SME Spotlight: Q&A with WarnerPatch, a start-up that develops wearable devices to revolutionise medical care
WarnerPatch is one of our MK:5G Innovation Accelerator SME winners. In this Q&A session we interviewed WarnerPatch’s founder, Dr Melissa Berthelot, about what does an innovator’s and business person’s journey look like in the industry where novel solutions and cutting-edge technologies aren’t always easy to introduce to the market. We spoke about the science and the business side of things as Melissa shared her startup’s highlights and challenges so far.
Short company overview
WarnerPatch was founded in June 2019. Our product is a connected wearable medical device, focused on vascular disorders. It can be used by clinicians to predict a patients’ disease evolution. It’s an innovation that offers preventive care, improves patient outcome and saves care costs.
What was the founding idea behind WarnerPatch?
My research in a clinical environment and my background in electrical engineering, software development and medical robotics led me to the idea of a connected device that continuously checks up on the symptoms in patients with severe vascular disorders. With this device, the patients don’t have to go through the hassle of frequent hospital check-up appointments and still have their symptoms monitored at all times.
More importantly, the type of data that is collected can predict how the disease might progress. By using that prediction mode, patients can be given preventive care with less invasive surgeries at the time when they are needed to avoid more serious or even life-threatening complications later down the line. It’s all about keeping patients out of the hospital as much as possible and making sure that they keep on living a healthy life.
What is that one thing that makes your company stand out?
WarnerPatch is ahead of the next generation of medical devices – in terms of technology, its embodiment and impact on the clinical pathway. Before founding WarnerPatch, I was involved in several clinical studies that were focused on developing tools for surgical patients. By conducting research in hospitals, I had acquired that precious fist-hand experience and direct interaction with patients of my studies. By working directly with patients, I felt lucky to have had a chance to get a deep insight into real patients’ needs. This experience has helped to identify some of the core issues the patients were facing and some ideas about how to resolve them.
What projects to date are you most proud of?
The advantage with WarnerPatch is that it came out of an understanding of the clinical environment. The next big challenge was to refine the idea of the device and map where we’re going next. There’s a massive difference between research and business, in a sense that, well, business is driven by money which means that there are lots of things to consider as a founder. I had to become an expert in different fields that surround the process of building and commercialising a medical device – the technology, but also IP, regulations, all these different aspects that are relevant to launching a medical device into market.
We were also fortunate to grow with a network of organisations like Connected Places Catapult, who are experts in what they do and can signpost where WarnerPatch has to go next in order to grow as a business. The support from the team, business accelerators and network around the idea was crucial. I feel that if you are surrounded by the right people, you can do everything.
Has Covid-19 affected the business?
It was a shock at first, but there’s no point in complaining. We still managed to get a grant, continued with the product development and managed to get in touch with really good strategic partners. I think that being stuck at home and the lack of some of the usual life distractions actually helped us focus on what we were supposed to do.
What is your take on the culture of innovation?
I’m fascinated by communication and I’ve noticed that, for instance, digital platforms like Zoom and Google Meet, have really enabled us to remain connected. I think it’s helping us realise the obvious – that time and location don’t really matter. You can be across the globe, but it doesn’t have to prevent any interaction.
Similarly, 5G is an enabler of much better communication between people and between devices. Anything that can lead to better connectedness and interoperability, would make a massive benefit for clinicians in the way that they do the job and, eventually, for patients to improve their outcome. 5G enables us to create a new network of connected things that could be leveraged for exciting new applications.
ABOUT MK:5G ACCELERATOR
MK:5G Accelerator is an innovation and business growth programme for startups and SMEs, is focused around four key innovation challenges in Mobility Data, Health & Wellbeing, Low Carbon Energy and Energy Data. The programme is part of the wider MK:5G project, funded by its collaborating partners and South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) via its Local Growth Fund programme. The MK:5G Accelerator is delivered by Connected Places Catapult and True Altitude.