Making It Work: Galway medtech planning to double headcount in drive for gastro device approval in US

EnteraSense’s new pill, currently under development, uses advanced technology to detect gastrointestinal bleeding

Donal Devery, chief executive, and Daragh Sharkey, chief commercial officer, EnteraSense: ‘Galway is the best medtech centre in the world.’ Picture: Andrew Downes

EnteraSense, a Galway-based firm developing a pill-sized medical device that scans for internal bleeding, plans to double its staff numbers from eight to 16 over the next 12 months.

“The pill detects gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding using optical sensors. It seeks out different wavelengths of light and uses an algorithm to send the information to sensors outside of the body,” Daragh Sharkey, chief commercial officer at EnteraSense, told the Business Post.

“One of the co-founders, Chris Thompson, is an American physician who first had the idea of using a pill in order to detect bleeding. We have an amazing chief technical officer, Chiara DiCarlo from Italy, who further developed the technology to use light-optical sensors.

“Once you have the technology, you have to work out if there is a need for it. That took about a year and a half, then we had to prototype it. Our first human testing was last year in the Czech Republic.”

Sharkey and Donal Devery, the company’s chief executive, are the reason this technology is being developed in Ireland. The pair previously worked together at Aerogen, another medtech business, and brought the knowledge of commercialisation needed to make EnteraSense a viable business.

“Galway is the best medtech centre in the world. We have all the technology here, all the outsourcing facilities, a great hospital. Everything we need to do this right is in Galway,” Sharkey said.

“We’ve had some supportive investors since the start. That allowed us to drive the value proposition. We were lucky enough to get a Horizon 2020 grant from the EU which got us on the pathway to commercialisation, and we’re at the tail-end of that now. We’ve recently taken on a venture capital investor called UTec, a Japanese fund that invested in us in December.”

To date the business, which was set up in 2016, has raised €4.5 million, including support from Enterprise Ireland. EnteraSense has taken part in Enterprise Ireland’s high potential start-up unit as part of its growth.

“If we really want to drive acceptance in the US, we’ll need more investment but we are in a good position now. We’re doing a trial in the Mayo Clinic at the moment and we will seek Federal Drug Administration approval after that,” Sharkey said.

“Our target market will be hospitals and physicians. This will make their lives a lot easier by helping them understand what is wrong with a patient and help them prioritise treatment. This will ultimately save money while reducing the time spent by the patient in hospital, and result in better outcomes for the patient.”

Sharkey said the main focus for the business going forward would be to drive adoption in the US, followed by the Middle East and Asia. “We’ve got to build a team that we can trust and work with. No one person can do everything: we’ve got to get people that we can let do their job,” he said.