The OxyPrem team, headed by UZH Entrepreneur Fellow Alumnus Stefan Kleiser, are on a high. Only a few days ago their device OxyPrem 1.4 was granted the CE mark. With clinicians from several countries already having requested devices and eagerly awaiting their arrival, these are hectic days. The whole team is fully focused on packaging and shipping devices that they had prepared in advance.
The new medical device monitors oxygen levels in the brains of preterm infants. It is advantageous to existing solutions as it can do so in real-time, precisely, and non-invasive.
Stefan Kleiser has just concluded the UZH Entrepreneur Fellowship program. During this time, he was able to finalize the design of the product, confirm economic feasibility, and secure additional funding. Moving on, OxyPrem is now supported by the Uniscientia foundation, Venture Kick, and Wyss Zurich.
Interview with UZH Entrepreneur Fellow Stefan Kleiser
We at UZH Innovation (UZHI) are happy to share an insightful interview with Stefan Kleiser (SK).
UZHI: Congratulations on the CE mark. What does this mean to OxyPrem?
SK: This is an important milestone as it enables us to finally deliver OxyPrem to clinicians. The devices may now be used in everyday clinical care just like any other medical equipment, allowing clinicians to perform studies or to improve care for their patients. Once we have finalized the shipping of the first devices we will go back to the lab and continue to develop the product in order to keep our competitive advantage.
UZHI: What vision do you have for OxyPrem?
SK: Our vision is that child mortality and severe life-long brain damage in survivors are decreased substantially, and that OxyPrem sensors and solutions will be the first choice for clinicians, parents, and patients.
UZHI: Now, let’s go back in time. When did it become clear to you that your findings may have a commercial potential?
SK: Already when I started my PhD, it was clear that clinicians need better technology to monitor babies – after all, OxyPrem was created upon request by leading European neonatologists. When performance validation showed that we had indeed built a very good device, it was clear to me that this would actually stand a promising chance on the market.
UZHI: How do you identify yourself with the role as an entrepreneur?
SK: As an entrepreneur you have a lot of freedom, but you are in some way also alone. From one day to another you have to learn how to fight your way through many subject matters of which you know little to nothing based on your experience in academia: this includes legal and regulatory aspects, as well as negotiations with external parties, just to name a few. This variety in tasks also made the starting period extremely exciting and I learned more during my 18 months as an Entrepreneur Fellow than I would have learned in years of working in a big organization.
UZHI: In 2018 you joined the UZH Entrepreneur Fellowship program including a funding of 150'000 CHF. How did the Fellowship program support OxyPrem?
SK: The UZH Entrepreneur Fellowship allowed us to do an in-depth exploration of the market for the technology we developed at UZH. We were in very close contact with the Therapy Development Accelerator (TDA). With their impressive track record in the medical industry they challenged us and our plans more than once and helped us to refine the plans and improve our understanding of the market.
In general, it is very important to get to know your field and to talk to customers outside your home base. Once economic feasibility has crystallized, finding money is the next challenge – this is harder and takes longer than you think. The 18 months timespan gives you enough time to do this. Overall, the UZH Entrepreneur Fellowship greatly helps in the transition period from the academic world into entrepreneurship.
UZHI: Congratulations on securing the support of Wyss Zurich. Can you tell us more about what this additional funding will enable you to do?
SK: Wyss Zurich has enabled us to industrialize the OxyPrem sensor. Service providers, professional manufacturing, test labs, and certification are expensive. The beauty of being with Wyss Zurich is that you can benefit from a very broad support in many areas. First of all, you get very generous funding that covers your expenses for up to three years. This allows us to focus on progressing instead of wrestling with several small contributions or investments, which would substantially use up our resources and slow us down. Besides the financial support, Wyss Zurich offers a very complete framework, assisting projects with professional support in engineering, medicine, quality assurance, and communications.
UZHI: Which insights would you like to share with young scientists aspiring to become MedTech entrepreneurs?
SK: My 5 tips would be the following:
- Get your business figures ready quickly, but don’t overdo it. These numbers will change many times as you learn more about the market.
- Build a demonstrator – even if it is a very simplistic version of what you have in mind. It is much easier to convince people, if they have something real in their hands.
- Secure the IP. This is a crucial criterion for investors and entrepreneurship programs.
- Focus on the things that matter to your customers the most when developing your prototype or first product. You don’t have enough resources to build in every possible feature right at the beginning.
- Participate in startup competitions. In jury sessions and camps you are being challenged over and over. This way, your presentation, business model, and knowledge improve substantially.
UZHI: Thank you so much for your time. We are proud to have you as an UZH Spin-off and wish you all the best for your market entry!