Making it work: Irish medtech firm raises €30m for US trials of prostate treatment

ProVerum’s innovative treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia, ‘if we get things right’, could help millions of men overcome prostate issues

Conor Harkin and Ríona Ní Ghriallais, co-founders, ProVerum: ‘We can make a huge difference to literally millions of men who are suffering from the effects of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).’ Picture: Bryan Meade

ProVerum, the Irish medtech company founded by Ríona Ní Ghriallais and Conor Harkin in 2016, has raised €30 million in funding and hired a number of staff in the US to manage trials it is starting over there.

The firm has developed a novel treatment solution for patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a common prostate condition in older men, and has won plaudits and financial backing from well-known investors including Gilde Healthcare.

BPH, which can cause difficulty with urination as well as potential kidney problems, happens when the prostate gland enlarges and obstructs the urethra. It is typically treated by drug therapy which either shrinks the prostate or relaxes the muscles around it. But the solution has been shown to have limited efficacy and patients can get side effects, meaning most opt to discontinue therapy within two years.

Once that option is exhausted, medics often offer surgery to remove the obstructing tissue from the prostate gland. The surgery is quite invasive and can cause erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence and ejaculatory dysfunction. Less than 3 per cent of BPH patients opt for the treatment as a result.

ProVerum is developing a system called ProVee, a nitinol expander that gently reshapes the enlarged prostate, alleviating the symptoms caused by BPH. The Enterprise Ireland-backed company is not the only business to have developed this kind of solution, but it claims its device is the least invasive on the market because it does not cut any tissue around the gland.

The procedure is designed to be safely performed in a doctor’s office under local anaesthetic, meaning it can be easily and quickly administered without the need for a huge hospital team.

“There’s a huge market for this kind of device,” Ní Ghriallais, who established ProVerum with Conor Harkin as a spin-out from Trinity College Dublin, explained. “And if we can do the development right and get clinical data that shows this product is effective, we will have a worldwide market available to us.”

The pair had been working on the issue for two years before starting the business.

“We’re in 2022 now, and we started this project in 2014. Ever since then, we’ve been collecting data, doing testing, finalising the designs such that we’ll pass the tests we need to, and also to raise the money we need. So there is an awful lot to it,” Ní Ghriallais said.

“If we get things right over the next few years, we can make a huge difference to literally millions of men who are suffering from the effects of BPH.”