By: Robert Leitch
For many cancer patients, spending hours in a hospital or clinic each week for IV treatments is a necessary evil. These treatments are often given in sterile hospital rooms surrounded by strangers, and could become a permanent fixture in patients’ lives if their cancer is advanced. Cincinnati-based Enable Injections is developing a medical device they hope will provide at least a small amount of relief by allowing patients to deliver these drugs at home with the push of a button.
“This is going to be one of the fastest growing and largest markets in medical devices,” said Enable Injections president and CEO Michael Hooven. “There are no products approved today in the United States that do this.”
Enable Injections’ technology will benefit anyone with a chronic condition that requires intravenous treatment — primarily cancer, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular issues and blood disorders. It will save patients time and money spent on healthcare.
“These types of diseases require large protein drugs called biologics that cannot be delivered orally, which is why injections are so important,” said Hooven. “By allowing patients to do this at home, you eliminate the health care costs associated with having to actually go to a hospital.”
The concept for creating an injection device started at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where researchers were looking for ways to give children painless vaccinations. The development at the time was supported by the hospital and CincyTech, a southwest regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier. After the initial research into painless vaccinations, researchers recognized an opportunity to expand the idea and make the injection device a tool to deliver intravenous drugs and replace drug infusions.
Hooven first got involved with the injection technology while working one day a week as an entrepreneur in residence at CincyTech. He helped the team of researchers at Cincinnati Children’s raise their initial round of funding, and secured investors for the commercialization of the technology. This funding was used to build a prototype of the injection system, which led to a larger second round of funding. The company closed its third round of funding in 2014.
Enable Injections currently has about 30 employees, primarily engineers, and is poised to grow to more than 150 employees by the end of 2018. The company recently signed its second major agreement with a pharmaceutical company to design and manufacture these drug delivery devices. Hooven anticipates more agreements with top 30 pharmaceutical companies over the next six months.
“Our primary objective is to enter these collaborations with pharmaceutical companies and work with each of them to develop devices that will accommodate about a half-dozen of their drugs,” said Hooven.
To Hooven, Cincinnati is one of the best places in the world for designing medical devices. The city is also home to Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson company focused on the future of surgery, and there’s an abundance of local medical device expertise.
“Cincinnati has always been a great place to find medical device employees and now, thanks to Ohio Third Frontier, it is also a great environment for entrepreneurial companies,” said Hooven. “The entrepreneurial community here has really grown and receives a lot of support from the state of Ohio. They’ve put a real emphasis on supporting startup companies.”