A new laser technology treatment for chronic wounds will halve the number of amputations. The first step is testing at US wound care clinics.
Chronic wounds are a global medical problem closely linked to diabetes. Every year, two per cent of the US population suffers chronic wounds, many resulting in amputation because they do not heal naturally and are typically infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Consequently, conventional treatment methods such as antibiotics are often not an option. However, start-up VulCur Medtech has now developed an automated laser solution.
While competitors are focusing on surface treatment, VulCur MedTech’s treatment goes deeper, cleaning the wounds from the inside out using an automated laser device that kills bacteria while avoiding human cells.
The project is conducted in close collaboration with doctors in the US and Denmark, and the new technology will advance the healthcare sector. The hope is to reduce the healing time of chronic wounds by fifty per cent and avoid half of the amputations currently carried out.
“Chronic wounds are painful and a significant financial burden on the healthcare sector. It doesn’t take much googling to learn that there are many patients with these types of wounds. It’s actually a bigger problem than we expected. Chronic wounds are closely linked to diabetes, which is particularly prevalent in the US. In the US alone, there are 6.5 million new cases of chronic wounds every year,” says Otto Ømann, CTO of VulCur Medtech and recent DTU graduate.
He happened upon VulCur Medtech during his studies at Berkeley University in California, where he took a course in building start-ups. For the past three years, he has been working for VulCur Medtech full-time together with CEO and founder Janus Beierholm, who holds a degree in biochemistry from the University of Copenhagen, and two electrical engineers from Lithuania and Brazil.
The team is based at DTU Skylab’s Developer Hall, where they develop prototypes and assemble the final products with the help of freelancers and students. The work often takes place in DTU Skylab’s workshops using both laser cutters and 3D printers, but sometimes the team works at Bispebjerg Hospital, where they test the technology in practice.
“What sets us apart from other start-ups is that we have a very economical approach which allows us to solve problems very quickly and inexpensively. It’s pretty extreme. Instead of paying for expensive expert help, we solve the tasks ourselves. That’s usually faster than explaining our problem to someone else. In this way, we’ve come a long way with very little money. However, being able to use the workshops at the DTU Skylab has helped considerably. Without these facilities, we wouldn’t have been able to develop our prototype so quickly,” says Otto Ømann.
Fast and furious
Things have been moving at a furious pace since VulCur Medtech was founded in 2018. The start-up has won the Venture Cup—an entrepreneurial competition—both nationally and internationally and has been very successful in attracting venture capital. They’ve also received a grant from the EU Eurostars programme, which supports companies with a focus on research and development. Currently, the team is working on getting the first version of their product approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is in charge of food and drug regulation in the US.
Once the approval is in place, the company is ready to sell its product on the US market. At the same time, the team wants to test the technology at selected wound care clinics in the US. This means that the full-time team will be moving to the United States, where they will observe the technology being used in collaboration with doctors, nurses, and patients.
“Our presence at the clinics will allow us to learn more about our own product in a realistic framework. There, we get to observe how our product is used and what mistakes are made,” says Otto Ømann.
“Although it’s not necessary to perform tests in order to sell a product in the US, we’re going to do it anyway because we want to show good results and optimize the product for the benefit of the patients.”
Platform for future wound care technologies
Initially, VulCur Medtech is thus aiming to sell their product in the US, where they can get on the market quickly. After that, they hope to enter the Danish and European markets after conducting clinical trials together with doctors at Bispebjerg Hospital in 2022 and 2023.
Their vision is to use the device as a platform for all future wound care technologies. Thus, VulCur Medtech wants to automate wound care as much as possible. Otto Ømann hopes this will make the treatment more efficient and gentle using fewer resources compared to the solutions currently available:
“Our goal is to help as many patients as possible. We want to make something that works well at a reasonable price. That’s why we shouldn’t just build the world’s most expensive device. Our solution should be accessible to everyone.”