Human-centred design for medical devices
Galway medtech Tympany Medical is drumming up interest for its innovative endoscope design.
The endoscope, a long thin tube used to look inside the body, is a piece of medical technology that dates back to the mid-19th century. When coupled with video technology in the ’80s, endoscopy levelled up to give physicians a good look inside their patients without the need for invasive surgery.
Today, there is still room for innovation in endoscopy. Galway start-up Tympany Medical, for example, develops cutting-edge endoscope products for ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeries.
“We are targeting the ENT endoscopic surgery market with an initial focus on endoscopic ear surgery,” said CEO and co-founder Dr Liz McGloughlin.
“Our first device will allow patients with hearing loss requiring surgery to have minimally invasive surgery to improve their hearing.”
McGloughlin describes Tympany Medical as “innovating at the intersection of mechanics, optics, electronics miniaturisation and human-centred design”.
“We collaborate closely with clinicians to develop our technology in a user-focused manner,” she said.
“The shift in endoscope technology to using CMOS ‘chip-on-tip’ for single-use endoscopes is at the heart of our innovation.”
The chips she is referring to are ultra-compact imaging sensors that can be placed directly on the distal tip of an endoscope. As technology advances and these chips get ever smaller, the less invasive medical imaging can be.
“Tympany Medical has ambitious plans to be a market leader in endoscopy for ENT,” said McGloughlin. “Additionally, we are building our pipeline of product and services to deliver sustainable, sterile endoscopes which enable minimally invasive ENT surgeries and limit the impact on the environment.”
‘When Covid-19 hit, we had no money and I was pregnant’
– LIZ MCGLOUGHLIN
McGloughlin trained as a doctor in University College Dublin and also has an MSc in bio-innovation. She has experience working in anaesthesia and critical care and also completed a BioInnovate fellowship in 2016. This is an immersive programme supporting multidisciplinary fellows to address unmet needs in hospital settings.
She then went on to found Tympany Medical in 2018 with Rory O’Callaghan, the company’s CTO.
Where McGloughlin brings the medical expertise, O’Callaghan brings the design talent. He studied design in Ireland, Germany and Sweden before he signed up for the BioInnovate fellowship with NUI Galway.
Tympany Medical is not O’Callaghan’s first turn at entrepreneurship. The award-winning designer also founded Real Motives Design in 2014, through which he worked with multinational medical device manufacturer Cook Medical. In this work, he has developed many patents and even won a Red Dot design award for a rotary endoscopy needle.
So, McGloughlin and O’Callaghan had a start-up, now they needed investment. Early-stage funding was raised through various grants, but a few surprises on the way made securing further investment an even greater challenge.
“When Covid-19 hit, we had essentially no money and I was pregnant with my second baby,” said McGloughlin. “We had hoped to secure investment prior to the impending arrival, but then Covid hit, so we had to figure out an alternative route to private investment in that period.”
But Tympany was successful in drumming up further support. In 2020, further product development was enabled with backing from the EU-funded EIT Health initiative. This was followed by a €3.5m seed investment led by Atlantic Bridge in 2021.
This investment enabled McGloughlin to expand her team “significantly”, dipping into the well of life sciences talent on Ireland’s west coast.
“Galway is at the epicentre of the medical device ecosystem in Ireland,” she said. “We are extremely lucky to have a host of neighbouring companies that are going through lots of the same issues as ourselves. This makes the current scramble for talent a bit more challenging but the experience that is coming from the local multinationals is invaluable.”
‘Tympany Medical aims to bridge the gap between the need for single-use scopes and the overall impact on the environment’
– LIZ MCGLOUGHLIN
Next on the roadmap is another investment round earmarked for mid to late 2023. But first comes compliance.
“Our focus of 2022 is the regulatory certification through the FDA of our first endoscope and undertaking further R&D on our platform technology,” said McGloughlin.
McGloughlin also aims develop next-generation technology that will help Tympany Medical transition from the linear to the circular economy.
“Single-use endoscopy has gained significant traction in the market over the last number of years in medtech. This is resulting in increasing volumes of waste being generated,” she explained.
“Tympany Medical is aiming to bridge the gap between the need for sterile, single-use scopes and the overall impact on the environment. Our team are passionate about providing a solution for this ever-growing problem in the single-use market.”
Judging by the hurdles this team has already overcome in recent years, one would expect them to be up to the challenge. “We navigated some rocky territory during the pandemic in which we were remotely developing our device with feedback from clinicians in the Netherlands on Zoom!” McGloughlin recalled.
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