Founders: Reza Sarwary, Despoina Elefetheriadou, Valerie Cai
We are developing next-generation catheters with advancements in biomaterials and manufacturing technologies to treat urinary-incontinent patients. While attending to patients, we noticed that 25% of all hospitalised patients required catheterisation, and virtually all patients had bacteria in their urine within a month after catheterisation. We were surprised to find that catheterisation causes up to 50% of all urinary tract infections and is often fatal with approximately 2,100 deaths in the UK annually. This creates a massive economic burden on health services with the aforementioned complications resulting in a total expenditure of £2 billion per annum. Moreover, the use of antibiotics to treat infections resulting from catheterisation contributes to the development of resistant microbial strains. In terms of design, the commonly used catheters today were invented 80 years ago and have to be replaced every 4 weeks because of complications, whilst newer silicon-based models are incredibly uncomfortable for patients.
Our mission is to develop a unique device that uses optimised design, novel biomaterials and naturally-derived anti-bacterial additives to increase catheter efficacy. Our approach focuses on managing and modifying the development of bacterial flora in the urethra whilst concurrently limiting the attachment of bacteria onto the inner lumen of the catheter. To combat antibiotic resistance, we have decided to opt-out of applying drugs to our product and have decided to instead utilise a natural and sustainable antimicrobial compound. We also aim to offer complication-free catheterisation through optimising catheter design. This will be achieved by modifying the common Foley catheter to inhibit urease activity, prevent leakage to the urethra, provide an alternative drainage route and minimise irritation to the bladder wall. We believe that the reduced costs of production and optimised design will allow us to introduce a more competitive and efficient product to the market.
Reza and Valerie, the two medical students on our founding team, noticed how fatal, yet common, catheter-associated urinary tract infections were in clinical practice. They were extremely distressing for patients and were a frequent point of frustration for healthcare professionals. After doing a bit of research, they were shocked to realise that the commonly used foley catheter was designed 80 years ago! Moreover, newer catheter designs on the market were too costly for public healthcare services to utilise, meaning patients are subjected to an unnecessary risk of complications and even death. After some discussions, they approached several UCL consultants who recommended Despoina, a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering. Hence, Nexacath was founded! Our next move was to approach experts in the field including urology consultants and patent attorneys to obtain advice on how to proceed (with some joining our advisory board!). With that all set, we moved towards making our dream into a reality to save lives, reduce hospital costs and eliminate the problem of antibiotic resistance.
The Tata Varsity Pitch 2020 has been an excellent opportunity for us to push our project to the next level and develop our skills as young entrepreneurs.
1) Don’t be discouraged when things inevitably get a little rough.
2) Know your product/ concept inside out, remember judges can ask about anything.
3) Follow your passion!