membrane in the abdomen to filter waste products from
blood because the kidneys can no longer do so.
The problem is that patients often have trouble with the
complex procedure, resulting in medical complications, such
as a severe infection known as peritonitis. The Firefly device
provides a safe and easy-to-use, self-contained catheter that
does not rely on patient compliance. “By reducing the risk of
infection, you are enabling more people to have another therapeutic alternative that is more friendly,” Soriano states.
Furthermore, Hospi Corporation, Newark, California, also
has gained approval for its first product, the Macy Catheter,
which is described on the company’s website as a “simple and
innovative medical device designed to facilitate discreet and
comfortable rectal administration of medications.” Alternative
methods for administering medicines are required in cases
where taking medicines orally is not possible. Some patients
may vomit, for example. “[Hospi is] developing a next-gen-
eration catheter originally used to help patients in palliative
care in hospices. Those patients cannot be hydrated, cannot
be medicated or fed, and this technology, which may seem
simplistic, actually enables people to have a more humane, less
painful experience as they approach death,” Soriano explains.
While the Macy Catheter is designed in part for those
approaching the end of life, he observes that those who have
just begun life will benefit from an increasing number of
biomedical innovations. “Biomaterials are enabling all these
wearables and new ways of helping babies. We’re going to
do a lot of pediatric bioengineering. New sensors will allow
newborns to be monitored more humanely,” Soriano offers.
An infant’s skin can be so delicate that even applying a
Band-Aid can present issues, he says. “We are funding com-
panies with biomaterials that are enabling new modalities of
sensing that allow the machines or the incubator to sense the
baby without actually touching him or her,” Soriano explains.
Some projects could touch a wide array of patients across
all stages of life. For example, the appropriately named Con-tinuus Pharmaceuticals, just outside of Boston, specializes in
the continuous manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. By and
large, the pharmaceutical industry still relies on batch manufacturing, which some say is inefficient and outmoded.
“The notion of continuous manufacturing is that you
have a robot or machine, and you put the liquids or the
powders on one side, and on the other side, the pills come
out,” Soriano says. “It is producing pills nonstop, 24 hours.
This company is already partnering with big pharmaceuti-
cals, offering its services.”
Other NSF projects in development include a bioerodible,
polymer-based hydrogel for treating various eye conditions; a
method of taking proteins and peptides orally, meaning fewer
injections; a portable blood-typing device; and oral analytics
technology for speech therapy.
Overall, the SBIR/STTR effort is designed specifically
for entrepreneurs whose ideas address “unmet biomedical
needs with really early stage biotechnology,” Soriano says.
The mission, he adds, is to “help people with problems that
have been neglected because nobody cares.”
Each project begins with a big idea that shows the poten-
tial to grow into a small business. Without funding, those
ideas would wither. But each technology developed, every
business created, offers the potential to ease suffering in
the years to come. “We are seeing here the future of medi-
cine,” Soriano says.
contact: George I. Seffers, email@example.com
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“We are seeing here the future of medicine.”
—Jesus Soriano, Smart Health and Biomedical Technologies portfolio manager, National Science Foundation