although our product can be used in other areas of wound care, we aim to serve the HS market with the first product. We will conduct a soft launch in Q3 2019 in Ireland and UK, expanding internationally in 2020, targeting Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia and New Zealand though online sales.

“The company is pursuing a dual-channel strategy, with value identified in both B2C and B2B channels,” Moloney said.

The founder

“I am a HS patient myself and had struggled with dressings since my early twenties,” said Moloney, who originally worked as a chef in some of Dublin’s finest kitchens before opening her own bakery, CocoaMoiselle. She has since closed the bakery to focus full-time on Hidramed.

“After some initial research, it became clear that I was not alone in my frustrations with wound care options. I saw a huge gap in the market for a HS specific wound dressing that meets patients’ needs. I had an idea for a solution and began to work on developing it into a reality.

“2018 was a big turning point for me when I was accepted into BioExel, Ireland’s first medtech accelerator, based at NUIG.”

Other members of the team include Conan Cavanagh, who previously was a director of engineering for a multinational in Australia and New Zealand; Emily McLucas, who is a medical device professional with expertise in R&D; Barry McGrath, who has worked in scientific and medical research; medical device engineer Damien Long; and digital marketing professional Ciara Geraghty.

The technology

Moloney explained that current dressing options are just standard, generic wound pads/dressings for use on any kind of wound. “They can restrict the user’s range of motion, and are not designed to fit areas of the body such as an armpit or a groin. They are ineffective in terms of retention as a lot of dressings will move throughout the day and leak or fall off.

“Hidramed Solutions has developed and patented a wound dressing kit that dramatically improves the wound care management for HS and chronic wound patients. Our dressing solution, HidraWear, is designed to conform with the curves and folds of the body. It allows a full range of movement and is securely retained in place without the use of adhesives on the skin. It really is a game-changer for people with chronic wounds.

“We want to make a positive impact on the lives of people living with HS and other chronic wounds. We will be the first to market with a HS-specific wound dressing to reach the underserved and overlooked areas of wound care. We have a planned pipeline of products, some for use in HS and some for use in other chronic wound areas.”

She said that the plan is to develop strategic partnerships to access deeper distribution channels and infiltrate healthcare systems through reimbursement. The first product will launch in Q3 of this year.

Accelerate into the future

In the beginning, Moloney struggled to find who to even talk to about her idea.

“But [I] finally got some momentum going in 2018 when I joined BioExel. I have no medical background, so learning about the regulations around med devices and clinical studies was full-on and very intense. I have a fantastic and highly skilled team around me now and we are making great progress. I am so grateful to them for joining the company and believing in my vision for Hidramed.”

She believes there has never been a better time to be in a start-up. “There is so much support and help out there if you know where to look and who to ask. I am blown away by the level of support I have received from our Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland, BioExel, the Health Innovation Hub, EIT Health, InterTradeIreland, Cork County Council (Bridge to Mass), WestBIC and DBIC.

“Since 2018, HidraMed secured almost €200,000 through grants and enterprise competitions, which contributed massively to the progress we have made.”

Her advice to fellow founders is to keep going. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask what you think are silly questions. Be willing to learn and take advice from experienced entrepreneurs. If you have to change something, do it and adjust your course accordingly. Nothing ever goes 100pc to plan so don’t be disheartened – stick with it.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years