Over the years, physician and researcher Charles Walther has come up with many ideas for improved cancer diagnostics. Thoughts that have been tested, abandoned or put on ice. But the idea behind the Endodrill instrument got a special start.
– I had defined the problem over a couple of months and suddenly, while I was out running, I saw the solution clearly before me!
Effective, safe and gentle cancer diagnosis
Charles demonstrated his idea to his father who is a surgeon, and to colleagues at the University. They could all see the advantages of the instrument and Charles was advised to contact LU Innovation.
– We all understood fairly quickly that this idea should not be published – that would have destroyed its novelty value, making it impossible to protect. I hope to give my instrument to a large company which will manage to get it to public healthcare; in that case, the rights to it must be protected.
Charles contacted the business developers and set off on the journey to obtaining a patent and subsequent commercialisation. Meanwhile the instrument was being refined.
Uncomfortable at first
– There were many things which were new to me and I felt a bit uncomfortable at first. I did not really understand why I should commercialise my idea, I am a physician and a researcher after all. Earning money is not the driving force. But LU Innovation explained it clearly to me: by proceeding in this way, I would
reach more patients, which would otherwise be impossible for me. And if I succeed, the revenues will benefit Sweden, lead to job creation, provide publicity for the University and healthcare system while the tax revenues are reinvested in public healthcare.
With this approach, he set to work at full strength and could get motivated about the purely financial aspect.
The route via TV4's inventor competition
The development of the Endodrill went via the TV4 competition programme, “Uppfinnarna” (“The Inventors”). The main reason for Charles' participation was his mothers encouragement, thanks to which he dared to step up and demonstrate his idea.
– “If you are driven to do something for others, you can not go wrong". With those words in mind, I dared to come forward and say that I have an idea I believe in.
Charles got to practise presenting his idea and receiving feedback on it, and went on to win the whole competition in 2012, which kick-started the project. The time pressure in the competition contributed to the parallel acceleration of the process and the collaboration with LU Innovation. Funding was organised and meetings arranged with patent engineers. Charles also got a lot of help with various positions and decisions which arose. Winning the competition brought a lot of attention, for better and for worse.
– The discussions with business developers gave me perspective and the serenity to continue to work methodically according to the guidelines we had set up from the start. I got confirmation that I had implemented all the steps in the right way.
Setting up a company – brains and money
Building the instrument and making the idea into a reality required skilled people with great experience and knowledge. And they cost money. The next step was to set up a company through which to operate.
I got help with contacts and collaboration, and have been connected with people who have experience and their hearts in the right place.
– The support from LU Innovation was important, I could not have done it without them. I have no training in economics and no experience of the business side. With their help, I dared to curb my fears and trust my judgement. The dream is to make the instrument a reality which will hopefully help many patients every day.
The project received funding from various organisations and foundations, but besides practical and financial help, Charles emphasises that he has LU Innovation to thank for training and patience, good will and an enterprising spirit.
A knowledge-intensive company
B!BB Instruments was formed in 2013 and the plan is get one or several major medical engineering companies to include Endodrill in their product portfolio. During 2014, studies were started to compare the old instrument with the new on actual patients. Meanwhile, an external review is being prepared and the team is mapping needs. This phase is also strictly regulated, and LU Innovation can assist with knowledge and help in this as well.
Charles hopes to be able to build on B!BB Instruments and to create a knowledge-intensive company which can develop more instruments, with the aim of improving future cancer diagnostics. Getting the first idea out onto the market and getting money into the company could make this possible.
– We have several ideas on the go and we are working with LU Innovation again, with novelty searches and patent applications. More patents would confer value on the company, allowing us perhaps to create those new job opportunities, which would be great. Integrating practical healthcare and research in a company enables us to create a good qualification for the University and the region.
Believe in your idea
Charles is happy to give advice to other researchers who are considering developing their research ideas, and what he emphasises most is the will to do the job.
– If you come with an idea, you can expect to have to start reading patent texts and writing applications fairly quickly. And you have to take decisions which are often beyond your familiar territory. By turning to LU Innovation, you get a great deal of help and guidance to move forward, but you must also want to do the work yourself and believe in your idea. As long as you have the passion and conviction, you will find the energy to do the work!
Facts BIBB Instruments
There is currently no suitable and efficient instrument for accessing cell changes that have occurred under the mucous membrane. Doctors have to use risky methods which are time-consuming and unpleasant for the patient. In addition, it is commonplace for the instrument not to get hold of sufficient tissue to enable a correct assessment. This often leads to more invasive procedures where unnecessarily large amounts of tissue are removed from the patient – in order to be on the safe side.
Endodrill is a new instrument for improved cancer diagnostics, developed by Charles Walther, a cytologist and researcher in clinical genetics. The idea is based on the use of a small drill together with a flexible endoscope, which can drill through the mucous membrane to collect a sample of the underlying tissue. In the physicians hand, this provides a quicker and simpler examination as well as allowing assessments which are not possible with the instruments currently available. Besides increased efficiency and financial savings, the new instrument considerably reduces patient suffering – as the sample collection is quick and even major surgery can be avoided in some cases.
Charles Walther created the company B!BBInstruments, together with LU Innovation in 2013. The project is also backed by Region Skåne's innovation company, Innovator AB. Studies and tests were conducted in 2014 and in the future the new company hopes that Endodrill will be included in the product portfolio of a major medical engineering company.