A Minneapolis team has developed a slimmer, sleeker alternative to the EpiPen to increase carrying compliance and ensure that life-saving medications are on hand in emergency situations. AdrenaCard brings peace of mind to food allergy sufferers and proves that perseverance, research, and product design pay off in the end.
Up to 16 million people in the United States are at risk for anaphylactic shock- a potentially fatal allergic reaction that occurs rapidly after exposure to certain proteins or toxins. Currently, the EpiPen is the standard of care to mitigate this reaction.
The EpiPen delivers a measured dose of epinephrine into the body. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, activates the body’s fight-or-flight response, stimulates the heart, and increases blood flow to elevate breathing levels and relieve anaphylaxis symptoms long enough for a patient to get to a care center to receive further treatment.
Epinephrine is highly effective in temporarily relieving symptoms of anaphylaxis. The problem lies in the method of drug delivery. The EpiPen is bulky and highly inconvenient to carry. Of the 16 million people at risk for anaphylactic shock, less than 25% actually own an EpiPen or other auto-injector to deliver epinephrine. Less than 50% of this device-owning population carries the pen at all times, creating a 90% or 14.6M patient care gap.
“We found that two biggest issues with the products on the market today are their cost and the carrying compliance,” says Tyler Ebert, AdrenaCard CEO and Co-Founder.
The average EpiPen on the market today costs $260. Most doctors prescribe at least two of these devices, amounting to $520 of total expense. EpiPens and other auto-injector devices are reimbursable by insurance. However, most patients have high deductible healthcare plans and end up paying a lot of this cost out-of-pocket.
The AdrenaCard team of Tyler Ebert and Chris Kuehn set out to improve upon this standard of care while students at the University of Minnesota (UMN).
Tyler Ebert was drawn to the UMN specifically to study entrepreneurship and has a background in restaurant development and food counseling.
As a food counselor at the university, people would often come to speak with him about their food allergies. Even though they realized the importance of the device, many would not have their auto-injector on them. Tyler dug into the details surrounding auto-injectors and discovered the high rate of non-compliance in device carrying and the massive market for auto-injectors. In 2014 alone the auto-injector market had $1.3B in sales and continues to grow.
The idea of an improved device to deliver epinephrine was compelling from a clinical, personal, and business perspective. Most importantly, Tyler wanted to improve the situation for these food allergy patients.
Tyler formed a partnership Chris Kuehn, who had logged time in medical device innovation at both Boston Scientific and Precision, Inc. AdrenaCard was born.
“[…] what we created is a device that delivers the same life saving medication [as the EpiPen], with a form factor that is the size of a credit card,” explains Tyler.
The slimmer, smaller size of the AdrenaCard auto-injector allows it to be easily carried in a pocket, wallet, or attached to a key chain, making the device more likely to be on hand in case of emergency.
The AdrenaCard delivers the exact same drug as the EpiPen. However, the AdrenaCard has a beautifully improved form factor and design because the team invested extensive time and effort to understand severe allergy patients and their lifestyle.
The pair initially struggled to gain traction and raise their first round of seed capital in the Twin Cities area due to a crowded market and especially busy time of the year. They sought out partners beyond the Twin Cities area and found a great resource base in Alexandria, Minnesota.
Alexandria and the expertise of central Minnesota often gets overlooked. But this self-sustaining area has real expertise in contract manufacturing of scientific and medical devices, which they export around the world.
The AdrenaCard team linked up with their now lead investor, UMN Reagent and serial entrepreneur Thomas Anderson, who introduced them to the greater Alexandria community. Within this group, the AdrenaCard pair found people “[…] who would not only invest in us, but sat with us as advisors and mentored us. They helped to build us,” explains Tyler.
AdrenaCard raised their first round of capital with this amazing partnership in Alexandria. To date, this is the largest amount of seed funding raised by undergraduate students in the history of Minnesota. The team is currently raising a Series A to get them through FDA clearance as early as 2017.
AdrenaCard also found a great partner for product development in Minneapolis-based Worrell Design, a company that specializes in medical device design and human factors. Working with Chris Kuehn, the Worrell team has brought the AdrenaCard device to the level it’s at today.
AdrenaCard recently competed in the US National Competition of Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, which attracts top student entrepreneurs from about the world. The team ranked as the #2 student-owned business in the country for 2015, garnering AdrenaCard national recognition.
The AdrenaCard team proves the value of hard work, dedication, and perseverance in reaching your goals. They have brought national media attention not only to themselves, but the to the great work being performed in the Twin Cities entrepreneurial scene as a whole.