Making It Work: Heart monitor start-up doesn’t miss a beat

NUI Galway spin-out Galenband seeks funding as it plans to start clinical trials later this year before targeting the US market

Eddie McDaid, chief executive of Galenband: ‘This will be a big year for us.’ Picture: Bryan Meade

Galenband, the Galway start-up behind a new long-term heart monitor, has opened a €3 million seed funding round ahead of plans to spin out of NUI Galway later this year.

The medtech venture will begin its first clinical trials in the first quarter of the year and plans to establish a presence in the US in 2023, Eddie McDaid, Galenband’s chief executive, said.

“This will be a big year for us. We’ll be spinning out in July but we’ll be starting our first clinical trial even before that, which we’re very proud of,” he said.

“That will set us on the path to achieving regulatory approval, first in the US followed by the EU. We expect that process to take about two years from the point at which we spin out, which means we’ll be ready to launch in the US in 2023.”

Galenband has developed a wrist-worn device that monitors the heart activity of people with atrial fibrillation.

The device is the brainchild of Oisín McGrath, a biomedical engineer at NUI Galway who began to commercialise his idea in 2019 with €500,000 in funding from Enterprise Ireland, the state agency.

“When I was younger, I experienced intermittent heart issues myself from the age of five up to about 18,” McGrath said.

“Throughout that time, I was going to doctors trying to figure out what the problem was and they kept giving me these ECG [electrocardiogram] monitors to strap to your chest.”

ECG monitors record the electrical activity in the heart with the aim of revealing irregular heartbeats that might indicate underlying health conditions, such as atrial fibrillation (AFib).

“I ended up with 14 different monitors in the years I had this heart arrhythmia and not one of them actually caught any symptoms,” McGrath said.

“That’s because the most common ECGs doctors prescribe when you present to them with heart issues are 24-hour monitors. Your chances of actually catching an abnormal event in that time frame is very low – about 1.3 per cent or so per day.”

The wrist-worn device McGrath has developed with Patrick Conway, the head of research and development at Galenband, monitors and records the wearer’s heart rhythm continuously for a much longer period of up to 90 days.

“I decided to study biomedical engineering at university so I could focus my education on developing a better alternative to ECG monitors myself,” McGrath said.

“Galenband started as the thesis project for my master’s. After that, I applied to Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund programme to help turn my idea into a business and, a few months later, I met Eddie through their Business Partners programme.”

The Enterprise Ireland Business Partners programme matches entrepreneurs with academic researchers to help establish third-level spin-outs with commercial potential.

Before joining McGrath at Galenband in early 2020, Eddie McDaid had lived in Britain for two decades. While there, he established a messaging software start-up, which was acquired by Software AG, the German-headquartered technology company.

Galenband was the overall winner at Big Ideas 2020, the Enterprise Ireland showcase for start-up innovation emerging from higher education institutes. The event gives research-led start-ups like Galenband the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors and researchers. The start-up took the One to Watch prize at the awards, which took place virtually last November.

“The timing of the Big Ideas was really good for us, because we were just at that point of launching our seed round and we’ve since had approaches from potential investors,” McDaid said.

“We would hope to have our product ready to go towards the end of 2023 in the US. It is a huge market and a logical starting point for us.

“It is also very receptive to the kind of innovation we have and it is a single regulatory environment whereas Europe is a bit more complicated in that sense.

“Our plan in the US is to target cardiology clinics with a high volume of patients and a particular focus on silent AFib.”