Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Hess.
Brian, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Early on my passion as an engineer has been medical innovation. I worked at a large orthopedics company and gained experience developing products with surgeons. What I learned was that as surgeons treated patients in the operating room, they were using the available implant technologies, which were predominately hardware based implants (plates, screws, and rods). Here, I noticed how complicated procedures were and how painful and long the recovery process was for patients with broken bones and severe bone defects. With this motivation, I worked with a team and we invented a novel biomaterial, which is an injectable glue for broken bones to augment and/or replace the need for such invasive metal fixation devices. We proved the concept works, but for a large company, innovation and risk taking can be stifled. The product development program essentially stalled so I left the company to pursue an MBA at MIT to learn how to be an entrepreneur. Inventing is great, but I desired to bring these innovations to market and find funding, not get turned away. At school I became friends and colleagues with a fellow student with a finance and operations background. Upon graduating we decided to start a medical device company called LaunchPad Medical in Boston to develop and “launch” novel and sophisticated products. Especially products built on technologies where large companies decide to forego the risk. At the time, we realized we needed really smart and dedicated people to make this venture work. The founding team consists of experienced medical device engineers and clinicians. We also needed a good technology to work on. So, I reached back out to the large orthopedic company where I invented the Bone glue and we negotiated a deal where LaunchPad Medical would have the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize the technology. Boom – I created a second chance; however, this time not as the engineer, but as an entrepreneur to lead the effort and make it happen! We have more of the mountain to climb, but have since raised funding for the company operations, won several awards, including the “Gold Prize” at the MassChallenge, and have advanced the technology by executing important research studies, and now we are at the beginning of the regulatory process to gain marketing approval.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has overall been a major success. Four years after starting the company, we are on the rise. However, for every two steps forward, there is one step backward. For example, it took nearly a year to negotiate and acquire the exclusive licensing rights for the bone glue technology. During this time we had to find attorneys to help us …just imagine the expenses. But we found a way to make that work. During the first year, we thought we would raise enough funding to start hiring people and to find a facility to work within, but the fund raising process was significantly slower than I had anticipated. That said, we won awards and that gained us access to facilities and programs in Boston (e.g., MassChallenge, M2D2). The common theme is that we have had to bootstrap which means no pay for the Founders for most of the time. Even now that funding is starting to come in, we have had to take meager salaries. The research has gone well, but we started to interact with the regulatory process and have learned of additional testing required by the FDA. This takes more time and funding, so the cycle continues. That said, we have managed because of our drive and perseverance on all fronts which drives innovative thinking. So generally speaking, the obstacles have certainly knocked us backwards, but we have rebounded each and every time.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the LaunchPad Medical story. Tell us more about the business.
We are developing a novel biomaterial, a bone glue to treat fractured bone and stabilize metal hardware in patients with poor quality bone. This material will revolutionize healthcare delivery and the patient care experience. For example, for patients with missing teeth, our material will allow an immediate implant to be placed into deficient jaw bone in patients with periodontal disease. This cuts the course down for them as now they often have to go through several staged surgical procedures over the course of many months.
As a company, we have a real “huddle-up” and “do-it” type of mentality. Most of the founders all worked together in previous experiences so we know what to expect from each other. We all know how to be honest and press each other to get the best, and sometimes that raises tension. However, it is always short-lived because once we see the result, we reset and drive forward. I have always snickered at all the clichés, “No pain, no gain”, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”, but now I actually understand what that means. Now that we have survived together for four years, there is a real belief we can make it all the way. I think most teams that would have gone through our path may have folded and not been able to handle the stress.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
It would be easy for people to look at the progress and fortunes and say Luck played a major role. For example, how did LaunchPad Medical, a small company without any proven track record, acquire such a novel technology from a large company? Opportunities do require luck, but really it is timing that meets preparation. Most events in life can be traced backward and linked so I just like to think about being Fortunate. The truth of the matter is without an entrepreneurial spirit, I would have never approached the company with a well thought-our business case and plan for why they should license the technology to my start-up Company.
- Address: LaunchPad Medical
600 Suffolk Street
Wannalancit Business Center
Lowell, MA 01854
- Website: www.launchpadmedical.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org