Investment helps Grand Rapids startup move medical device to market – MiBiz: West Michigan Business News

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GRAND RAPIDS — A $75,000 investment from an East Lansing-based early-stage investment fund helps move Airway Innovations LLC into the marketplace this spring with a new device to prevent patients from pulling out tracheal tubes.

The funding from Quantum Medical Concepts, formed seven years ago by the Michigan State Medical Society to support medical innovation, is part of a $450,000 growth capital round that Grand Rapids-based Airway Innovations seeks to raise from investors. Quantum Medical Concepts was the first investor in the capital round.

Airway Innovations hopes to launch sales of the TubeTrac airway device to hospitals in May, founder Eric VanMiddendorp said.

The company prepares to launch sales after making a “few small changes” in TubeTrac’s design to reduce skin irritation, prevent pressure ulcers and improve the headgear. The company also recently completed the Conquer Accelerator entrepreneurship program in Grand Rapids, said VanMiddendorp, who first conceived of the TubeTrac as a graduate engineering student at Grand Valley State University.

“It’s a very pivotal time for the company,” he said.

Founded in 2016, Airway Innovations last fall launched TubeTrac to a limited number of pre-selected clinical sites. The company subsequently revised the design based on product feedback from test trials and is now heading toward a full commercial launch early next month, VanMiddendorp said.

Ready to grow

The Quantum Medical Concepts funding enabled Airway Innovations to make the design changes. The company has a few health systems around the U.S. that are waiting to try out the TubeTrac and “many more” that will review the product with their medical staff that may lead to test trials and potentially sales, VanMiddendorp said.

Airway Innovations is presently talking to 10 health systems and “has really close relationships with about five of those,” he said.

“We have a lot of people in the wings. We’re just waiting to get some products and some sample packs ready to start shipping out to interested parties,” VanMiddendorp said.

Contract manufacturer Keystone Solutions Group in Kalamazoo will produce TubeTrac for Airway Innovations, which recently named Daniel Karadsheh as CEO, who has experience in product development, sales and marketing at medical companies. VanMiddendorp took on the role of executive vice president.

Airway Innovations looks to either scale up production or potentially sell the intellectual property, VanMiddendorp said. A sale “would be ideal” after “we get that market validation under our belts over the next six to nine months,” although the company can go forward on its own, he said.

“We are absolutely ready and planning to grow the company as well,” he said. “We are in conversations with interested distributors and parties that we can partner with as we look to scale this.”

Solving problems

Airway Innovations was one of three early-stage companies that Quantum Medical Concepts recently backed. The fund invested $225,000 collectively in Airway Innovations, The Patient Co. in Grand Rapids that developed a patient transfer device, and Detroit-based Alerje LLC that’s developing technology to help manage food allergies.

Airway Innovations and The Patient Co. each offer simple innovations that solve problems in care settings and have a path toward an exit “in the not too distant future,” said Quantum Medical Concepts Managing Director Ben Louagie. Airway Innovations’ TubeTrac “is simple, intuitive and would be easily useable,” Louagie said.

Since forming in 2014, Quantum Medical Concepts has invested more than $1 million in eight startup companies, all based in Michigan. Deal flow and investment opportunities were disrupted in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, Louagie said.

The early-stage fund targets investments nationally, with a primary focus in Michigan and the Midwest. The fund sources deals from business incubators and accelerators, university technology transfer organizations and innovation units are hospitals, he said.

“I continue to be impressed with the quality of the companies in Michigan and the Upper Midwest,” Louagie said. “There are a lot of good companies and ideas out there in the health care space.” 

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