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Challenges Faced by Medical Device Companies
Interview with Ian McDougall, CEO of Evasc Medical Systems
About Ian McDougall, BASc President & CEO of Evasc Medical Systems
Ian has an engineering degree from the University of British Columbia and has been working in the medical device sector for over 14 years. He has co-founded several medical device companies, leading the development of more than 6 intervention products from concept through to U.S. and European regulatory approval and commercialization. In 2005, Ian was recognised as one of the top 40 business people under the age of 40 in British Columbia Canada ('Top 40 Under 40').
About Evasc Medical Systems Corp.
Found in 2001, Evasc Medical Systems is focused on the commercialization of interventional vascular products. Evasc has proven expertise in medical device design, prototyping, and production. Evasc is currently concentrating on the commercialization of a device for improving the treatment of cerebral aneurysms. For more information, visit www.evasc.com.
1. Why medical devices? What drove you to start Evasc Medical Systems?
Even before I started my education in Engineering, I had an interest in medicine. My grandfather was a physician and I knew from a young age that I wanted to be involved in medicine. I also had a keen interest in technology and business. My combined interests and a desire to make a lasting contribution to society were the deciding factors in choosing my career path. During a previous business venture, I became involved with a group of interventional cardiologists. Evasc Medical Systems evolved out of these relationships, and it has been very satisfying to create and grow Evasc over the past 10+ years.
2. When it comes to demand, which types of implantable medical devices do you feel have the most potential for growth?
Evasc Medical Systems operates within the interventional neurovascular implant space and there has been a strong annual growth rate in this sector, with an average annual growth rate over the past 6 years of around 35% being reported. I also see a lot of opportunity surrounding devices for heart reconstruction, such as percutaneous aortic valves and mitral valves.
3. In your opinion, what factors are driving the demand for implantable medical devices?
The ageing population is the most obvious factor that comes to mind. Improved imaging and education is resulting in improved diagnosis. Also, high quality medical imaging is becoming ubiquitous and early detection of disease is occurring before symptoms present themselves. As a result, there is a higher demand for treatments, resulting in a growing market which in turn is driving the development of new technologies.
4. Can you speak to the challenges faced by medical companies related to accessibility to funding? What are your thoughts on challenges related to personnel and product development?
Evasc Medical Systems is currently funded by its founders and is in the process of seeking out external funding. Due to an increasing uncertainty with the regulatory environment in the U.S. (the largest worldwide market) venture capitalists are shying away from the Medical Device sector. Specifically in Canada, there is a lack an understanding of the medical device market opportunity, making it difficult to gain the attention of investors. Adding to this challenge is that most U.S. based venture capitalists typically have a mandate to grow the U.S. economy and favour investments in American companies. These are all challenges, but they are definitely surmountable. As far as personnel goes, we haven't experienced many challenges. Evasc has grown a strong internationally recognized team from our local sources. We also use external consultants to provide specific expertise. Consultants have been helpful for Evasc, especially during clinical trial design and some regulatory challenges. To speak to your question about product development, we haven't had many issues in this area either. We develop our product internally and outsource material suppliers from a number of American and European companies - we have been quite happy with the results.
5. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who plans to start their own medical device company?
First and foremost, make sure that there is a market for your idea/device. In the current health care environment, if you can provide a cost savings and effective alternative that will reduce the hospital's expenditures then you are more likely to have success. It's important to look at what patents have been filed, since IP is critical in this industry. It is definitely a good idea to get a physician who has expertise in the field as an advisor early in your product development. Sometimes it makes sense to bring an entirely new technology to market, but there could also be opportunities to make improvements to existing technologies with proven demand.